Some albums are made to be disasters, simply put. Others, are made to be instant classics. Six Feet Under, for being a band unafraid of experimenting has gotten a lot of flack from fans and critics alike. And while both sides of the fence have valid points, Six Feet Under have always been a point of fascination for me ever since I laid eyes on Chris Barnes and his humongous ear “enhancements”. Like many people into metal, I had forgotten about them for a number of years while more seemingly interesting things were happening in Europe in the early 2000’s. And while they had a number of hits in those years, it always seemed that, while indeed popular, Six Feet Under seemed to struggle to find a place in the ever changing death metal market, and I’ll admit, I had forgotten about them, but as they embark on their 10th album Unborn, the mistake may have been my part to so quickly dismiss them.
The opening tracks to Unborn are simply spectacular, and ironically the opening track “Neuro Osmosis” perfectly showcases what is to come in the rest of the album, both in the bad and the good. Sonically, it’s a messy barrage of death metal that does more to assault on your ears than anything else. Without a doubt, “Neuro Osmosis” is meant to be an abrasive track, alarming to the ears and to the mind. However, as much as the song pleases every pore of my body, I can’t help but notice the sharp drop in Chris Barnes’ vocals barely one minute into the song, during the “melodic” interlude. I have no idea what that’s about, but I literally have to strain to hear the vocals over the screaming guitars. It seems as though it were intentional though, since it quickly pops back up to normal volume right after. Even with the problems though, it’s easy enough to forgive, as you are pounded with phenomenal track after track; “Prophecy” and “Zombie Blood Curse” are some of the best Six Feet Under tracks I’ve heard in a long while, I genuinely love them.
However, like a long term marriage, there’s bound to be trouble in paradise. As Unborn treads on, it seems to lose much of its steam that it so valiantly started the album with. After a few tracks, the mind starts to wander and that is the beginning of the end. The album begins to revisit themes and patterns and becomes a tad repetitive. Sonically, the band is in top shape, it sounds as an American death metal band should, gritty and brutal, but unlike art printed on canvas, it cannot remain still. The tragic part of all of this is that Unborn had started with such fervour that the later slowing down of the album is near heart breaking. But while there may be some interest lost, there are still several take away in terms of musicianship; there’s lots of great riffs here and there, and Unborn almost recovers with the later tracks, but it never truly recovers to its former glory that it had started with.
While Unborn isn’t the most solid piece of work in Six Feet Under‘s lineup, it’s also not the worst. Does the album have its problems? Sure, but it also has quite a bit of charm. There is no denying that Unborn is a little doughy around the middle, but the way it starts is phenomenal. And while it doesn’t quite recover, it does attempt to regain its footing, ending strong with “Curse of the Ancients”. But the rest? Let’s just say that there are so many times that Unborn gets so close to nailing it that it’s infuriating. What Unborn does is prove one of two things: it either signifies that Six Feet Under are one to something big, or they’re nearing the beginning of the end. However, with that, only time will tell.