Formed as a side-project by Barnes and Obituary guitarist Allen West in
1993, Six Feet Under took on a different complexion when Barnes was ousted
from his then-priority band, Cannibal Corpse in 1995. The semblance of
the side-super group-turned leaders of the resurgent death metal underground
changed once more in January 1998 when West left the band. Enter former
Massacre guitarist Steve Swanson. "Steve learned 17 songs in the
three weeks leading up to tour," he says. "Our songs may not
be the most technical [pieces] ever written, but Steve performed them
on the road like he had been playing them for years." Ironically,
when the band first gathered in Tampa, Florida to begin writing tracks
for what would eventually become Maximum Violence, they were at a loss.
Would they continue down the experimental path they had headed on 1997's
Warpath or would they return to their cutting-edge death metal roots?
"We had a new guitarist, so the songwriting assignments had changes
considerably," recalls Barnes. "We went back and forth trying
different stuff. But eventually things came together in a big way."
Not only has Barnes has returned to his roots vocally, but as evident
on songs such as "Hacked to Pieces" and "Bonesaw"
,his trademark gory lyrics are also back. "My words are an extension
of what I'm feeling at [a given] time," he explains. "That is
the way it has always been. My lyrics are comprised of thoughts, fantasies
and fictional notes. People will get them when they read the lyrics."
Maximum Violence was recorded from February-March 1999 at Criteria Studios
in Miami and was produced by the band and Metal Blade head Brian Slagel.
"We recorded a couple of songs for the EP [1996's Alive and Dead]
there," says Barnes. "It's a really comfortable studio with
a real good vibe. The obvious thing for us would have been to stay local
and record at Morrisound. But we thought of ourselves as a new band and
wanted to start off fresh." A limited-edition' digi-pack version
of Maximum Violence is also available, containing two covers, Iron Maiden's
"Wrathchild" and a cover of Thin Lizzy's "Jailbreak,"
which are in addition to a reverent rendition of Kiss' "War Machine,"
which appears on all versions of the album.
"Live shows and studio work are both cool in their own way,"
muses Six Feet Under's, lauded front man Chris Barnes, "but for me
the best moments come when I'm sitting down with a sheet of paper writing
lyrics to a new song. That's what puts the biggest smile on my face."
And in putting together the band's second album Warpath - co-produced
at Morrisound Studios in Tampa by the band with Metal Blade's Brian Slagel
and engineered by Bill Metoyer - Barnes' smile was bigger than ever before
as he took his Iyrical endeavors into new areas. On the band's first album
Haunted, one of the biggest selling debuts ever in the death metal genre,
Barnes had first dared to write more personal lyrics for such tunes as
"Beneath A Black Sky" and "Human Target", and such
was the praise they earned that this time such lyrics dominate. His ability
to write of assorted gruesome horrors has not deserted him by any means,
and Warpath will assault you with nightmares anew, but now Six Feet Under
has something to say as well as stories to tell you. "The songs are
abrasive as hell," Barnes proudly exclaims, "really up front
and in your face - but this time there's an ulterior motive behind it
all, it's not just random violence. There's an underlying lyrical theme
that's more true to life than anything I've done before, it's more true
to my personal philosophies and beliefs.' Usually Six Feet Under material
takes shape in the fortile mind of guitarist Allen West whose lethal riffing
was what had originally drawn Barnes to work on what at the time was just
a side project. West basically writes the music and then hands it over
to Barnes, who bases his lyrics on what the guitarist presents him with.
But this time a few of the tunes owe something more of their musical structure
to the band's Iyricist. In particular "A Journey Into Darkness"
evidences the way the sound of Six Feet Under is evolving, with Barnes
writing lyrics to a single riff, the rhythm and phrasing of his contributions
pushing the song structure into unexpected directions and forcing West
to meet new challenges along the way to completing the song. Haunted and
a subsequent live ep Alive And Dead under their belts, Six Feet Under
is now a firmly committed band. The debut album had been recorded while
it was still a side project, and the live ep was just a snapshot in time,
Warpath is in a way the first true Six Feet Under album. Encouraged by
successful tours of both America and Europe, during which it became clear
that Barnes' ejection from Cannibal Corpse had not alienated him from
the fans quite the opposite in fact - the band has recorded an album which
marks them a long term force to be reckoned with. For all it's underlying
lyrical depth, Warpath is still one of the nastiest, most violent recordings
you could ever wish to hear, louder than hell and as dangerous as a rabid
dog. Forgive Six Feet Under if they seem to smile much these days. It's
satisfaction over a job well done.
Haunted (1995) / Alive And Dead Ep (1996) / Warpath (1997) / Maximum Violence
(1999) / Graveyard Classics (2000) / True Carnage (2001) / Bringer Of Blood (2003) / Graveyard Classics 2 (2004)