When it boils down to it, obtaining life experience is just learning how to identify a terrible idea before you’re fully committed, and then avoiding the inevitable shitstorm it would herald by simply not doing it. As anyone whose late teenage years were lost in a fog of Jägermeister and regret will tell you, lessons learned the hard way often stay with you the longest; fuck things up badly enough and you won’t repeat the same mistake again anytime soon. There are, however, a few hardy souls upon whom this principle is destined to be forever lost—people to whom common sense and reason are just meaningless buzzwords dreamt up by the establishment. People like Chris Barnes. If his irrepressible need to furnish the world with torpor-inducing death metal records is anything to go by, he will one day be remembered as the patron saint of poor decisions. Even in 2017, as he gracefully bounds into middle-age like some hideous, dreadlocked Bambi, Barnes’ commitment to churning out a glut of obstinate disappointments shows no signs of letting up, and his newest release with Six Feet Under has possibly the most appropriate title yet: Torment.
Now before the peasants begin to revolt, I know there are multiple brains behind the band (unbelievably), but the most one-dimensional vocalist in metal is the glue that holds them all together, so as far as I’m concerned, the blame for this sorry mess lies squarely at his feet. Torment follows the same formula as much of the rest of 6FU’s recent discography, which is to say that it’s marginally more interesting than watching paint dry, but doesn’t quite rival picking the label off an empty beer bottle. Large portions of the record are comprised of plodding chugs and riffs that sound as though they were written by a four-year-old, with Barnes’ trademark mouthwash gargles serving as an ever-present reminder that possessing the musical IQ of an amoeba is no barrier to getting on in life. It’s empowering stuff.
Now I’ll confess, my first impression of the album wasn’t fully terrible. Torment is actually mixed remarkably well, with every instrument fully audible and crisp-sounding, and this has the initial effect of distracting the listener from what a steaming abortion it really is. Tracks such as opener “Sacrificial Kill” and “Knife Through the Skull,” however, amble along at such a geriatric pace that I swear I could feel my toenails growing, waiting for anything to actually happen. That is largely the story of much of the record’s slower material, which comprises about 75% of its total runtime.
Even when the tempo does pick up, it rarely achieves anything that hasn’t already been done a thousand times before by any other generic DM outfit you might care to mention. Tracks like “In the Process of Decomposing” and “Schizomaniac”—winner of the Derpy McDerpface Award for the shittiest song title of the year so far—actually crack on at a reasonable pace, and I’ll concede that from time to time a passably enjoyable riff or hook may rear its head for a few brief seconds. For the most part, however, when one takes stock and analyzes what the music is really doing, it just sounds as though the notes were picked at random and sped up in the hope that it might sound cohesive. Perhaps if you’re on your 14th beer and your only concern is how many decibels you can ram down your ear canals before tinnitus sets in then it might hit the spot; I haven’t tried. That said, however, by the time you reach the end of closer “Roots of Evil,” it’s striking how quickly tinnitus slips down the list of the worst things that could happen to you in the future.
Every time a stork leaves a new Six Feet Under album on my doorstep, I wonder if this could finally be their return to form, and every time, almost without exception, it turns out to be just another disjointed snooze-fest. Torment is no different. The guitar work is so terminally uninteresting, and Barnes’ vocals so nauseatingly dull, that it’s difficult to really understand what the point of this record is at all, other than to serve as a metaphor for what happens when a group of people collectively stop giving a shit and simply try to occupy their time as they wait for death. Someone really needs to have a word.