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Hypnotic, yet moderately appealing. - 65%

hells_unicorn, April 21st, 2012

Six Feet Under is a very tough band to like, even and especially by that sizable minority of people I know who argue that Cannibal Corpse was better before Chris Barnes was ejected. To state that the two bands are different would be an understatement, but what particularly sticks out about the band is the perpetual aura of an ongoing side-project minus the main one. For lack of a better description, this band doesn’t really come off like it’s trying to take it seriously, and they also come off as being lousy comedians would one to believe that they are trying to be funny. Basically, this is a band that does well to earn the scorn they tend to receive in metal circles, particularly by avid consumers of the more extreme styles therein.

“Haunted” has generally garnered less revulsion that subsequent releases, an enigma that is actually rather easily explained by the close proximity to Barnes’ work with Cannibal Corpse and the presence of Allen West. The latter does not really put on his most stellar performance here, but it dominates the mix and turns what could otherwise be dubbed overt Pantera worship with Chris Barnes barking over top of it into something mildly interesting at times. It wouldn’t be a mistake to call this groove metal, but it actually tends to avoid most of the more monotonous parts of the style by allowing the guitars to have a less percussive and drum-synchronized character. The bare bones simplicity and repetitiousness is definitely there, but in more of an early 90s thrash way like “Seasons In The Abyss” or “Renewal” than the outright plodding banality of “Vulgar Display Of Power”.

But despite the occasionally well put together guitar solo and a consistent level of competency in the overall arrangement, this album spends way more time coasting than it does cooking. Whether dealing with somewhat faster songs like “Haunted” and “Suffering In Ecstasy” or the otherwise uniform collection of mid tempo work on here, this isn’t the chaotic nightmare that most would tend to expect from a death metal album. Even by the early death/thrash standards set by Death and Possessed, this comes off as restrained, avoiding the excessive speed and chaotic blasting that crept in with Bolt Thrower and Morbid Angel, while also keeping a good distance from the doom-inspired character of a number of bands that were beginning to take shape at the time.

Combined with the middle of the road tendencies of the tempo and character of the music is a very safe approach to songwriting, one that would pass for radio if the vocals had taken on more of a grungy flavor. While it has never been customary for older death metal bands to go 6 or 7 minutes on a great number of songs, there is always an inherent asymmetrical tendency to the songs, a systematic avoidance of the cliché verse/chorus format. This album embraces those orthodoxies, which generally tends to be limited to the most radio-friendly of wiffle thrash and traditional heavy metal, and all but exaggerates them to the point of an outright catchy character coming about, though it’s focused more in the guitars than the vocals. I challenge anyone to listen to the grooving drive of “Lycanthropy” and not find themselves repeating that rhythmic guitar drone in their minds soon after.

All things considered, this is death metal for people who tend not to like death metal, and it plays heavily into the dominant character of mid 90s American music with its generally strict adherence to convention (minus the vocals, of course), something which Cannibal Corpse never really did in spite of their heavy success. Speaking for myself, I found the album moderately enjoyable but not really much to write home about, which is sadly the greatest that has been achieved by Barnes since being abandoned by the corpse.