In 1987, Napalm Death’s album Scum did two things: it defined a genre (Grindcore) and it introduced the world to the blast beat. And, for the past seventeen years, the majority of death metal bands have been simply re-recording that album. There’s been little innovation, little creativity, and very little effort to analyze those early death metal albums and determine just what it was that made them so heavy, other than simply laying down blazingly fast single string riffs over blast beats. Bands heard that musical forumla combined with lyrics and artwork about death, and an army of copycats were born. At least half of the death metal bands out there today might as well call themselves Napalm Death tribute bands.
But not if you’re Chris Barnes. First with Cannibal Corpse and now with Six Feet Under, Barnes has continued to churn out brutal and original music. On Bringer of Blood, he carries on the tradition without using a single blast beat.
Even before the music ramps up, Barnes’ pitch-shifted vocals on “Sick in the Head” let you know Six Feet Under is serious. Throughout the chorus, Barnes chants “dead to me, you’re dead to me” repeatedly before screaming “oh my fucking God!” in his patented high-screech voice.
The vocals, while prominent, are not the only source of the band’s heavyness. Thick, muddy chords fill the low end and mingle with the bass, while the drums hold the songs together instead of threatening to run off and leave them. Bringer of Blood is full of songs, not just “recorded moments of noise where everyone happened to play their instruments at the same time.” The tracks have intros, verses and choruses — some of which you can even sing (or at least growl) along to.
While many of the songs (“Murdered in the Basement”, “When Skin Turns Blue”, and “Escape from the Grave” for examples) cover familiar lyrical ground, a few of the tracks venture out into more political avenues; particularly on “Amerika the Brutal”, in which Barnes comments, “Fake president, I’m not here to do your dirty work. Alone I think I’m fighting this losing battle, worth dying? No war! Amerika the brutual!” It gives Six Feet Under an entirely new dimension of heavy. Unfortunately, as quickly as it enters, it exits — on “My Hatred” (the next track on the album), Barnes presents his “cure for your Christian disease”, which involves choking on crosses …
Death metal purists will probably snub Bringer of Blood, an album which not only doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel, it doesn’t even try to use them. By shedding the usual musical cliches found in death metal, Six Feet Under continues to crush with their own style of music. While lyrically the majority of the album deals with murder, being murdered, and buckets of gore, Barnes appears to be testing the water for other lyrical subjects.
Heavy, and listenable.