Six Feet Under will always live in the shadow of Cannibal Corpse. ‘Torment’ has done nothing to drag it out from under that shadow.
Vocalist Chris Barnes was one of the founders of death metal’s biggest band, and contributed a huge part of Cannibal Corpse’s genre-defining sound. His less than amicable split from the band caused great consternation in death metal circles, worried Cannibal Corpse would become a shadow of its former self. For his own part, Barnes had formed death metal’s first super group, his side project Six Feet Under, which then became his full time gig.
However, Barnes leaving Cannibal Corpse did the band a great favour, allowing them to move into far more technical realms, pushing the boundaries of death metal. Barnes himself though, has continued to wallow in the fetid swamps of days gone by.
‘Torment’ is better than the ‘Graveyard Classics’ covers albums series, but not much. There is so little inspiration or effort in the music its surprising even the musicians themselves don’t get bored with it. Yes, it is mostly old school. Yes, it’s heavy, decently executed death metal. Yes, unfortunately, Chris Barnes’ gargly vocals are just the same as they have always been. He is supposed to be the superstar of this band, but is far and away its weakest link.
The indecipherable cupped mic growl was cutting edge in the early 1990s. It was one of the defining features of the still developing fledgling death metal genre, which Chris Barnes so ably pioneered. As musicians experimented and pushed at the edges of all things brutal and heavy, death metal evolved. Vocalists discovered it was possible to be guttural, varied and even comprehensible at the same time, while maintaining the music’s inherent brutality. Chris Barnes, his head fogged in a cloud of THC infused smoke, seems to have missed it. He is still peddling the same monotonous bark which so straight-jacketed Cannibal Corpse.
Barnes’ other innovation of the day was to push the boundaries of good taste and bestial lyrical perversion. Song Titles like “Meat Hook Sodomy”, “I Cum Blood” and “Fucked With a Knife” leave potential listeners in no doubt about what they are about to hear. The lyrics were always violent, often sexual, and always confronting. Sometimes though, Barnes’ murder/rape fantasies missed the mark, and just became tasteless, silly parodies of the truly vile. Songs like “She Was Asking for It”, “Entrails Ripped from a Virgin’s Cunt” and “Necropedophile” were a bit distasteful even to the most dedicated gore fiends. On ‘Torment’ Barnes once again crosses the line, with the tasteless “Bloody Underwear”, a title which conjures unsavoury imagery in any one of several ways.
That’s not to say ‘Torment’ is a total loss. While mid-paced plodding gets a bit monotonous, when the band uses a bit of tempo things improve. “Exploratory Homicide” blasts into life after the dreary opening track “Sacrificial Kill”. “Skeleton” also shows promise, with a militaristic snare and grumbling bass intro, but falls flat on its ass when Barnes attempts a vocal melody, in the loosest definition of the word melody. “Obsidian” also shows a glimmer of inspiration above the dull generic mass surrounding it.
Times have moved on and left Six Feet Under behind. The kindest thing to do would be to quietly euthanise the band. The more appropriate thing would be to scourge, flay, flense, eviscerate, disembowel, gut and fillet Six Feet Under (the band, not the people responsible!), and bury the mangled, maggot infested remains in an unmarked grave, along with glories also long since dead.