Last year two major bands had issues with lineups and members leaving. These two bands ended up basically blending together to form the new and improved(?) version of Six Feet Under that we have today. Kevin Talley on drums, Rob Arnold on guitars and main writing duties with Matt DeVries on bass (Whom is actually now in Fear Factory) and good ol Steve Swanson and Chris Barnes sticking it out and riding the landslide of change and coming out stronger than ever. This is definitely a different SFU album, the writing is noticeably changed. No more is it just slower groove death riffs (even though they are still present) with some faster tremolo parts, it’s carefully timed hammer ons, pull offs, slides, rhythmic patterns and that classic Rob Arnold style that you’ve loved in Chimaira for the past 10 years. Older fans may find the change to be too much…some fans on the fence may finally jump on over to the good side and if you just hate Barnes’ style…well that hasn’t changed. Good thing because I find his style of vocals absolutely awesome.
Immediately the album begins fierce and loud. “Frozen at the Moment of Death” is a decent song but definitely not amongst my favs on the album. “Formaldehyde” is a fast track that sounds quite a bit like older SFU and even some later Cannibal Corpse. The blasting and riffs on this track make it stand out and Barnes’ first real high pitched scream on the album is featured on this track. “18 Days” starts up and it sounds like straight up Chimaira with a touch of death metal. This is an on-going theme with this album….I can’t shake the feeling of this is just a Chimaira album with Barnes on vocal duty. Rob’s style of guitar playing is great but it just doesn’t fit into SFU 100% and it kind of ruins the experience for me. The song is still pretty good with great hooks and everything. I love that main hammer-on, pull off riff as it got stuck in my head for days. But this is where it begins for me, the whole Chimaira sound confuses the shit out of me and I can’t fully enjoy what I am listening to throughout the whole album.
The intro to “Molest Dead” (That title bothers the fuck out of me) is fucking gnarly though, I love that chord being struck. Other than that…it sounds out of place…the riffs with Barnes’ vocals doesn’t fit with me. Barnes makes it work as best as he can but the riffing just isn’t SFU. “Blood On My Hands” let’s Matt have the spot light for a mere bar or two before the band comes in with a strong riff and drumming. The song is pretty good, my favorite part is the at the 1:14 mark when the alternative picking comes in with that catchy little bend. I dig that a lot. The breakdown section just has Chimaira all over it, however right after that it sounds pretty haunting. Good job with the ambient feeling on the end of the song. Then it slowly fades out…
“Missing Victims” is a sleeper track, there is nothing special about it even though I always caught myself screaming along with Chris. “Reckless” is another example of Chimaira’s sound just bleeding out of the speakers, even though the groove is quite catchy and will make you headbang. “Near Death Experience” starts out with some generic riffing and drum beat, nothing special even though the tone does sound pretty good. Towards the middle of the song though it gets interesting with some neat drumming techniques and a riot starting riff. I always get down to this part, very good writing and it sounds like some really good death metal. This one should definitely be a staple in their set list on tour. “Delayed Combustion Device” features some good writing and Talley’s drum work shines on this track. It’s not just constant blasting, I appreciate the way he played on this album. It was definitely a highlight of the album. This track features another good riff that makes you want to whip your hair violently.
Up next is “The Scar”, a slow song at first and it slowly picks up. This is another song that was rather “meh” to me. Riffs are alright, drumming is good but even Barnes’ vocal pattern and lyrics just don’t work out. It’s a pretty boring track. “Vampire Apocalypse” immediately turns me off even with just the title of the song…however I listen and yeah there is nothing really going for it. No really good anything at all happening on this track. On the final track, “The Depths of Depravity”, it begins with some clean channel guitar playing and the rest of the band slowly comes in. Then it gradually picks up even more….I’m still interested. Then we have a pretty decent riff and Barnes grunting over it, I’m digging it. I’m headbanging! That’s a good sign. Then at 1:30 it just randomly picks up and we’re in god mode, we’re in circle pit mode and it’s time to kill. The riff, drumming and vocals are just fucking killer right here. THIS is what I wanted the entire album to sound like. The end of the song slows down again but it’s still heavy as fuck. A very strong end to a very mediocre album.
All n all, Rob’s writing was just too similar to Chimaira and it feels like I’m not listening to Six Feet Under at all. Bass guitar could have been turned up a little more but otherwise not bad. Drumming was definitely a high point for me on the album as well as Barnes’ vocals. I thought Barnes sounded really good on this album, heavy yet I could understand him better. His vocals were way better here than on his last couple of albums, by far. I feel bad for Steve Swanson. Did he have any writing contributions on this album? It doesn’t seem so, was he just chilling and letting Rob live out his dream? What ever the case is, congratulations to Rob Arnold for playing and making an album with one of his idols…but his style just does not fit into Six Feet Under’s style. I honestly think Swanson should focus on the song writing next time around and have Rob contribute to more leads than anything.
In conclusion, I am let down. After hearing “Formaldehyde” weeks ago I was genuinely excited to hear the rest of the album, even the “18 Days” release had me stoked. Sadly, those 2 songs and maybe a couple more are worth it. Other than that, it’s forgettable.
Pros: Barnes sounds fucking great, drumming is fantastic and not just a blast beat fest. Talley brings a lot to the party. Good production.
Cons: Rob’s style doesn’t fit into SFU, Bass guitar levels are weak.
2 out of 5