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Like several other bands in death metal, Six Feet Under have generated their share of controversy--but not in the same way. While Cannibal Corpse and Morbid Angel were known for their merciless sonic assault and dark themes, SFU distinguished themselves by what they did NOT do. In over 15 years as a band, they have done very little to improve on their simple, unambitious formula of slow chugging, punk/rock-style grooves and static growls. The 'Graveyard Classics' series and 2003's 'Bringer of Blood' seemed like the final nails in their coffin. So imagine my surprise when just five years later, Barnes & Co. put out a perfectly listenable album like 'Death Rituals.'
Before I explain why this thing is actually good...if you've never liked Six Feet Under before, this release won't change your mind. The old formula is still in place. The lyrics are the same murder/mutilation stuff; nothing as embarrassing as "a skeleton's hand shoved up your ass" or "motha-fukkin death," though. (There's one line in 'Seed of Filth' that sounds like "rotten booty." It's really "body," but that doesn't stop me from laughing every time I hear it.) Chris Barnes' vocals are still bad--worse than ever, in fact. His growls sound ragged and forced, to the point that he has trouble enunciating some words or sustaining long notes. The only other trick left in his bag is a jarring electric-drill squeal, which (luckily) is kept to a minimum.
In spite of all that, 'Death Rituals' somehow succeeds. Unlike some earlier tracks, these songs do not sound like they were scribbled out on napkins half an hour before a studio session. The embarrassing nu-metal and rap elements are no more. In their place is a respectable effort toward straightforward heaviness. Steve Swanson handles his suddenly crunchy guitar better than ever, cranking out some nice riffs in the eyebrow-raising 'Killed In Your Sleep' and 'Murder Addiction.' Barnes' voice is more restrained in the mix and his limitations no longer overpower the songs. Even he manages some impressive moments, launching into a breakneck pace on opener 'Death By Machete' and focusing his remaining power very well in 'Shot in the Head' and 'None Will Escape.' Terry Butler's bass and Greg Gall's drumming are still very basic, but they get the job done.
The album is also seasoned with a goofy but inoffensive cover of Motley Crue's 'Bastard' and a few intermission tracks. 'Crossroads To Armageddon' is even kind of cool, with cryptic whispered vocals over a spare atmospheric rhythm. The production is very decent, the album artwork is cool (even t-shirt worthy) and with nearly 50 minutes of music, this is a standout album in Six Feet Under's suspect legacy. If you're a fan or even an occasional tolerator of these guys, 'Death Rituals' won't disappoint. In a way, it's even become a favorite of mine, and that scares me more than any of the grossest lyrics on the album.
I'm at a complete loss for words. Six Feet Under somehow turned everything around and made a good album! I have no idea how they managed to start their career with a pretty cool death metal record, then trudge through shit for another 8 ALBUMS before finally landing on a good one again. Ironically, it feels like the big reason this album works is because Six Feet Under have actually gotten so bad they've gone right around to good again- well, that and because it feels like it resembles 'Haunted' more than any other Six Feet Under album. Seriously though, even if you've discounted Six Feet Under's entire career, you should check this one out- if it managed to convince me, I don't see why you might be any different.
This really feels more stripped down and raw than the past few records by the band- the production lacks polish, and it feels like the band just bashed out the recording in a few days. The guitar tone is low and unformed, the drums sound thick and saturated, and the vocals... well, a point on the vocals. Chris Barnes is a terrible vocalist. He's sucked for a very long time. But something mysterious happens on this record: Barnes' voice actually gets so raspy, ragged, and burnt out that it somehow becomes cool again. His growls are so ruined by weed smoke and stupidity that they've become positively ghoulish and weird and unlike anything else in death metal. While they're still a bit loud in the mix, they're more monstrous and bizarre than we've heard in a long time. I have no idea how it worked out this way, but it has.
