Six Feet Under
Metal Blade Records
When people who aren't familiar with death metal derogatorily refer to the genre's vocals as "Cookie Monster noises," they're referring to Chris Barnes. Partly because he was the voice of Cannibal Corpse's Ace Ventura-fueled sorta-hit "Hammer Smashed Face" and partly because he's been tirelessly appearing on albums almost constantly since, the Six Feet Under mainman has become synonymous with the grunting vocal style.
It's a shame death metal doesn't have a poster child more equipped for the role. Barnes isn't a vocalist with much range, and the music he slaps his name on has rarely transcended the mediocre since his Cannibal Corpse golden age. Undead is Six Feet Under's thirteenth studio album, and while it admirably veers closer to true death metal than to the schlocky groove metal and questionable collections of AC/DC covers he's spent most of the last two decades peddling, it's still evidence that he wasn't the cog making his former band great.
The knuckle-dragging no-duh of songs like "Molest Dead" and "Vampire Apocalypse" seem to reveal that even Barnes isn't sure Six Feet Under is meant to be taken seriously. On a twelve-track album where each song feels as effortlessly tossed off as the last, it's all but impossible to differentiate any two, let alone pick highlights worth revisiting.
Mercifully, Undead is only 40 minutes long, so for all its dullness, it never feels like too much of a slog. But that's almost worse. Cannibal Corpse worked - and still works, with George "Corpsegrinder" Fischer at the helm in Barnes' stead - because the over-the-top lyrics and brutal music alternated between being genuinely unsettling and genuinely funny.
In nearly 20 years with Six Feet Under, Barnes has never managed to capture either of those traits for long. Undead, like the band's entire oeuvre, merely exists, and that's not really worth bragging about.