Six Feet Under

Undead

01. Frozen At The Moment Of Death
02. Formaldehyde
03. 18 Days
04. Molest Dead
05. Blood On My Hands
06. Missing Victims
07. Reckless
08. Near Death Experience
09. The Scar
10. Delayed Combustion Device
11. Vampire Apocalypse
12. The Depths Of Depravity

 [05/22/12]
[Metal Blade Records]

To have received Undead mere hours after the end of 4/20 is one of fate’s more recent and coincidental slip-ups, however it’s probably for the best that I use a clear head to I descend into the most recent incarnation of the hazy and depraved world of Chris Barnes. For you see, Six Feet Under have been called a lot of things over the years — not all of them positive — and whilst it would be terribly easy to dismiss them in the face of the burgeoning number of fantastic new death metal acts out there, the new line-up (including past and present members of Daath, Chimaira and Brain Drill) is hard to ignore.

Undead finds Six Feet Under at an interesting crossroads. In keeping with their reputation of pedaling traditional death metal with a doomy mid-tempo slant (think Obituary more than anything else), Undead fills out the majority of it’s play time with old-school vibes and Autopsy worship, but every now and then you can hear this glimmer of modern sensibilities in the guitar work. Surprisingly, it doesn’t feel out of place or superfluous, in fact it keeps affairs slightly more interesting when the band settles into a section with groove that is subtly reminiscent of Rob Arnold’s work with Chimaira. While no one could ever accuse Six Feet Under of becoming the mathematically precise and mechanized tyrant that personifies bands such as the aforementioned Brain Drill, it’s fascinating to watch the filthy, bestial creature in the basement suddenly turn on a dime into a cold, calculating killer. Barnes’ voice is worth mentioning as well – it’s not a thick traditional growl like many of his contemporaries, including his successor in Cannibal Corpse. Instead, it takes on a gruff and husky bark that helps to make those surprisingly catchy moments in tracks like ‘Missing Victims‘, ‘Molest Dead‘ and ‘Formaldehyde‘ all the more powerful.

Naturally, Undead suffers the same major problem that a lot of traditional death metal albums have. There’s just not enough variation here to be able to tell the difference between tracks for the average listener and certain tracks seem to come and go without anything tangible to latch onto. It’s frustrating to hear a track like ‘Near Death Experience‘ or ‘The Scar‘ that seem to hint towards something spectacular without ever reaching it. Thankfully these moments are weighted out by some of the more impressive moments that seem to be placed perfectly within the tracklisting. ‘Delayed Combustion Device‘, for instance, is a veritable oasis of belligerent and ruthless groove and riffage that acts as the perfect wake-up call.

Undead isn’t an album that will change anyone’s mind about death metal — it’s essentially an ‘old-school’ record with those exact sensibilities. Even the artwork looks like it was pulled from Dan Seagrave’s collection circa 1990. However, this a huge step in the right direction for Six Feet Under, a band I obviously wrote off far too early. Barnes’ brainchild is poised to take some scalps of long-standing fans with this release, but the most exciting prospect is where they take this with their next outing — after settling in, the signs all point to this being a very successful work dynamic.

Six Feet Under’s Undead gets…

3/5

 

– DL

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