REVIEW: ‘UNDEAD’ REANIMATES SIX FEET UNDER’S NO NONSENSE APPROACH TO DEATH METAL
Six Feet Under
It’s been four years since Barnes and Co. last put out new material, since then two of the cornerstone elements of Six Feet Under have departed, namely bassist Terry Butler and drummer Greg Gall. With the rhythm section of such a notably groove orientated death metal outfit out of the picture, you would be forgiven for hitting the panic button hard, with your head, rapidly! But one listen to the Floridian masters new record ‘Undead’ will quell any such doubts that Six Feet Under is in danger of going away anytime soon.
For starters there’s the new line-up that now could be mistaken for resembling that of a super group of sorts. Ex-Brain Drill Bassist Jeff Hughell and Former Dying Fetus, Chimaira, (pretty much every band ever) drummer Kevin Talley more than fill the void left by Gall and Butler, offering a more technical element to the already established SFU groove machine. Barnes has also managed to recruit long-time Chimaira guitarist Rob Arnold to add some more depth into the bands sound, complimenting Steve Swanson’s breezeblock riffs.
With the new line-up in mind how does ‘Undead’ compare to the SFU classics such as ‘Haunted’ ‘Warpath’ or ‘Maximum Violence’? The diagnosis looks incredibly promising, one could argue, upon first listen to ‘Undead’ that this could possibly be some of the best material Six Feet Under have committed to record. From the second ‘Frozen at the Moment of Death’ kicks in you get the impression that this killing machine is sleeker, sharper and more focussed than it has ever been. Kevin Talley’s punishing and unrelenting drum attack merely forms the bare bones of this record, the meat and sinews provided by Hughell and the twin guitar assault of ‘OG’ Steve Swanson and Arnold providing the impenetrable hide of this beast of an album. Of course it wouldn’t be Six Feet Under without Barnes’ guttural, bile inducing vocals; the dreadlocked godfather of the death growl offers up some of his most potent lyrics in years to boot (check out the deliciously evil ’18 Days’).
Some life-long fans of Six Feet Under may be a little uneasy about the more technical direction of ‘Undead’ but it serves only to emphasise the traditional straight ahead elements of this band that we know and love. Fear not, that no frills approach is still very much evident in tracks like ‘Reckless’ and ‘Vampire Apocalypse’, (the former having a huge chugging riff that you can’t help but want to wreck your neck muscles to) whist the new styles of playing that Talley, Hughell and Arnold bring to the table offer a much more three dimensional edge to Six Feet Under’s tried and tested sound, with varied blastbeats and more complexly structured riffage. Talley’s drumming in particular, gives this record a real sense of vitality and a freshness that was missing from the last couple of SFU releases.
What Six Feet Under have done with ‘Undead’ isn’t so much a re-invention of themselves, more of a fine tuning. The finished result is an album that both re-establishes them as a major force in death metal and even raises the bar on some of their most highly regarded material. For those of you who wrote Barnes off after Cannibal Corpse, think again!