”Knife jammed in your assShotgun in your mouth.“ ”I open up the coffin . . . It gets me hardI ejaculate on the corpse.“ ”Pulled out the gutsRight through your fucking neck!“ ”Murder mankindMurder mankindMurder mankind . . .“
Thanks for printing the words in the booklet, friends, otherwise it’d be a little tough to get a grip on ‘em. Chris Barnes, throatman for Six Feet Under, grunts his crime-scene narratives in ultralow huffs, expels them in chattering shrieks; he isn’t much for rain-in-Spain enunciating. He figures you‘ve gotten the picture by now anyway, since he’s been mining this same, uh, vein since 1988, when he founded Cannibal Corpse, the bloodprint for all subsequent death-metal bands. He‘s been excavating Six Feet for six years.
That’s commitment. You might think a concept like Barnes‘ is too blunt to be honed, but Six Feet Under’s new album proves otherwise: True Carnage is his most fully realized work of art. On every level, it delivers a message that can‘t be shrugged off, laughed off or ignored.
Start with the package: The cover and multipage booklet feature dead embryos in jars, glowingly photographed in shades of burnt ocher by tattoo artist Paul Booth. Then there’s the CD-ROM video of ”The Day the Dead Walked,“ directed by David Roth, which incorporates Booth‘s dark color scheme while depicting a fateful rendezvous between a corpse molester and a zombie cadaver.
The music — 11 tracks of condensed putrefaction — keeps you involved by rotating through numerous deadly expressions: slow Sabbath-derived riffs, fast rampages, single-string necro-carnival figures and choked solos from former Massacre guitarist Steve Swanson; a muttering, subliminal but pervasive five-string-bass presence from Terry Butler, so low-pitched that only an augmented graphic equalizer can even locate it; insistent, controlled grooves and creative use of the kick drum from Greg Gall, who negotiates nonstandard rhythm changes with focused resolve and logic.
Through a full-bodied studio sound crafted by mixer Dave Schiffman (Rage Against the Machine, System of a Down) and co-producer Brian Slagel (Slayer, Fates Warning, Voivod), True Carnage comes at you as a unit. The guitar textures squish, like rotting flesh. The double-kick flurries — such an unbalancing feature on many metal records — often sit seething in a back chamber or roam restlessly from channel to channel in the mix. And Barnes’ croak is recorded so broadly and deeply that it inhabits the very soul of the rhythm section.
So what‘s he saying? Kill you, fuck you, eat your guts. A simple statement, and not a new one in the world of metal, but at first it might raise questions. Motivation? Barnes has been known to drop occasional bare hints, the way he did on 1999’s Maximum Violence: ”Lies to live and die by“ (”Brainwashed“) or ”Infected since birthDominated by power, war and wealth“ (”This Graveyard Earth“). This time he hardly bothers, saying only, on ”The Murderers,“ that he needs to ”rip through a world of ignorance.“ It‘s like, Isn’t it obvious? The whole world population needs to be tortured and slaughtered. Isn‘t that the only satisfaction we can hope for? Don’t you read the papers? The bastards are getting away with it! Isn‘t simple imprisonment and execution a pathetically inadequate punishment for these vermin? And in some way, aren’t you one of them?
That‘s why Barnes keeps saying the same thing over and over in slightly different ways, why he feels no need to clean up his diction: He arrived at the ultimate long ago. And now, with a bunch of master artists, recordists and musicians mustered at his side, it’ll be harder to look away, to dismiss him as a cartoon, a carny or a sicko. He‘s just your face in the mirror.
Still, sometimes you need to wipe away all ambiguity, which is why Ice-T (of ”Cop Killer“ and Bodycount fame) is so effective as guest vocalist on one cut. When, in the course of ”One Bullet Left,“ he invades your home, kills your family and calls CNN to witness, shouting out the details in a pitiless rant, with every syllable as clear as a stab wound, he makes an impact. The bursts of guitar are like Jimi Hendrix’s on his 1969 war-protest dirge ”Machine Gun,“ but T‘s story is told differently, from the viewpoint of the man whose finger’s on the trigger. What can you say to a killer who claims, ”I don‘t give a fuck, bitch, I pray for death“?
Nothing, because the one bullet left is for himself. That’s where it‘s all going, folks. And the implication is that the time has grown too short to stop it.
”For some reason,“ spits T, ”you motherfuckers think this is some kind of motherfuckin’ game.“ Not anymore.