I think Six Feet Under really got back to basics and started listening to their old Obituary and Celtic Frost records again for this one, because this definitely features the most solid riffing the band has done since 'Haunted'- hell, even better since now they're actually writing real songs and stuff. It's no dumber than before, don't get me wrong, but the chugging, almost doomy riffs and the more uptempo, seemingly Bolt Thrower inspired numbers definitely have a lot more energy and personality behind them than the band has had, well, ever. Six Feet Under has always been a rock band in death metal drag basically, but now they're writing really good rock songs that I actually want to listen to. The song structures are solid and well constructed (like on 'Eulogy For the Undead' and its wonderful riffset), and I can say with full faith that this may be the very first album Six Feet Under has done which could be properly described as good.
Seriously guys, if you've given up on Six Feet Under, check this one out before you confirm that. This is actually a surprisingly good album from a band I never thought would turn it around. Yes, it's as dumb as death metal can possibly get, but fuck it, it's a fun listen and the tracks are actually memorable this time around. Give it a shot even if you don't want to!
I've never been a fan of Six Feet Under. In fact to this day I maintain Haunted was still their best album, primarily because it was just Obituary with Chris Barnes vocals. Truth be told, few of their albums were ever really 'bad', just mediocre. And Death Rituals continues that trend. It's difficult to believe that this is already the band's 10th full length album. The band must pull its own weight financially to have stayed on Metal Blade for so long.
The guitars here have a super crunchy tone, almost fuzzy. In a way, that gives the album a slightly unique feel, but the riffs being performed just aren't all that interesting, and Barnes vocals have never been enough to overcome this. The solos are slightly interesting, but not enough either. I don't feel an obligation to pick out specifics here, because there are no tracks that stand above the rest. It's a true death metal album, no doubt, but it's not remotely memorable.
There are 13 tracks here so I guess if you're a 6FU fan this will be some sort of feast. This must really be an unlucky number, because I couldn't get into a single song.
It didn’t take too long from Six Feet Under return to studio and record a new follow up for their previous 2007 album Commandment. While I liked Commandment I still thought it was lacking ideas and sounded pretty rushed but now these guys have improved a LOT! Death Rituals is one goddamn awesome and genius album, dare I say the best CD of SFU since Maximum Violence! This one didn’t sound like a lackluster at all and it also marks lots of new ideas you couldn’t have expected from Six Feet Under.
Now let’s talk about the guitars. Riffs are still mainly what Six Feet Under has always been about: groovy and catchy. But this album has very dark atmosphere in it, way darker than the couple of previous Six Feet Under CDs. There is a clean guitar riff right in the beginning of “Death By Machete” to serve some damn genius atmosphere and darkness. The clean guitar goes for a half minute then the drums and distorted guitars with couple long chords join in. Once the song has gone for an entire minute there starts this fast kick-ass main riff from out of nowhere and suddenly the whole band joins in to feed you some catchy fucking death metal with cool thrash beats and Chris Barnes starts explaining to you ways to kill someone with a machete.
Death Rituals offers lots of cool riffs that will definitely stick in your head, especially in the second song entitled “Involuntary Movement Of Dead Flesh”. The main riff that kicks in when the song has played about half minute is absolutely mind blowing! Now seriously if that riff won’t get you smash your head all around I sure as hell don’t know what would. Heavy riffs conquer everywhere in the song with loads of catchiness in them and even if there isn’t that many riffs in the song it will still keep you interested all the way to the end. Although one bad thing here is the slow section in the middle of the song where the instruments go silent and guitar start playing this slow riff with long-ringing notes. It’s a good riff but it sounds too much like the old song “Feasting On The Blood Of The Insane”. But oh well, who cares? I don’t because for one, “Feasting On The Blood Of The Insane” is a fucking awesome song. And for two, Kerry King of Slayer fame has played the same solo for like 20 years! And he can get away with it so yeah, I don’t think one déjà-vu riff would be too disturbing.
