Six Feet Under
Crypt of the Devil
Metal Blade Records/Rocket Distribution
Reviewed By Chris Gibbs
From Undead and Unborn to unsatisfactory
I never really clicked with Six Feet Under, the once side project turned fulltime band following Chris Barnes’ departure from the almighty Cannibal Corpse in 1995. I made a few attempts but the more laid back, groove-laden, and at times almost comical style of death metal that Chris and his cronies were laying down was simply not fast enough. Fast-forward to 2012 and 2013 and the double knuckle sandwich of Undead and Unborn respectively were pretty killer outputs. Essentially, the former was fast enough and the latter was quite a mature and modern sounding death metal record, both complete with plenty of incomprehensible gore soaked tales and excellent production.
My interest in the band increased since then, due in part to the change in personnel and quality of musicians employed to write and record those two previous records, so I was keen to crank their 11th album, Crypt of the Devil. This marks yet another shift within the band’s recording ranks, now consisting of the entire current line-up of Cannabis Corpse, a band notorious for paying humorous homage to Barnes’ former co-workers. Phil Hall has championed the writing and recording of rhythm and bass guitar tracks, his brother Josh Hall tracked all drums and guitarist Brandon Ellis (also of Arsis) has unleashed some tasty leads. All that we need are the classic vocals of one Mr. Chris Barnes, and here lies the problem.
As one of the pioneers of death metal, and of rightful legendary status, Chris sounds bloody terrible on Crypt of the Devil. "Gruesome" kicks in like classic Cannibal Corpse but he sounds weak, wheezing and gasping for air with an extremely lacklustre performance all ‘round. Perhaps 25 years of sadistic violence and murder story telling combined with all that ganja smoking has taken its toll on the dreadlocked warrior? The strange delay/layered effect overused on his vocals that sounds like a CD skipping over a fine scratch does not help either. There is simply no depth, brutality or even remnants of what was once considered by many to be a godlike voice in traditional death metal.
The record itself isn’t a total failure as "The Night Bleeds" opens with a heavy riff and groove with various blistering moments of shred from Brandon whose contributions are the definite highlights; I found this track to be the standout due to its diversity. The haunting breakdown in "Stab" at 2:13 is excellent but short lived; this kind of experimentation could have really improved the impact of the album. Josh’s performance behind the kit is sufficient but not overly impressive; no doubt a tough job when replacing Kevin Talley on the throne.
After all these years, my opinion finally changed thanks to two back to back impressive albums (which I revisited), it’s a shame my opinion has drastically changed again due to quite an unsatisfactory release as Crypt of the Devil.