Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Six Feet Under - Unborn

Six Feet Under’s 2012 album Undead proved that Death Rituals wasn’t just a fluke. Having loved Undead, I’m ready to see if Six Feet Under can stay on top of things. In less than ten months, Six Feet Under have written, recorded, produced, and released a new full-length! Usually, when bands release new material THIS soon, it’s an EP, but an entire record?? These guys are on a creative writing spree. Although, I honestly think that the writing process of this album had already started before the release of Undead due to it having a similar album cover and a similar name. Six Feet Under’s newest release, titled Unborn, is a fucking monster. Three tasty slabs of death metal in a row is enough proof to safely say that Six Feet Under is on a winning streak and are no longer one of the worst death metal bands of all-time (which is what they were from 2001-2007). When I first saw the artwork and title of Unborn, I immediately came to the assumption that this was going to be an “Undead part 2”. Honestly, I’m totally cool with that because Undead was awesome. As long as they come up with something fresh next, I’m fine with another Undead-sounding record.

Those of you that didn’t like Death Rituals and are still skeptical about Undead don’t need to worry about the vocals. Everything that Barnes did that sounded like a clogged toilet or a constipated boar cannot be heard on this album. The vocals are fantastic, different, but still sound like the behemoth known as Chris Barnes. I’ll elaborate more on this later in the review, but for now, let’s get into the general music part.

The first track, Neuro Osmosis is going to take you off-guard. Six Feet Under likes to do the whole acoustic or melodic intro during the first song of the album before the song continues to dive into pure death metal, but this is different. The entire song sounds really weird. The odd combination of acoustic guitars, droning bass, slow drum patterns, ambient background, and melodic guitar leads that make up Neuro Osmosis makes me wonder if this was just a random jam session that the band decided to put on the album or a strange form of experimentation. Although I’m not a fan of the song, there’s nothing wrong with it on the instrumental side. The bits where the vocals take the lead are slow and sludgy, pulling influence from sludge metal and doom metal. It’s puzzling as to why they chose this song to be the first because it puts the listener on the wrong track by giving them a bad impression on what the rest of the album might sound like. But once the song is over, the rest of the album is pretty much what a lot of people predicted it would be: Undead 2.

The way all of the instruments sound and how everything is mixed is pretty much the same as Undead. There are some differences, though. The guitars have a much dirtier and more crunchy distortion, therefore adding more treble to the mix. The drums are louder and have more treble on the cymbals. Other than that, and the recording volume of the entire band being greater, there hasn’t been too much change. Most of the difference in sound that Unborn has to Undead is due to what the actual members are doing. The guitarist is using the extra distortion by playing more high-pitched guitar harmonics and more chugging riffs that probably wouldn’t have sounded as good with the distortion used on Undead. The first two tracks, Prophecy and Zombie Blood Curse are where the death metal sickness takes action.

Prophecy is probably one of the best headbanging tracks that Six Feet Under has ever written. Starting 30 seconds into the song, the groove that the drums and guitars create will cause any death metal fan to go along with the beat, it’s just irresistible; and it’s fucking great. Although not as good as other pure death metal headbanging sonds like Cannibal Corpse’s Scourge of Iron and Bloodbath’s Like Fire, Prophecy is one of the best ones out there. The biggest improvement on the vocals that the band has made is first heard in this song. The problem with the vocals on the majority of Six Feet Under’s discography is that they sound weak, uninspired, bland, and emotionless. This not only led to an uninteresting sound, it also caused the growls to sound like complete gorilla shit. Starting with Undead, the growls sound a lot more powerful and interesting. The only thing that Chris does with his vocals on Unborn is take them to the next level. So now, the growls don’t sound weak, they don’t sound boring, and they sure as hell don’t sound shitty. Instead, as cliche as this may sound, the growls on Unborn are brutal as fuck. Instead of ruining the music, the vocals take the front of the stage and intensify the entire sound of the music.

Zombie Blood Curse was the teaser track posted on YouTube before Unborn’s release. This song is a perfect example of how Six Feet Under want to approach death metal. The more rock-influenced, groovy death metal sound is what Zombie Blood Curse helps lay out for the listener. The reason why I like Six Feet Under’s rock n’ roll approach on death metal more than other bands that do that (Debauchery, Entombed, etc.) is because it’s still death metal. It’s not rock n’ roll that’s played with distorted guitars and growled vocals; it still has a death metal structure, a death metal vibe, and a death metal attitude. To be honest, I don’t think that Six Feet Under could have created a better concept of the whole rock n’ roll/death metal thing than Unborn, especially Zombie Blood Curse (yes, I know the name is kind of silly).

Unborn is the third solid album in a row that Six Feet Under have put out since 2008. Although it is more of an “Undead part two”, it still delivers its own unique vibe with a stronger rock n’ roll influence than its predecessor. This is an album that I would recommend to fans of traditional death metal. The only downside to this album that has caused me to not like it as much as Death Rituals and Undead is the first track that I just don’t like very much at all. I would give Six Feet Under’s Unborn 15/20.