Anyone familiar with death metal probably knows that Six Feet Under began as a groove-laden side project of Cannibal Corpse’s first vocalist, Chris Barnes. Subsequently, Six Feet Under became Barnes’ priority after he was ejected from Cannibal Corpse.
However, after a trio of good albums to begin with, Six Feet Under soon descended into mediocrity and near self parody with some pretty lousy albums that were basically mailed in to go along with a string of ill advised cover albums. Although a few good moments appeared here and there over the years, Six Feet Under were largely written off by most of the death metal listening community long ago.
Then, something happened. Barnes and long time guitarist Steve Swanson started to get serious about recruiting solid musicians and songwriters around them after the departures of longtime members Terry Butler on bass and Greg Gall on drums. A big step in the right direction was made with the recruitment of drummer extraordinaire Kevin Talley, long known for his solid work in Daath and as a live musician for bands as varied as The Black Dahlia Murder, Hate Eternal and DevilDriver.
Talley is a ferocious talent, both in the studio and in a live setting, and is capable of lifting a mediocre band into contention based on his drumming skills alone. The first result of Talley’s contributions to Six Feet Under was 2012’s Undead, a definite step in the right direction as the uptick in musicianship was noticeable.
The search for a second guitarist and a bassist culminated with the recruitment of relative unknowns Ola Englund on guitar and Jeff Hughell on bass. Each has demonstrated to be a perfect fit on Unborn, which is, simply put, just a great death metal album.
Loaded with groove, very clean, tight, focused musicianship, and excellent variety with lots of tempo changes, Unborn is the album that Six Feet Under should have recorded years ago. Backed up by a ferocious, thick production and strong, varied songwriting (others including Ben Savage from Whitechapel and Jari Laine from Torture Killer also contributed to the songwriting process), Unborn also features a very strong vocal performance from Barnes, who actually sounds reinvigorated on Unborn, almost as if he senses that a new beginning for Six Feet Under is at hand.
Unborn is a pleasant surprise, to say the least, from a veteran band that, in the past, never quite realized their potential. It could be that Unborn is the beginning of that realization. If you gave up on Six Feet Under years ago, I strongly urge you to give this album your time.
(released March 19, 2013 on Metal Blade Records)