Twenty years ago today, Saturday September 26, 2015, the reincarnation of Chris Barnes’ death metal crusade known as Six Feet Under released their debut full length, Haunted. When social media informed me of this fact this morning, I had a moment of reflection relating to the journey of Barnes and his, often unappreciated, creations of two of the most premier death metal bands in existence. I spent the morning with a cup of coffee and a pair of headphones, thoughtfully reviewing the catalog of Six Feet Under, spanning 1995s Haunted to this year’s release, Crypt of the Devil. While this is technically a review of Crypt of the Devil, it would be a travesty not to recognize the tribulations and successes of one of the greatest death metal vocalists of all time, Chris Barnes.
Those of us fortunate enough to experience death metal in the ‘90s know of the controversy that led to the meteoric rise of Buffalo’s Cannibal Corpse. Founded in 1988, Cannibal Corpse, fueled in large part by the horrifically wonderful imagery and lyrics envisioned by Barnes, swiftly became a target of the crusade of censorship sweeping across the music industry in the early to mid ‘90s. United States’ Senator Bob Dole, though admittedly never listening to any of Cannibal Corpse’s records, would accuse the band of, “undermining the national character of the United States”, and the band would likewise experience similar campaigns in Australia, Germany and Russia. Despite the best efforts of conservative factions across the world, Cannibal Corpse surged in popularity, ultimately landing a cameo in the movie, “Ace Ventura, Pet Detective” in 1994, despite being listed in the credits as “Cannibal Corpses.”
At the height of the band’s popularity, turmoil within the band began to form. As a result, Barnes’ side project, Six Feet Under, formed mainly as a cover band in 1993, released their debut full length, Haunted in 1995. Six Feet Under was an different animal than Cannibal Corpse, amalgamating traditional death metal elements with groove metal influences of Obituary, baked into the band by Obituary guitarist and founding Six Feet Under guitarist, Adam West. Haunted was as intriguing as it was foreboding, as it had become clear to the metal community that Six Feet Under had become Barnes’ priority. In 1996, during the recording of Cannibal Corpse’s Vile, Barnes left the band to join Six Feet Under on a full time basis.
Over the next 20 years, Barns would again create one of the more popular bands in death metal, defined by iconic imagery of, now trademarked, death and gore. Six Feet Under’s 2015 release, Crypt of the Devil is a solid punctuation mark to the evolution of the driving force that is Chris Barns and Six feet Under. Crypt of the Devil opens with the bullshit-free track, “Gruesome”, combining chugging palm muting peppered with blast beats, and evolving into a screaming solo packed with enough sweep picking to wind power the Netherlands.
Crypt of the Devil continues on to track four, titled, “Break the Cross In Half”, representing a nice departure from the typical Six Feet Under vein both in music and theme. The track opens with grooving guitar work, before delving into an unexpected, cymbal catching, thrashy break, only to meld into the driving chorus bearing the gravel throat of Barnes growling, “Break! The Cross! In Half!”
Crypt of the Devil is a very listenable record from start to finish for fans of Deicide, Obituary, and of course Cannibal Corpse. Six Feet Under have managed to evolve musically while continuing to embrace their roots for two decades, which is worthy of mention in and of itself.
Approaching 50, Barnes is showing no signs of slowing down, which should be respected, whether you’re a fan of his music or not. He certainly has my respect as a true pioneer of American Death Metal.
7.2 / 10
Posted March 18, 2015, 9:38 a.m.
Australia's Miles Away will release a new record, their fourth, on Six Feet Under Records on May 5. The new LP is titled Tide and was recorded and mixed ...
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