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Six Feet Under - Crypt of the Devil


by Matt Hensch

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Despite having every reason in the book to join the mob calling for Six Feet Under's verbal stoning, I actually have a soft spot for some of the band's works, believe it or not. Chris Barnes and Steve Swanson made overdue progress in 2012 by leading a creative resurgence that radically changed the group's insipid groove-based death metal approach to something relevant but connected to its roots. "Undead" proved not only to be the best Six Feet Under record at the time, but showed the crowning of a healthy stylistic evolution, which thankfully had some seed left over for the solid "Unborn," unchained less than a year after its sibling. This, traditionally, is where Barnes and company would drop the ball and release another "Bringer of Blood," but "Crypt of the Devil" proves otherwise. In fact, I think it's the prime cut Six Feet Under had lingering underneath its putrefaction all these years.

A major criticism often hounding the ass of Six Feet Under is the group's lack of decent songwriting. But "Crypt of the Devil" reinvents the Six Feet Under style by flipping the groove-based script for a merger of mid-paced structures and death metal geared to sound like Barnes-era Cannibal Corpse. This can be attributed to the involvement of Cannabis Corpse members, brought in as session players, tapping an unexploited songwriting reservoir that has been nonchalantly boiling beneath Six Feet Under's bum for years. "Crypt of the Devil," thanks to these spry youngsters, is easily the 'busiest' Six Feet Under album around, with a hitherto unseen instrumental technical edge and acrobatic lead guitar work moving fluidly through the carnage. Even Chris Barnes seems rejuvenated by the slight throwback to his old work; his lyrics, including song titles like "Broken Bottle Rape" and "Open Coffin Orgy," are among the most gruesome and gory tunes he's penned since "The Bleeding."

It helps a proverbial sh*tload that the musical direction is both authentic and fulfilling. The likenesses to old-fashioned Cannibal Corpse, a style I'm quite fond of, capture so much of that band's bygone era that it almost makes me cum blood. Resemblances to Paul Mazurkiewicz's drumming style and technical bass licks, qualities unheard of during most of Six Feet Under's graveyard frolicking, are spot-on, and emulated in such a way that Mazurkiewicz's mid-tempo blast beats are applied frequently and to great effect on the rhythm section's base. "Crypt of the Devil" is also much more frenetic and technical than the average Six Feet Under bear, where more up-tempo paces mostly overshadow the measured arrangements of yesteryears.

The influence from the Cannabis Corpse session members, other than the increased detail, is most felt by the Barnes-era Cannibal Corpse riffing style. The frenzied sequences find this nice balance with the mid-tempo elements to create songs which sound stripped right out of "Tomb of the Mutilated" or "Butchered at Birth," setting up a balance of groove and the get-up-and-go factor Six Feet Under had made a job of neglecting. "Eternal Darkness" and "Broken Bottle Rape" especially stand out in their use of atavistic Cannibal Corpse riffing and groovier parts la "The Bleeding" and the other aforementioned chapters of Barnes' time in the Corpse. The influences of the Cannabis Corpse members are everywhere in "Crypt of the Devil," though in varying degrees; some lean toward the traditional Six Feet Under themes rather blatantly, often with inconsistent payoffs.

Chris Barnes' vocal delivery doesn't shatter the earth, but his renewed hunger in the group's evolution since "Undead" continues to reflect the improvement in the Six Feet Under brand. The lead guitar work is another tremendous addition to Six Feet Under's arsenal, and probably the best part of the record. Completely chaotic and well-placed while reflecting the death metal aesthetic that is aware of the past but has no interest in repeating it. This "Crypt of the Devil" album is the perfect storm for Six Feet Under, and easily the best work Chris Barnes has had a hand in making since "The Bleeding."

Six Feet Under - Crypt of the Devil
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