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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.