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Their best early work - 85%

Marcus Blue Wolf, March 30th, 2017
Written based on this version: 1995, CD, Metal Blade Records

I'm not going to beat around the bush, ignore the never-ending and at times fluctuating controversy, or stigma that still surrounds Six Feet Under and has done pretty much since their inception. Many would argue, as do I, that after this album it was downhill for the band from 1999 onwards, reaching their lowest point in 2003 with the hilariously terrible "Bringer of Blood", before almost a decade of slow improvement to the generally agreed upon "good" albums, "Undead", "Unborn", "Crypt of the Devil"; and their current latest effort, "Torment". Casting all controversy and history aside, I'm here to offer my input on what is in my opinion still one of their best releases.

The album starts off pretty well, Barnes' somewhat still intact vocals supporting the simple and catchy riffs in the opening track, and "Silent Violence" is really enough for me to get over the minor slowness of the opening track, because everyone loves some simple headbanging grooves, right? It also becomes apparent that the more complex and sophisticated songs, such as "Still Alive" were saved for the latter stages of the album, mixed in with the continuing style of simplistic groove for the majority of the album. At the very least, the loud if somewhere brief solos by Allen are a welcome break from hearing groove after groove mixed with OSDM.

Obviously I can't ignore the glaring similarities in this album to some of the earlier works of Allen West's previous band Obituary, which can't be denied. Love it or hate it, in my opinion this rather heavily "borrowed" style in my opinion gives some hints at where Six Feet Under's musical direction was heading, which was short lived by the time "Maximum Violence" came out. Six Feet Under's harshest critics may maintain until the end how this was essentially an Obituary ripoff, which, while that may be true, they did at least manage to shed that label later on in subsequent releases.

Musically and musician wise, in all honesty, the album is nothing hugely special in comparison to the much larger and more successful death metal counterparts Six Feet Under have, but I'll put my neck on the line and say with a shameless confidence that this album has more of an aesthetically groovy charm to it rather than sophisticated songwriting which was used to almost excessive levels during the peak of death metal. So in that sense at least it stands out by being neither spectacular nor inherently bad, more of a "safety" album, since Chris's departure from Cannibal Corpse wasn't too long before this album was recorded. Chris stays somewhat in tune with the violent lyrical themes of Cannibal Corpse, which by this point were watered down enough to fit with his idea of a groove oriented death metal band.

Production wise, there's pretty much no flaws to the album at all, just another run of the mill 90's death metal album with "the Scott Burns death metal sound", so I can't really fault them there.

Overall, depending on your expectations, you're either going to enjoy this album or be pretty much turned off by it. In my opinion it is at least listenable, and relevant to what SFU aimed to do, and it still retains some of Chris's old charm before he fucked up his vocals. This is more of a "death metal for long car journeys" type of album. So if you're only after death metal's trademark brutality and complexity, it's not for you, but if you have a soft spot for some more laid back grooves, by all means give this album a try.