Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Undead - Six Feet Under - 2012

Six Feet Under's Undead arrives with such presence that it is, in the best of all possible ways, alarming. "Frozen at the Moment of Death" is there, working its way under your skin less than twelve notes in and you're infected immediately. A perfect premiere for its parent album, the lead-off track announces Undead as a widely-varied, highly-accomplished record that not only asserts domination of the death metal landscape but also explores its fringes and stretches its boundaries. There is a balance struck in Undead, a thread running through its entirety, between patterned groove and frenzied assault. It accomplishes a steady forward motion, flailing erratically all the while. It grabs the listener at a safe distance, hypnotic in its deliberate pace, and advances more quickly than one would expect, and, before you know it, all its deadly, infectious edges are dangerously close. You know, like a fucking zombie. Only a dabbler in their catalogue, I cannot proclaim Undead any sort of rebirth for Six Feet Under but I am extremely comfortable stating that it is easily one of the best albums I have heard in 2012.

Hooks aplenty accompany all the meat delivered in Undead. I am by no means an authority in the genre and all its offspring but it seems as though precious few practitioners can deliver an extreme experience that manages to keep the toes tapping, head banging and all other rhythmic responses more or less chugging along spasm-free. This marriage is demonstrated in the ebb and flow of the near-flawless "18 Days," from frantic fretboard travels in its opening bars to the muted yet breakneck riffing and drums that kick in around the minute mark as Chris Barnes' vocals shred in crescendo. Then, thirty seconds later, it turns again and the floodgates open, the listener wondering if perhaps The Bleeding is really eighteen years in the past.

Six Feet Under have somehow managed, at least with this record, to perfect the art of the deathly amble. They're some kind of decrepit clockwork sloth with guitars racing... pulsebeat... drums pounding... pulsebeat... an almighty groove as pacemaker set on a circular orbit at the speed of "shuffle" with vocals far more rhythmic than one would ever discern at the surface, locking into the listener's own bodily vibrations while simultaneously vibrating the listener's body. This shit sounds best loud. There's enough energy in this lethargy to get the undead moving, even if they start slowly. The lumbering verse of "Formaldehyde" comes on like some Lovecraftian behemoth accompanied on all sides by otherworldly electrical storms of sound.

Undead is not perfect, I suppose (tracks like "Near Death Experience" and "Reckless" come damn close), but its forty minutes flow with little by way of coagulation from any outright clunkers. Across a dozen tracks Six Feet Under display enough restraint to achieve consistency via unfettered groove yet manage to sprout so many sentient tentacles that the sound never grows stale, only stronger. You sure as hell can't kill it and, really, who would want to?

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