So very promising for the briefest of moments
Reputation can either be an asset or a hindrance for a band and, in the case of long-running death metal act Six Feet Under, the latter is most definitely the more fitting case. Reputation doesn’t spawn from nothing, however, and the general misgivings people have about Six Feet Under are clearly rooted in their long history of releasing incredibly simplistic (and rather uninteresting) death metal but, that being said, a reputation however poor it may be, can be turned around with perseverance and, while Six Feet Under’s 12th (yes, 12th) full length release is far from perfect and still suffers from much of what has plagued the band for the past 19 years or so, it does go a way towards being a reasonable attempt at being a solid album. Sure, it doesn’t actually get there, but it is a decent attempt nonetheless.
The first few tracks on Undead gave me pause to actually confirm that I was indeed listening to Six Feet Under. The groovy and plodding death metal sound is still very much there but there is also a quality to the song-writing that took me completely by surprise. 18 Days is a prime example with its The Bleeding era Cannibal Corpse sounding riffs and its infectious main groove being nothing like what I was expecting to hear on Undead by any stretch of the imagination and it is this kind of atmosphere and feel that propels the stronger tracks on offer. But while these first few tracks are actually surprisingly good it doesn’t take long for things to devolve quite a bit with the fourth track, Molest Dead, serving as the turning point in the album where the engaging riffs and the moments of fun come much less frequently. To say that Undead is extremely top heavy would be one hell of an understatement.
The problem with the last three quarters of the album isn’t that the material is bad, per se, but rather that it is often so painfully generic, offers up little in the way of flair or genuine memorability, and, frankly, all sounds very much the same. The riffs crawl by at a mid pace, rarely breaking out of a chugging groove which in and of itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing but the lack of variety and any truly interesting, standout moments makes the 30 odd minutes that comprise the remainder of the album a relative chore to sit through. You can’t help but sit back and wonder if you’re still listening to the same album you started on, such is the night and day difference between the opening quarter and the closing three.
No one is ever going to confuse Six Feet Under with being a band that tries to push any boundaries or even really push themselves in any kind of meaningful way but, in a sense, you have to give them a bit of credit for simply doing what they do without any kind of interest in what anyone else has to say about it. Does this mean that we should give the band a pass because they’ve been slogging away like this for nearly 20 years? No, far from it, and, while Undead has indeed shown that Six Feet Under are capable of crafting an album with some genuinely good moments on it, it doesn’t in any way mean that the disc should be viewed as anything other than one where there are roughly three good songs out of 12 which really isn’t the best of averages.
Clearly I didn’t like Undead too much but I wouldn’t say that I hated it. It’s more an album that elicits frustration and a bit of confusion at its inconsistency rather than any kind of anger or hatred but, regardless, the end result is roughly the same – it’ll be a cold day in hell before I rush to hear it again.
(Metal Blade Records/Riot! Entertainment)