This CD includes slower songs like “Seed Of FIlth”, “Killed In Your Sleep” and “Ten Deadly Plagues”, some midpaced stuff like “Invountary Movement Of Dead Flesh”, “Eulogy For The Undead”, “Shot In The Head” and “Murder Addiction” as well as few faster songs such as “Death by Machete”, “None Will Escape” and “Into The Crematorium”. One of the really different tracks in Death Rituals would be this little ambient song “Crossroads To Armageddon” which seems to be done all by Chris Barnes himself. This song isn’t musically very special, a simple moody drum machine beat with some weird melodies sounding like a very deep piano (I don’t honestly know what instrument is being used here, if any actual instrument at all) and Barnes himself whispering some simple lyrics among it. Nothing too complicated here but it does deliver some nice atmosphere. Then we have the “outro” track “Crossing The River Styx” which is very similar to the intro of “Death By Machete” but played with a distorted guitar. That Mötley Crüe cover they did (Bastard) on the other hand is something I wish they would have just left off the album. It’s not like a bad cover or anything but… Mötley Crüe? Please.
Now what else….oh yes the solos! Steve Swanson has unarguably become much better at guitar solos than before. His solos in old SFU albums like Maximum Violence and True Carnage etc. weren’t really anything…just some forgettable shredding and shit…but now this guy has improved like hell! His faster solos on “None Will Escape”, “Intro The Crematorium” and “Shot In The Head” may be quite mediocre but then more melodic solos in songs like “Death By Machete”, “Eulogy For The Undead”, “Seed of Filth”, "Killed In Your Sleep" and “Murder Addiction” are really memorable. This guy has some really good bluesy and old school feeling in his solos. “Seed Of Filth” solo includes some really fast tapping while still keeping cool melody in it. And as you can count, there is 8 solos in this album which definitely proves how massively this band has improved with time. Commandment only had 4 songs with solos in them....
Drums are pretty much the same as always, powerful groove-beat dominated drum work from Greg Gall with nice and creative fills (no triggers BTW). He's doing quite a lot double bass on Death Rituals for example the songs "Involuntary Movement Of Dead Flesh", "Killed In Your Sleep" and "Murder Addiction". The song "None Will Escape" includes some great fills and also something Greg has never EVER done in a Six Feet Under song: blast beats! This song includes 2 blast beats, one appearing at 1:12 right after the fill and the second one in the very ending. He isn't really going George Kollias here but more like Paul Mazurkiewicz...except not even nearly as sloppy and noisy. Pretty good from a guy doing his first blast beats in a song!
And finally we have the man himself, Chris Barnes. It's really amazing to think that Chris has done this for like over 20 years now and still has life in him! Although his growl voice does sound kinda cracky these days due to 20 years of weed abuse but most of the time on Death Rituals he sounds good and listenable. He's got some really deep growl moments in the second verse of "Shot In The Head" and the third verse of "Into the Crematorium" but his absolute high light in this CD is certainly the song Death By Machete. Just hear the second verse, there's Chris Barnes doing his fastest singing ever since songs like Bonesaw and Hacked To Pieces (Maximum Violence, 1999)!
He does screams in 7 songs of the album ("Involuntary Movement Of Dead Flesh", "None Will Escape", "Seed Of Filth", "Into The Crematorium", "Shot In The Head", "Killed In Your Sleep" and "Ten Deadly Plagues") which means a lot more than the former SFU album. Barnes has aged awfully lot and that can easily be heard in these scream attempts but listen to "Into The Crematorium" at 1:06, that's no bad scream at all!
The production is clear and really fresh yet it has really dark emotion and atmosphere too. Bad aspects in the production however are the inaudibility of bass guitar, I think they could have mixed the bass higher like on Commandment. Also the vocals at couple sections seem to drown a bit under the instruments. Maybe they just didn't mix the vocals loud enough at those parts or maybe Chris himself simply didn't sing so audibly and he should have re-recorded those parts growling louder. But apart from those couple flaws I find the production to be excellent.
