Six Feet Under – Nightmares of the Decomposed Review

They say the best things in life are free. They also say honesty is free, but it’s not. In fact, it usually comes attached to a very high price. That moment you have a few too many and tell your partner what you really think of their mum. Explaining to your brother that you sold his son’s spleen on the black market just so you could buy more vinyl. Or the crushing fact that not all death metal is created equal. The genre’s favorite whipping boys Six Feet Under are living proof of this. As seventeenth album Nightmares of the Decomposed teeters on the brink of release, my lashing arm sits poised and ready. But here at AMG we pride ourselves on an honest opinion. So pull up a shovel and let’s really get to the bottom of it while we prepare to put this abomination in the fucking ground.

We all know the story by now. Chris Barnes, former vocalist of death metal institution Cannibal Corpse, left after releasing two of the genre’s most seminal albums to focus on a boring facsimile of Obituary. While it’s de rigueur to roll our collective eyes at the mere mention of Six Feet Under, the reality is, they haven’t always been awful. In fact, the debut and Undead/Unborn even aspired to be utterly average. The band’s legion of detractors reliably blame Chris Barnes for the discrepancy, which, considering the revolving door of members, always seemed unfair. However, Nightmares of the Decomposed is not average. It’s appalling. And it’s all Barnes’ fault.

Opening track “Amputator” almost bodes well. It’s a lot more energetic than Six Feet Under’s usual fare and the barreling riff certainly caught me off guard. But then the vocals kick in… and I genuinely can’t tell if Barnes was indulging in some asphyxi-fun1 during recording or has just finally imploded. Either way, his voice is nothing more than a ridiculous choked gargle. However, it’s not as ridiculous as his bizarre attempt to utilize the same wretched squeals he projected on The Bleeding. The ensuing sound is surely the result of a man repeatedly trapping his testicle in his cuddle-closet’s hinge.2 Although initially hilarious, the longer the record continues, the less amusing and more ludicrous it becomes. In an effort to compound this, the instrumentation on “Zodiac” actually has the audacity to occasionally stop and isolate Barnes’ vocals. If you were in any doubt, “Zodiac” makes it crystal clear what a mess Nightmares of the Decomposed really is.

As spent as Barnes sounds, the realization that his performance reflects directly on the rest of the band is almost worse. Guitarist Jack Owen (ironically ex-Cannibal Corpse, ex-Deicide) and drummer Marco Pitruzzella (Rings of Saturn among a thousand others) spend their time trying to devise creative solos and rhythms, only to find their efforts thwarted by the death throes of a small arboreal mammal.  “The Rotting” and “Migraine” both feature note-worthy leads but the band’s signature plodding pace puts an end to any innovation. Only the record’s book-end tracks remotely accelerate. Closer “Without Your Life” is either the best song on the album or it’s memorable simply because it finally changes tempo. Unfortunately, the insistent repetition of the song titles soon quashes any potential interest. Listening to Barnes splutter “Dead Girls Don’t Scream” (which has no business not being a Danzig song) and “Drink Blood Get High” over and over is no way to live your life.

Seventeen albums in and it begs the question how much longer can Six Feet Under maintain a career if this is their current standard. Especially in a year so full of quality releases. But if the metal maladroit that is Chris Barnes insists on such a descent into inanity, then what can we expect. Outside of the awful vocals the album barely flirts with average at best. At worst, it’s a glowing opportunity for those who would lampoon the entire genre. Choose Skeletal RemainsBear Mace, NecrotFaceless Burial or any of 2020’s great death metal schedule. Better yet, choose Tomb of the Mutilated or The Bleeding and remember when Barnes wasn’t a joke. Choose anything but Nightmares of the Decomposed. Honestly, I think I’d rather be force fed broken glass…

Rating: 1.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Metal Blade Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: October 2nd, 2020

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Deathhammering, if you will
  2. I don’t know what a “cuddle-closet” is and based on this sentence, I don’t want to know. – Steel
« »