Chris Barnes seems to be the Marmite of the death metal scene. I have friends who like his vocals and friends who can’t stand them, but that’s the thing about music – it’s all about personal taste. I’m in the “like them” camp and find Six Feet Under throwing out tunes that are regularly as good as anything Cannibal Corpse are assaulting our eardrums with. Better, they’re obviously a very different band with a different style.
This really comes through on Crypt of the Devil which features some superb guitar work wrapped around the typically splatter-filled vocals. There isn’t a better example than lead track “Gruesome” which has already been revealed (stream it below). The quick flurries of high notes in the pre-chorus give a sense of atmosphere as if the listener is being chased by a psychotic killer. There’s nothing lengthy in the solos and blasts of lead guitar and it makes for a very original track.
Intro of the album, though, goes to “Open Coffin Orgy” with a thumper of a first minute or so that any classic metal band would be proud of. Low-tuning, simple riffs and a beat that is as catchy as any of the crap they throw in the charts these days. This is one track off the album that has to be played live. It’s not often I can envisage the crowd at a death metal bouncing up and down in unison.
With just these first two tracks, Six Feet Under have set the scene for a gorgeously heavy yet surprisingly accessible album. The solos are actually musical, there’s structure to the songs, lyrics are intelligible (for this, credit must go to the mastering and mixing staff), and the themes are as dark and sickening as you would expect from a twisted fuck like Barnes. Obviously, I intend that to be taken as a compliment!
I’ve given this album quite a few listens since it dropped through our cobwebbed mailbox (OK, so we got it electronically but that’s just not as creepy) and it gets better each time. There are sections which just seem like old-school thrash, but down-tuned. Others are head-crushingly slow and heavy. Take “Slit Wrists” as an example, which features both of these styles and is one of the best songs on the album.
If you’re one of those people who are in the “Corpse Camp” and don’t like Chris’ vocals then I don’t think this will win you over. However, for those who are already fans or who just like giving a band a try then this is a very enjoyable, grisly, varied, blood-spattered album. If Crypt of the Devil was a serial killer, it would be one who’d not been caught because he used a different method for each kill. Always full of surprises, but still sickening each time.
Crypt of the Devil is out on May 5th through Metal Blade (pre-order bundles still available)