Now what to say...oh yes! We have this song called Killed In Your Sleep...talk about fucking masterpiece. This one is slow, really dark and really atmospheric. Geniusly written art that's easily the best song of the album and also one of the best Six Feet Under songs ever. It starts with a riff consisting of some chords with couple palm mutes and one pinch harmonic then it changes to this goddamn atmospheric palm muted and quite midpaced tremolo riff. Then the drums will join with fast double bass. All through the 4 and half minutes of the song you'll be given some of the creepiest atmospheric death metal to come out from this band and the darkest lyrics Chris Barnes has ever written since Tomb Of The Mutilated as he starts describing a creepy homicide and the twists of dreams and reality (almost exactly like the Cannibal Corpse masterpiece song "Beyond The Cemetary"). At the mark of 2:20 in comes a somewhat melodic bridge section and then after about 20 seconds there's a very slow part with very deep growls and let me tell you, this section is fucking BLOATED with dark and creepy atmosphere. "Don't close your eyes, Death awaits...." and then the song starts gaining speed as the solo kicks in. An amazing fucking solo with brilliant melody. There it is, the final evidence of the brilliance and the creativity Chris Barnes possesses. Killed In Your Sleep is actually even better than Cannibal Corpse's "Festering In The Crypt"!
As it's been obvious through this entire review, Death Rituals is a massive improvement from Commandment and a positive surprise from this old dog that wasn't supposed to learn new tricks anymore....I do recommend this highly to any Six Feet Under fan and I could bet that even those who don't like this band will find some good sections from this.
Review originally posted at http://www.teethofthedivine.com by Erik Thomas
Another year another Six Feet Under album, but surprisingly like 2007s Commandment, Barnes and Co. appear to be back on track after a couple of albums of suck.
With a change in producer and studio from Erik Rutan and Mana for Commandment to Chris Carroll at Morrisound, Death Rituals sounds a bit rougher and analog-y, but the formula for the music is the same as its been since 1995s Haunted; Chunky, mid paced , no frills death metal with lyrics about zombies, death and other 90s death metal themes.
With two exceptions, all 13 tracks lope and lumber with a simple efficiency-even more so than Commandment, and Barnes’ admittedly now tired sounding growl. However, at almost 50 minutes in length (14 more than Commandment), Death Rituals outstays its welcome for the type of album it is. As much as tracks like “Involuntary Movement Of Dead Flesh”, “Death By Machete”, “Shot In the Head” and “Killed In your Sleep” fulfill their goal, by the time “Crossroads to Armageddon”, “Ten Deadly Plagues” and “Murder Addiction” rumble by, you’ve heard everything Death Rituals has to offer. Still it does offer an archaic respite from the onslaught of mind numbing tech death metal or clicky nu death the kids are playing, despite the fact we really dont need (or want?) another SFU album.
The two exceptions are the outro “Crossing the River Styx” and the cover of Mötley Crüe’s “Bastard” which hopefully isn’t a sign that Barnes has the hankering for another album of covers. Please god, don’t let there by a Graveyard Classics 3.
Six Feet Under used to be great fun. Honestly, Haunted, Warpath, Maximum Violence and Bringer of Blood were all no frills death metal and a lot of fun to listen to. For whatever reason, I lost touch with the band after 2003s Bringer album and it’s only now that I’ve got back to the band with this year’s Death Rituals.
The news is not good for fans of the band and for fans of Barnes. This is the worst death metal album I’ve heard all year and here’s why. At the most basic level, Six Feet Under has finally achieved the tag of being the AC/DC of death metal. Every song on this album is something you’ve already heard before from the band on their prior albums. However, unlike their heroes, what Six Feet Under does is a substandard rehash. The bulk of the material sounds like songs from Maximum Violence and Warpath.
Eulogy for the Damned is a case in point with the riff and vocal line during the verse sounding pretty much exactly like War is Coming (from Warpath) before going off into a Maximum Violence inspired mid section. I would have picked out a couple of songs for special mention but honestly there’s nothing on Death Rituals that qualifies. There is however, a cover of Motley Crue’s Bastard (from their Shout at the Devil album) which does a decent job of death n roll and is the album highlight.
