As a fan of Six Feet Under, I’ve bought and heard the band go through plenty of changes. I’m always ready to bang my head to Haunted and Warpath, and even own their Death ‘n Roll material including all three Graveyard Classics compilations. So, it’s an honor to be able to sit back and get the chance to be one of the first to check out their upcoming album, Undead. Today I received a three song sampler that Metal Blade Records has sent out to members of press, which I have currently paused and loaded. While I’m writing this, my palette has been cleansed. I have not hit the play button, I just wrapped up a review, and I am sitting now with the only sound being the hum of the central air blowing above me in this room. With anticipation killing me as I crank my speakers up and crack my knuckles, neck, back, and chest (the latter a rather bad decision), I brace myself for what Six Feet Under has to offer their fans under the banner of Undead, hoping for the best, while fearing the potential worst…
First up is the song “Formaldehyde.” After a brief drumming introduction, the deep, rougher audio quality draws the bass to the front of the mix with a slower pace that eventually grinds to a crawling, burdened speed that bludgeons away with at the listener. The signature guttural vocals of Chris Barnes are nicely mixed in with the rest of the music so that they don’t come off to overbearing in the mix, allowing the listener to take in everything and not just this human instrument. There are some higher pitched screams in the background, though not to the point of the shrieks he does, and at a lower volume thankfully. Picture everything you commonly expect of Death Metal, and you get this one. Random fits of speed intertwined with brutally slow and crushing music that makes you headbang along with the infectious groove that litters the entire song outside of the random blastbeat bridges. The tone is dark with some varied complex faster lead chords that go down the neck of the guitar to establish a very eerie tone to the music, and a guitar solo that ushers in a sense of lost sanity before feeding into a commanding conclusion. I’m loving every second of it.
All fears cast aside, the playlist clicks over to the next track. “18 Days” opens up with more slower material, establishing a really unnerving atmosphere thanks to some of the creepy lead chords that are used to bridge into the main verse. The gutturals hammer in, and the pace continues at its soul crushing speed and tone, taking in some mid-tempo material at times thanks to slightly quicker chords and faster double bass kicks. The song just continues to build from the very start, getting rather technical in the chords at times, and even the timing, all setting up an unrelenting environment that does slip back into the creeping pace of earlier. I admit, I wish the band expanded on the speed a little more and cut the slower conclusion at least in half. Unfortunately, with the way this winds up ending, it sounds as it Six Feet Under wraps things up a little too soon, not concentrating entirely on the potential that lay before them.
A little saddened, but still one hundred percent pumped and ready to go on, I’m facing “Frozen At the Moment of Death,” and it’s a greatly faster track. The song erupts with crashing cybals that usher in another slower introduction, which has me worried that this is what we’ll hear a lot more of on the release, but once the faster pace kicks in, I’m loving the brutality. The truly dark, sinister tone that they bring with them is really commendable, casting an audible shadow over me that feels like the weight of the world. The guitar solo here is well executed, hammering away at the quickest pace than the rest of the track, and the slower bit that follows it gives off a ritualistic sense to the song as it just amps up the intensity, building towards a well transitioned breakdown. Sadly, it doesn’t have the same impact as what you might find on what is considered a Slam Death Metal style album, but it’s effective none the less. As good as it is, I’m happy to see it doesn’t close the track out. The chords become a little less technical, at least as far as the leads for a short time go, working more with some lengthy held notes against the thuds of the bass kicks and crisp cymbals to close with as much strength as it had starting out.
But, in the end, I’m surprised at the length of the songs. “Frozen at the Moment of Death” is the logest, whereas the rest don’t even break the three-minute mark. It’s not at all a bad thing, but with the way some songs build themselves up, such as “18 Days,” it left me wanting more than a two-minute forty-second cap thanks to the potential that just seemed to be cut down at its prime. Either way, I am simply excited for this release, which is evident by my pounding pulse and sore neck. It captures the original atmosphere and brutality I fell in love with on their early recordings, and for me, that is a huge plus. From what I’ve heard so far, I can safely say that Undead is the most brutal Six Feet Under recording to date, and if it sounds anything like these three tracks, then it will definitely be a necessary addition to your metal collection, and mandatory for anyone who calls themselves a fan of the band, or Death Metal in general.
Article based on digital review material provided by Metal Blade Records