Six Feet Under
Up to par but not exceeding it
It's almost a pointless exercise reviewing any new Six Feet Under album. After a decade in existence, Floridian death metal act Six Feet Under (Consisting of ex-Cannibal Corpse vocalist Chris Barnes, guitarist Steve Swanson, bassist Terry Butler and drummer Greg Gall) have churned out seven full length albums (Which includes two dreadful cover albums), with have either met with unanimous praise from the truly devoted, or loathing from those who find the band unconvincing and uninspired at best.
But once again, Six Feet Under returns with album number eight (The follow up to 2004's live C.D./D.V.D. package Live With Full Force and the embarrassing Graveyard Classics 2, where they covered AC/DC's 1980 classic Back In Black in it's entirety), and things have improved, if only by the tiniest bit.
Taking on a somewhat a loose based concept theme (With Barnes' lyrics focussing on more gore aspects of death and mutilation in his typically child like manner childish), 13 is the product of a week's worth of writing and recording in the studio for the band, and while it hardly sets a new benchmark, it does a significant effort to come up with something vaguely interesting than anything from the band in years.
The opening number Decomposition Of The Human Race is the first to show an improvement of quality from the band. The strong groove is evident from the outset, and the faster paced moments at least hint at some well thought out passages rather than simply relying on the slow (And quite frankly boring) structures of the last few albums. Even Barnes himself has made a point of allowing his vocals to become more decipherable than ever before. But it's the buzzsaw like production (Handled by Barnes) that deadens any real impact Somewhere In The Darkness could have had (Although Swanson's capable solo manages to break free of the muddied sound), with only the aggressive nature of Rest In Pieces, Shadow Of The Reaper, Wormfood and the title track 13 (All of which are the highlights of the album) barely managing to cut through dense and dulled flat wall of noise sound.
Barnes adds a slightly blackened effect to the groove laden (And almost catchy like) Deathklaat and The Art Of Headhunting to good effect, but the quality doesn't seem to hold up for the tail end as The Poison Hand, This Suicide and Stump all fall into the substandard material of Six Feet Under's past (Slow, boring numbers with little inspiration apart from the gore aspect of the lyrical content).
13 has an urgency about it that works where other albums have failed in the past. Six Feet Under might still be the underachievers in the death metal realm (The production is as dreadful, Barnes' vocals are still hollow and weak sounding and the songs themselves are overly simplistic as ever), but at least it's on par with their past efforts like 1995's Haunted and 1997's Warpath, which I'm sure misguided devotees will consider this a new classic from the bottom feeders of the death metal scene.
(Metal Blade Records/Stomp Records Distribution)