Metal Blade Records, 1999
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 08/19/1999
For all the metal that I've had the pleasure of listening to over the last few years, there has been one thing that occasionally bugs me about the genre these days. Some bands, especially those in the grindcore genre, make it a point to make the vocals so garbled that even the lyric sheet won't help you figure out what the hell they're saying. It's almost as if the microphone has been jammed down the singer's throat, and are then told, "Okay, let 'er rip!"
Then I get to Six Feet Under and their latest release Maximum Violence. Singer Chris Barnes has the grindcore vocals down pat, as if he gargled with drain cleaner before entering the studio. But there's two main differences with this band: Barnes makes sure you can understand the messages he has to deliver, and this band is one that refuses to be lumped into any mere classification of their music.
Sx Feet Under - Barnes, guitarist Steve Swanson, bassist Terry Butler and drummer Greg Gall - show early and often that they are a versatile group, often changing tempos several times in the course of one song. Such acrobatics might seem to be confusing for the listener, but in reality, it's made to sound as natural as shifting gears on your car.
Some of the content on Maximum Violence reminds me of bands like Carcass; tracks like "Bonesaw" are definitely not for the squeamish. Then again, if you're easily offended, chances are you're not listening to this kind of metal in the first place.
What makes Maximum Carnage such an enjoyable album is not only the musical and vocal crispness, but its musical power... and, frankly, it's a fun album to listen to. Tracks like "Victim Of The Paranoid," "Mass Murder Rampage" and "War Machine" all show how enjoyable this kind of metal can be for fans of the genre.
Ah, but I said this band defies classification, didn't I? Well, they're not simply grindcore, because they don't always play at accelerated tempos. They're not speed metal, because they vary the tempos of their songs a lot. They're not simply death metal, because there seems to be more to their music than the traditional death metal that I've heard of late. (Granted, Six Feet Under is closest to death metal than anything; if you go into this album thinking you're gonna hear love songs, you'll be running for the exits quickly.)
What impresses me about Maximum Violence is that Six Feet Under not only create a crisp, clean sound for their music, but that they maintain a high level of excellence throughout the course of the album (which, at 37 minutes, is relatively short). This isn't the album to have out when Grandma and Grandpa come over for Saturday dinner, but it is a great one to crank up with the headphones.