Six Feet Under
About Six Feet Under
Six Feet Under is an American death metal band based in Tampa, Florida. Their sonic trademark offers filthy, plodding, straight-ahead grooves and crunchy blastbeats along with controversial lyrics from founder and vocalist Chris Barnes; the latter continually revolve around themes of graphic violence, gore, and death, exemplified to an extreme degree on 1999's Maximum Violence. The band's straightforward performance approach relies more on physical force than speed and endeared them to live audiences across the globe. Since 2000, Six Feet Under have appended their original releases with a cyclical, numbered series of covers albums entitled Graveyard Classics wherein the band applies their "death 'n' roll" approach to hard rock, punk, and metal standards. 2003's Bringer of Blood found Barnes grafting his now-signature, high-pitched "pig squeal" onto his guttural vocals, adding an instantly recognizable textural dynamic to his delivery. 2008's Death Rituals won listener acclaim as well as respect from critics for its integration of thrash riffs and blastbeat drums over 13 brutal songs. 2012's Undead combined that sound with a dynamic, almost industrial brand of death metal. 2016's Graveyard Classics IV: The Number of the Priest offered only the songs of Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. For 2017's Torment, the band showcased an even more groove-oriented approach in their writing and recording processes, winning near-ecstatic reviews from fans.
Six Feet Under was founded in 1993. It was originally intended as a side project for Cannibal Corpse vocalist Chris Barnes and former Obituary guitarist Allen West and became a primary outlet after Barnes and Cannibal Corpse parted company while recording the latter's Vile. The first version of Six Feet Under also included ex-Death bassist Terry Butler and drummer Greg Gall. The quartet signed to Metal Blade and issued the Brian Slagel-produced Haunted in 1995 to positive reviews. After Barnes left Cannibal Corpse, Six Feet Under hit the road and issued the Alive and Dead EP in 1996 as a stopgap until they assembled to cut and release Warpath the following year. West left the band in the aftermath and was replaced by guitarist Steve Swanson. Third album Maximum Violence appeared in 1999 and was critically debased in the mainstream rock press for the brutality and misanthropy in Barnes' lyrics. That said, it put them on the map globally with metal fans. The first volume in the Graveyard Classics series followed a year later. It included death metal versions of songs by Black Sabbath, Dead Kennedys, Deep Purple, Venom, AC/DC, the Monkees, Jimi Hendrix, and more. It was one of the year's most talked-about metal releases. 2001's True Carnage featured guest vocals from Ice-T and Karyn Crisis; it proved the band's most popular release to that date and peaked inside the Top 20 on the Heatseekers chart, landing them prime international touring slots. The live Double Dead arrived in 2002 and was accompanied by a separate concert video. The arrival of 2003's Barnes-produced, Slagel-mixed Bringer of Blood offered a significant change in the band's sound due to Barnes grafting a high-pitched "pig squeal" onto his dirty, growling vocals. A disorienting texture, this double-tracked trait became a hallmark of the band's approach on subsequent studio outings.
Graveyard Classics, Vol. 2 appeared in 2004. On it, Six Feet Under re-interpreted AC/DC's classic Back in Black album in its entirety. For the 2005 studio outing 13, Barnes added yet another textural element to his vocalizing: He began barking his words, adding a percussive character to the band's already drum-heavy sound. It registered with fans and added to the band's live reputation. After a decade together, the band had become a headliner attraction internationally. They celebrated their anniversary with the five-disc box set Decade in the Grave that compiled well-known studio recordings, rarities, and live material. Its final disc was a concert DVD. Six Feet Under toured the globe to support both releases.
The band went back to basics on 2007's Commandment, relying on their seemingly perfected balance of hard grooves and retro death metal. After a short U.S. tour, they re-entered the studio late in the year. They emerged with Death Rituals in 2008 followed by nearly two years of national and international touring. After a short break, SFU re-entered the studio and, according to all accounts, had a ball recording Graveyard Classics, Vol. 3. Issued in 2010, it offered radical interpretations of tunes by Mercyful Fate, Metallica, Van Halen, Bachman-Turner Overdrive, the Ramones, and Slayer, among others.
Other membership shakeups began in 2011-2012: bassist Butler left to join Obituary; he was replaced on tour by Matt DeVries for a year. Gall left to pursue a new project called Exitsect. Barnes recruited drummer Kevin Talley and added guitarist/bassist Rob Arnold. This quartet lineup released the well-received Undead in 2012. Its follow-up, 2013's Unborn, featured a quintet with bassist Jeff Hughell and guitarist Ola Englund (the Haunted) who replaced Arnold. It also featured guest guitar spots from Whitechapel's Ben Savage and Torture Killer's Jari Laine.
After exhausting tours of Europe and the U.S., wholesale lineup changes occurred inside Six Feet Under. By the time 2015's Crypt of the Devil appeared, the band was in a state of flux. The lineup included collaborations between Barnes and Cannabis Corpse bassist/guitarist/vocalist Phil "Landphil" Hall, studio drummer Josh "Hallhammer" Hall, and guest guitar spots from Rebecca Scammon, Brandon Ellis, and Ray Suhy -- the latter would join the band the following year. Graveyard Classics, Vol. 4: Number of the Priest followed in 2016 and took as its mantle the catalogs of Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. Given Barnes' limited vocal range, SFU downtuned each selection with sometimes controversial results.
After a U.S, festival tour, SFU issued its 12th studio long-player, Torment, in 2017. The set was recorded by the trio of Barnes, guitarist/bassist Hughell, and touring drummer Marco Pitruzzella, who joined the band officially just in time for the release and world tour in support. Barnes re-established ties with ex-Cannibal Corpse guitarist and songwriter Jack Owen, and he joined the band. Now a quintet, the lineup entered the studio with producer and mixing engineer Chris Carroll. They emerged with the full-length Nightmares of the Decomposed in October of 2020. ~ Thom Jurek