SIX FEET UNDER REACH LOWS MUCH DEEPER THAN SIX FEETI love death metal; I would just like to make that abundantly clear. I love the old school tenacity of Deicide and Morbid Angel. I love the old-school-with-a-twist tenacity of Suffocation and Immolation. I love the sneering but melodically juicy bits of At the Gates, Carcass, Entombed, Arsis and the Crown. I love (LOVE!) old Cryptopsy. Hell, I love everything Cryptopsy did up to this year. I love the subtle virtuoso intensity and devastating slams of Dying Fetus. I love the decidedly non-subtle virtuoso intensity of Necrophagist, Decapitated, and Psycroptic. I love the outside-the-box thinking death metallers like Nile, Vital Remains, and Portal (though I understandably spend a lot of time defending the latter). I love other death metal bands and sub-genres (along with sub-genres of sub-genres) I’m probably forgetting. It is with this love that I say that Death Rituals, the latest album by Six Feet Under, is a fucking abomination. It taps into everything that makes for bad, bad death metal to an extent where if it were a hair worse, it would be a war crime. But instead, it’s just bad. Even shameful. A cancerous mole on the ass of death metal. Simplicity is one thing, good sirs; an apparent lack of any sort of effort is another.

I suppose Six Feet Under’s chief sin is sloppiness. And sloppiness can be a good thing (the aforementioned Portal certainly uses it to their advantage); I am by no means arguing that all death metal has to be razor precise in composition and execution. But all of Death Rituals – fuck, down to the name of the fucking album – feels like a series of half-thought out ideas and lazy performance. The album doesn’t rise above a midpaced tempo often, and when it does, it sounds like the aural equivalent of a fat man running: the music seems to lag behind the speed it’s actually aspiring to, perpetually shouting, “Come on, man! Wait up!” I call Six Feet Under “lazy” instead of, you know, “bad,” because with a handful of tremolo picked riffs and interesting drum fills, the musicians seem to hint that they can do more. Instead, they hang back with an unending array of simplistic and cliché death metal riffs played at an uninteresting tempo: not fast enough to boil your blood (or overshadow the stock-ness of the riffery), not slow enough to get your head nodding. This has all been done before, and done much, much better.

Of course, no Six Feet Under review can go without mention of vocalist/death metal icon Chris Barnes. Though the man is undeniably one of the pillars on which death metal rests, he’s the element of Six Feet Under that holds back the band most consistently. Though not all – hell, not many – can maintain a consistent growl after years of death grunts, Barnes sounds like a wounded version of his former self. Phil Anselmo is a great, great example of a vocalist that decreased his range over the years via a cocktail of wear-and-tear and weed and booze that has managed to work within his growingly limited parameters. His vocals, though no longer capable of reaching the nuts-in-a-vice highs of Cowboys from Hell, now have a grisly tone of world weariness to them, working as an extension of the soulful-yet-demonic croon made famous by Sabbath-era Ozzy. Barnes sounds like he’s using the same technique he was using for Tomb of the Mutilated. And while the if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it argument works for a great many bands – especially in metal – shit’s broke here. And without fixing, Barnes sounds like a twenty year old cat caught in a rusty rider lawnmower.

Most of all, the biggest problem with Death Rituals is that it’s just not good, down to its very DNA: the songs are BAD. They lack any sort of coherence, with parts often sounding like they’re slapped together, possibly at random. Take the abominable attempt at death ’n’ roll that is “Bastard”: the song starts off with a bizarre, flanged drum fill, followed by a slower-than-average few seconds of grind, followed by three minutes of criminally boring throwback metal guitars (with, admittedly, a passable solo in the middle) backed by an uncomfortably stiff AC/DC beat, then confusingly closed out by staccato chords, coming from a different song or record altogether, as far as “Bastard” is concerned. There’s no excuse for death metal this sloppy to be notable or receive the amount of attention Death Rituals will receive. Even if this record was made by Morbid Angel’s Trey Azagthoth, Cannibal Corpse’s Alex Webster, Destroy the Opposition-era drumming from ex-Dying Fetus stickman Kevin Talley, and Chris Barnes, it would still be unforgivable. There is much better death metal out there; plumb through the depths and find some there. Certainly it will be more worth your time than the 45-plus minutes of Death Rituals.


(1 out of 5 horns)

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