After a few decades in the music industry, Chris Barnes may have his share of enemies, but none can cause the mammoth career damage he regularly inflicts on himself. After what seems like a lifetime of sub par and outright terrible releases from his Six Feet Under project, he finally stumbled onto something decent with 2013s Unborn. Sure, it was still rudimentary, groove-heavy Neanderthal death, but the writing and playing was a big step forward and for once, things didn’t feel like a parody of the genre. In the unfamiliar position of coming off a good album, Mr. Barnes naturally chose to capitalize on the momentum by tossing his entire band and opting to write and record the new opus with Phil Hall of Cannabis Corpse. I mean, what could go wrong? Well, the short answer is, pretty much everything. Crypt of the Devil is like Cannabis Corpse doing a parody of Six Feet Under instead of their usual target of Cannibal Corpse. It’s brootal in that it’s nearly impossible to sit through or take seriously, and it’s heavy in the sense that it’s ponderous burden to review it. I drew the shortest straw…again.
Things open on a (relative) high point with “Gruesome” with its Decide meets Cannibal Corpse flavor with a bit of Autopsy mixed in. It’s exceptionally generic and not particularly memorable, but hey, it’s Six Feet Under. What does stand out is the quality solo work provided by Brandon Ellis (Arsis, Cannabis Corpse). From there things go wonky bonkers quickly with “Open Coffin Orgy” where Barnes adopts a vocal approach akin to a junkyard dog barking and howling. It’s (I assume) unintentionally funny and as you wonder who let the dogs out, the music swings schizophrenically between primitive Massacre worship and quasi tech-death. It’s like the band tried everything and nothing worked and it ends up a shit show on ice.
Other missteps include the high school band quality of “Break the Cross in Hell” which reminds me of the kiddie death act Crucifictorious from Friday Night Lights and that’s not a compliment. “The Night Bleeds” has a few wicked guitar lines and cracking solos, but it’s all down the drain when Barnes comes in sounding as if he recorded his vocals through a drain.
The best song is “Lost Remains” which benefits from an upscale collection of death and doom riffs and features a more restrained Barnes bruising. It falls somewhat in line with the material on Unborn and therefore stands head and shoulders above the rest of Crypt of the Devil. Also somewhat decent is the simple plod of “Slit Wrists,” but it won’t make anyone’s day or demand extensive replays.
With runtime just shy of 37 minutes, you don’t get a lot of material and for that I’m thankful. It also helps that the songs all clock in between three and four minutes so none drag the punishment out. Even with the short runtime, this is an arduous listen at best and the low DR doesn’t help much.
Performance-wise, the clear winner is Brandon Ellis on lead guitar. His fluid, snakey and melodic solo work is the bright spot on every song, though they often feel out-of-place amongst the inane drone. The man can definitely shred and while he can’t salvage the material, he does make his moments count. As for Chris Barnes, to be blunt, he does a terrible job here. He’s somehow one of the key innovators of the genre and one of its all time worst vocalists. No easy feat to pull that one off. He frequently sounds like a dog or a newly stuck piggy and when he’s not doing his Barnyard Classics schtick, he’s back to his classic cupped mic garbage disposal roar. It’s terrible and distracting and makes everything seem like a big goof. Aside from that, he does just fine.
Six Feet Under was always the lowest common denominator of death metal and even on their upswing they were no better than average. Now they’ve returned to form, which is sub-serviceable. If you have a fetish for cartoonish metal with a painfully low I.Q., this may last a few spins, but I doubt you’ll be convinced by it. There’s simply too much superior death on the market to give your time and money to this kind of pablum. Nuff said.