The other thing that really gets me about the album is Barnes’s vocal performance. Maybe the man was too high to care or simply believes his fans will eat up anything he dishes out but this has to be his worst vocal performance ever. He is one dimensional, there’s absolutely no passion and his growls just sound really weak. The musicianship on a Six Feet Under album has never been of a particularly high standard and what has made them work in the past is kickass, simple grooves that stick in your mind. That element is missing on this album with every single groove sounding like a cheap knock off.
Overall, this is the lowest point of the band’s career and you know your album’s going to stink when the best song on it is a Motley Crue cover.
Originally written for http://www.kvltsite.com
A thing is certain: we're light years away from the writing beggary of "Commandments", the return to death metal to the core that, honestly, made me worry about their future.
It's not a case the new album lands just a year after, and already from the first listen we can witness little has changed from the previous episode: the heavy/hard experiments of albums like "Warpath", "Bringer Of Blood" and "13" (for sure the most interesting) have been put aside mostly, and even if the structural linearity of the songs – which don't always follow the song shape, as showed by the opener "Death By Machete" – has a lot in common with the classic heavy rock music, the riffing nature is death/thrash to the bone, despite some more heavy metal passage or break.
The rhythms are straight and groovy, with some blast beat passage ("Involuntary Movement Of Dead Flesh") and some up tempo, but always in the typical 4/4 tempo standard (only "Shot In The Head" has got some strong syncope in the verses). Not too different from what they did in the past, but the result is not as pink as back then.
"Death Rituals" is not a bad album, at all, and it confirms them to be the leader in this kind of extreme music, which is basilar, straight, sort of AC/DC of death metal. But there are no peaks: "Maximum Violence" and "True Carnage" had some horrible songs, but also some unforgettable masterpieces; contrarily, "Death Rituals" never drowns into the mud, enjoys a very high average quality, but the songs are little focused and are closer to some nice riffs collections than to nice songs.
If then you also add some excessive déjà-vu (the break of "Death By Machete" recalls the variation of "The Day The Dead Walked", the middle riff of "Into The Crematorium" recalls that of "No Warning Shot"), then you must consider "Death Rituals" an involving satisfactory album, but which is not memorable anyway. Their reputation is solid, but not improved.
Originally written for Silent Scream http://www.silentscreamzine.com/Home.asp?Lang=ENG
I should probably start by saying that I was a huge fan of Chris' work with Cannibal Corpse. I like Corpsegrinder fine but there's just a certain rawness to the Chris albums that gets my head banging like no other. However, I've never really had anything that good to say about Six Feet Under. My big problem was that the music never really seemed to fit in with Barnes' vocals. It sounded like he was singing one song and the band was playing another.
This fortunately has been remedied for the most part on Death Rituals. I can't believe I'm writing this but this is actually listenable, I expected another boring sludge fest! The songs are much more varied, Death by Machete actually gets moving and has Chris singing faster than he has in almost a decade.
Another thing that has improved considerably since past releases is the guitar solos. They're better thought out and much more interesting, Seed of Filth in particular has a really memorable solo. I actually even looked in the liner notes thinking it was a guest guitarist.
One thing that has to be addressed is Barnes‘ voice. While his grunting is probably the most patterned and in sync with the music it's been since The Bleeding or Haunted, his voice is starting to show it‘s age. It's not horrible but his "highs" sound really strained but I guess it's to be expected considering how much he smokes and how long he's been doing this.
It feels like Barnes and company actually spent some time on this and it's a total 180 from the dire filler that was Commandment. I could've done without the Mötley Crüe cover and it still feels a little bit monotonous if you listen to it all the way through in one sitting but unlike other SFU albums you might actually remember a few of the better songs.
If you completely despise Barnes (Anal Cunt fans etc.) there's nothing here that will change your opinion of him. However for someone like me, this album does it’s job. It’s hands down the best album Barnes has been a part of in a long while and for veteran sickos that alone is worth admission.