February 6, 2010

Six Feet Under - Graveyard Classics 3

Originally created as a side project to Cannibal Corpse, Six Feet Under has become vocalist (I hesitate to use the word "singer") Chris Barnes' primary band. They released their first album, Haunted, way back in 1995 and prior to getting a hold of this release was the only Six Feet Under album I had ever heard. My relationship with Cannibal Corpse follows a similar track, with their recent release Evisceration Plague being the first album I have heard. I admit I got into the game late and missed a lot of stuff, so while keeping up with new stuff I try to play a little catchup with those I have missed over the years. It is a slow process. And yes, I do find it a little odd that my second experience with Six Feet Under is a covers album.

As you can tell by the number three in the title, this is the third covers album the band has done. As I listen to the eclectic song choices, I am confused as if this is supposed to be serious or if there is an element of comedy to be gleaned. Seriously, is this meant to be tongue in cheek? I rather hope that is part of it, or that they were at least just trying to have a little fun with music that has inspired them over the years.

The album is interesting in a couple of ways. One way is musically, the instrumental side of the coin that is. So far as the instrumentation goes, this is a rock solid album that finds the band bringing their own flavor to the songs while allowing them to remain recognizable. This is not about reconstructing the music in their image to fit their style, it is about being true to the source material while allowing a little of their signature sound to influence the final product. In this regard, and bolstered by crystal clear production, this is a phenomenal listen, even on the tunes that don't really work.


Now flip the coin over, leave the instruments behind and lets take a look at Chris Barnes. You would be hard pressed to say he has any range whatsoever. What he does and what he helped pioneer he does marvelously, helping create the prototypical death growl. However, when you take away the gore drenched, blood soaked, and politically tinged lyrics of his own creation, you rob him of his natural element and hit one note delivery is exposed to the harsh light of day. It is not easy to growl your way through songs by the likes of Twisted Sister, Bachman Turner Overdrive, and The Ramones. His growl and occasional high pitched screeches add a comical touch to the proceedings. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't entertained, but it is hardly something that could be termed "good."

The first collection saw them tackling the likes of The Monkees, Savatage, Scorpions, Jimi Hendrix, and Dead Kennedys. This rather odd mix of tracks was unleashed in 2000. This was followed by their complete cover of AC/DC's Back in Black album in 2004. Now, in 2010 they have gone back to the formula of the original Graveyard Classics, that of taking cuts from a variety of artists.

Graveyard Classics 3 gets going with Mercyful Fate's "A Dangerous Meeting." The music sounds really good, I loved the crisp chord progressions and snap in the drum. Then there is Barnes trying to get the marbles out of the way. I am pretty sure it is safe to say that Barnes is no King Diamond!

With the album's opening track out of the way, let's just focus on the better inclusions. At the top of the list has to be "Frayed Ends of Sanity" by Metallica. Six Feet Under give this song a low end that it never had on album before, while also retaining a high level of energy.

My second favorite is Prong's "Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck." They bring something interesting to this song, besides getting the chunky heaviness right. The bass has some interesting effects on it and the guitars have a "floaty" quality as they move through the main riff. It works really well.

Right behind them are Twisted Sister's "Destroyer" and Slayer's "At Dawn they Sleep." Chris Barnes muddles his way through while the band delivers solid work that makes you want to rock out to them.

At the other end of the scale are the likes of The Ramones "Psychotherapy" and Bachman Turner Overdrive's "Not Fragile." The less said about them the better.

Bottomline. Hardly a must have unless you are a completist fan. This release seems to be more of an oddity, a treat for fans where the band gets away from the day to day grind of being a death metal band. For sure, there a couple of tracks worth the time, but overall you would probably be better served sticking to their albums proper.

Mildly Recommended.

1. "A Dangerous Meeting" - Mercyful Fate
2. "Metal On Metal" - Anvil
3. "The Frayed Ends Of Sanity" - Metallica
4. "At Dawn They Sleep" - Slayer
5. "Not Fragile" - Bachman Turner Overdrive
6. "On Fire" - Van Halen
7. "Pounding Metal - Exciter
8. "Destroyer" - Twisted Sister
9. "Psychotherapy" - The Ramones
10. "Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck" - Prong

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