(Metal Blade)

01. Doomsday
02. Thou Shall Kill
03. Zombie Executioner
04. The Edge of the Hatchet
05. Bled To Death
06. Resurrection of the Rotten
07. As the Blade Turns
08. The Evil Eye
09. In a Vacant Grave
10. Ghosts of the Undead

RATING: 3/10

Arguing about the subtle differences between SIX FEET UNDER records is a lot like debating the finer points of stepping in cow shit or pig shit. There's no doubt that you could find some to talk about, but at the end of the day, you're still standing there with shit on your shoes.

Of course, if you're into SIX FEET UNDER, getting mad at the band's bad press is as much a part of the fan experience as buying into Chris Barnes's pro-marijuana stance or defending their fourth-grade riffs as "groovy." But look at it from the press's perspective for just a second — our shelves are bursting with underrated, undiscovered bands we championed in vain, bands that really do something awesome with the death metal formula or boldly make their own way. And those records sit and rot in a warehouse somewhere, unsold. Meanwhile, Barnes and his crew of aging sidemen shlump into the studio, make up a bunch of riffs that sound like a kid at his first practice, Barnes burps out his first-take's-a-keeper vocals, and presto — another hit record!

It's not SIX FEET UNDER's fault that some entry-level death metal fans can't handle anything more mind-blowing than the pork-fisted rock and roll on display here. But it is their fault that "Commandment" comes and goes without leaving a dent in the listener's cranium. There's no groove to these blocky, clunky, boring tunes. Even the fastest songs seem to have lead in the pants, a sluggishness that makes their rudimentary structure more grating. And seriously, does Barnes purposely cut his vocals with the world's worst case of cottonmouth? He doesn't even sound like he grasps basic concepts of staying the right distance from his microphone, and he's been doing this for twenty years. When he strays from his wheezing "blurgh flurgh glurgh" formula, like when he squeaks "mortuary!!" at the beginning of "Bled to Death" or croaks at the end of the first verse of "Doomsday", the results are laughable. And on "Zombie Executioner", well, he sounds in dire need of a few minutes with an oxygen mask.

I don't want to dislike SIX FEET UNDER. I like simple, groovy death metal, and I'd be happy to support another band cranking it out well. But these songs sound like a thousand demos I've heard over the years, from local bands that didn't have the chops or the songwriting skills to go anywhere. There's no spark to the riffing or the vocals, and the flat production makes even the record's short thirty-some-minute length seem monotonous. There are a few moments with potential, like the chugging double-bass-driven main riff of "Thou Shall Kill", but even that comes off like third-rate BOLT THROWER.

The band makes a special note in their bio that they crapped out "Commandment" in twelve days, in the studio, as they went along. Is that something to be proud of? It could be taken as a statement of contempt for their fans — you'll buy anything, so why try harder, right? Is that how you want to be thought of by your musical idols? "Commandment" is basic, primitive, thudding death metal for people who can't hack anything better, and didn't get enough of this low-watt rattle and clunk the first six times.


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