July 6, 2012 | , | 3.5

Six Feet Under, Undead

Six Feet Under: Undead

I still remember the first time I heard Cannibal Corpse’s Eaten Back to Life. It was shortly after my testicles dropped and upon first hearing Chris Barnes’ vocals on that seminal album, they immediately crawled back up into my gut. He was one of the reasons that I fell in love with that band. A lot has changed over the many years since then. Barnes went on to leave the Corpse behind and formed Six Feet Under back in 1993 and, well, his former band has gone on to out-sell every other death metal band in history. Oh, and my balls have since dropped into their proper place. Hooray!

Since ‘93 I’ve tried hard to like Six Feet Under. I really wanted to like the band’s material. I just couldn’t do it. They always felt gimmicky to me and Barnes a shell of his former self — and don’t get me started on those ridiculous high pitches shrieks he introduced in many of SFU’s albums. Apparently, it’s taken nine studio albums and a frenzied line-up change for me to warm-up to an album of theirs. Undead showcases a band that has changed dramatically (new members include Kevin Talley formerly of Dying Fetus on drums, Jeff Hughell on bass and ex-Chimaira guitarist Rob Arnold) and when all is said and done, the album doesn’t entirely blow. There’s some solid, worthwhile death metal here.

The first four tracks of Undead are far and away the best songs on the album. The opening track, “Frozen at the Moment of Death” has a solid bit of technical skill that previous material lacked (see the lead around the 1:40 mark). It’s obvious that the injection of the new members have given the band that added little something that was missing. Barnes’ barked delivery feels a little renewed as well and, from what I can remember, there’s nary a school-girlish squeal to be found! “Formaldehyde” is highlighted by a more up-tempo, crushing groove that’s peppered at just the right moments with furious bursts of energy. “18 Days” and “Molest Dead” both feature slick, swirling guitars, crushing groove and thundering rhythms, all punctuated with Barnes’ low, guttural utterances.

It seems that from this point on, however, the album lacks some conviction and just sort of settles into the familiar. Now, I know that tracks are rotated and shifted within the line-up before eventually going out to the public, so it’s not like the guys wrote the first four songs, got unbelievably baked and then half-assed it through the rest of the album, right?… Right?

At any rate, the rest of the album isn’t a complete waste of time. There are highlights throughout the remaining eight songs. “Missing Victims” has a solid groove while “Near Death Experience” has some impressive guitar work that gives the track a despondent atmosphere and Barnes let’s loose with some of his more aggressive growls. “Delayed Combustion Device” is seriously down-tuned and destructive and the horribly titled “Vampire Apocalypse” manages to impress with it’s crawling pace and sludgy tones.

It’s obvious that the new members of Six Feet Under have contributed for the better. There’s still work to be done, but I’d be surprised if the next album wasn’t a stand-out, especially after the band has had some more time to marinate in their own graves for another year or so. There’s a great deal of potential to be found on Undead and I’m just happy to have finally found an SFU album I can get behind.