Six Feet Under – Haunted

This album seems to occupy a rather strange spot in the death metal scene in many ways.  For one, it’s the one Six Feet Under record that’s acceptable to say you enjoy to some degree.  I’m not sure why as I can’t detect a massive difference between this and the band’s later releases.  More importantly though, it’s often used as a weird, lowbrow trump card by metalheads looking to show that they’re not elitists.  “Dude, I’m not pretentious, I like ‘Haunted’ a lot.”  How the hell it got to be the officially endorsed guilty pleasure of the metal scene I have not even the faintest idea.  It’s not very good; even the people who claim to like it only have rather faint praise for it, and I can’t say that it’s very worthwhile music, even as someone who likes groove-oriented death metal, but I’m sure its tiny reign of cognitive dissonance will continue no matter what I have to say about it.

In a pinch, you can describe the entirety of the album by pointing to the main riff of ‘Lycanthropy’.  It’s a perfect microcosm of the album as a whole.  It’s ridiculously simple.  It’s very groove-oriented.  Most of the time it’s almost laughably amateurish, violating the predefined and logical rules of death metal not out of a desire to break barriers but a seemingly total lack of understanding of what death metal’s actually supposed to sound like, with the band simply recreating the aesthetic from memory as best they can.  The songs sound like demo versions of tracks that could one day be a decent listen but clearly haven’t gone through a real editing process yet.  The whole package is silly; the band runs out of logical riffs like halfway through the album and just starts making shit up as they go along with the chugging getting more and more convoluted and bizarre until it seems they’ve forgotten they’re supposed to be making grooves at all and instead just have a bunch of weird, mid-tempo riffs that go nowhere.

Maybe that’s part of the charm for a lot of people though.  While later Six Feet Under is professional yet sucks fundamentally, this is mediocre but earnest, resulting in a sort of pro-underdog complex on the part of the metal scene.  It’s like seeing a friend’s band play their first show in a local bar; they don’t know the songs very well, and even if they did they wouldn’t be very good, but your heart still goes out to them because god bless ’em they’re trying their hardest to be decent.  I would ALMOST call this album a parody of death metal if I thought any of the members of Six Feet Under were capable of parody.  So this means we have a totally bizarre doppelganger of death metal loping about with rock-based drumming, awkward pseudo-groove riffs, and rote unison barking over them with nary an attempt at song development in sight.  To be frank, a lot of the time it’s barely listenable.

It does have a certain charm to it though; sometimes the very dumbest parts remind me of bands like Lowbrow where the disappointed headshaking somehow metamorphosizes to slow, deliberate headbanging without you knowing it.  Sometimes, like, well, the beginning of ‘Lycanthropy’, they land on something so simple and unbelievably stupid that you brain sort of goes into an emotional fire drill and you end up tacitly agreeing with the music despite how illogical and poorly thought out it is.  It’s totally devoid of meaning or sensibility, and maybe that’s why people like it: instead of trying to be ‘good’, Six Feet Under never tried to begin with, kind of like Mortician but with a lot more weed.

Then again it could just suck; actually, it’s a definite possibility.

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~ by noktorn on September 8, 2008.

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