CD Review: Six Feet Under - Commandment
For whatever reasons, Chris Barnes and Six Feet Under cause strong reactions in the metal community. Some have personal beef with Barnes; others deride his over-the-top, gory lyrics or his "cookie monster" vocal style, which he helped pioneer. Six Feet Under, too, often catches flak for being simple or just plain mediocre.
The truth, of course, lies in the middle. The 420-friendly band has had its share of highs (the classic first two albums with Obituary's Allen West on guitar) and lows (an abysmal cover of Thin Lizzy's "Jailbreak," Ice-T's guest appearance on True Carnage, the baffling AC/DC covers of Graveyard Classics 2).
Commandment finds SFU returning to what made it succeed – midpaced, downtuned death metal that emphasizes groove. Say what you will about their simplicity, but these riffs are eminently headbangable. Contrast that with, say, Origin or Nile, whose speed and technique are so overwhelming that one can only vibrate helplessly. The hair doesn't lie, folks.
Barnes' voice has often sounded shot in the past, but he's in fine form here. Thankfully, he's largely ditched the weak, higher rasps that tainted the middle of SFU's catalogue. Instead, he sticks with his trusty death growl. Sure, Barnes has a one-note range, but his vocal patterns are catchy; at his best, his scarred throat almost sounds bluesy.
The songwriting is concise, efficient, and surprisingly varied. "Doomsday" has a swaggering breakdown; "Zombie Executioner" marches through steel-toed triplets. "The Evil Eye" rides a 4/4 pulse, while "The Edge of the Hatchet" and "Resurrection of the Rotten" have crust punk edges. The riffs are as basic as ever, but the fluency of the leads may shock some. "Resurrection of the Rotten" even sports brief sweep picking! The drumming, too, is full of subtle accents that enhance the impact of the riffs.
Erik Rutan's knob-twiddling here yields a natural, thick, and heavy sound. While these 10 songs only comprise 34 minutes, no more is needed, really. In Commandment, Barnes and co. have concocted reliable, old-school death metal that doesn't need fancy blasting to make heads bang.