Six Feet Under are a strange band. It’s always a bit odd when a musical outfit centres around a member who doesn’t compose music, therefore having to hire musicians to write, record and perform in a manner that is still within keeping of the essence of the name, isn’t it? I mean, let’s not kid ourselves, we all know that Six Feet Under is the infamous Chris Barnes‘ baby and would be a fraction of the size they are if he wasn’t the former vocalist of Cannibal Corpse. This is not to take anything away from the band, however, as they have their moments and their place in death metal, that’s for sure.
This time around, though, it has gotten even weirder. He has hired all three current members of the band Cannabis Corpse to be his co-writers and studio band. But he still has long-serving guitarist Steve Swanson, plus a different rhythm section as his live players. He is the boss, I guess, and it keeps things fresh.
All that aside, is the 11th outing of Barnes‘ brutal project any good? Well, it is certainly a little different from recent output. Whereas the last few records have been groove orientated, and perhaps more akin to fellow death metal veterans Obituary (but nowhere near as good), “Crypt of the Devil” picks up the pace and is actually the closest the dreadlocked growler has come to his old band, sounding like a cross between the “Tomb of the Mutialted” and “The Bleeding” eras of Cannibal Corpse. This is clearly down to the hired hands and their undoubted hero worship.
If the groove element of SFU‘s sound was something you enjoyed, then don’t despair; it is there,but it is just now used a bit more sparingly. If you need your fix then ‘The Night Bleeds’ or ‘Open Coffin Orgy’ should satiate your needs.
I have to mention Brandon Ellis‘ incredible lead guitar playing, which has also freshened up the band’s overall sound. He tends to harmonize a lot of his licks and solos in the same way that makes James Murphy (Obituary/Death/Testament) such a treat to listen to. A definite welcome addition to the SFU palette. His role in being the main composer on “Crypts of the Devil” is certainly evident on the technical nature of some of the riffs whilst still keeping things hooky and memorable, an admirable feat in extreme metal circles. I sincerely hope that Barnes‘ touring line-up can do these tracks justice when they come to air them on the road.
Barnes‘ vocals, though, seem to get weaker and weaker, and although still very much a force they’re just not sounding as brutal as they have done before. Perhaps all that weed is taking its toll? Also, the mix on the record does seem a little flat and lifeless, but not too much to the detriment of the record as an experience.
Overall, a welcome and valuable addition to an already pretty solid back catalogue. Death metal fans, you should pick this up, if only to hear the new vibes going on within.