Six Feet Under – Death Rituals (Metal Blade Records)

Friday, 15th March 2013
Rating: 8/10

Isn’t it strange how different the career paths of Cannibal Corpse and Six Feet Under are? Seriously, wasn’t Barnes and co. supposed to be the break out, massively commercial death metal band? And wasn’t Cannibal supposed to be stuck in the mud with their unmatched brutality being their only selling point? A good 13 years since the Barnes/Cannibal split, Six Feet Under has been the brunt of many a good joke regarding their studio habits (writing songs on the fly = inexcusable) and Cannibal is more popular than ever. Methinks things didn’t work out the way Barnes wanted them to…

Anyway, Death Rituals is the first SFU album written before entering the studio in five years, so right off the bat it’s better than both 2005’s 13 and last year’sCommandment. Songs like the punchy “Eulogy for the Undead” and “Seed of Filth” are instant groove death metal stalwarts, especially the latter which has some cool gang vocals going on. Even foregoing the usual movie clip in lieu of a message on answering machine for “Shot in the Head” works.

The cover of Motley Crue’s “Bastard” is unnecessary given SFU’s cover song past, but guitarist Steve Swanson proves his worth during the acoustic intro for “Death By Machete” (a total surprise, mind you) and “None Will Escape” which gives the underrated six-stringer a chance to demonstrate his simple, but effective solo abilities.

As for Chris Barnes, he’s turned himself down in the mix, which is a big plus considering how much he overpowered the band’s last three or four albums. Not as discernable as he was during the Warpath days, Barnes still has an instantly recognizable growl that chunks its way across “Into the Crematorium” and “Ten Deadly Plagues.”

Originally, we had Death Rituals pegged as a 7/10, but the album (and band) has won back an old fan. Perhaps the best SFU since their Haunted debut,Death Rituals proves that when Barnes and boys actually put thought and effort into their music, they can be a death metal force to be reckoned with. It’s going to be hard to look past their lowly output this decade, but Death Rituals is more than tolerable – it’s quite good.

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