SIX FEET UNDER
'Graveyard Classics IV: The Number Of The Priest'
Release Date: Friday 27th May 2016
Six Feet Under are an American death metal band from Tampa, Florida, who were originally formed in 1993. The band started off as a side project by ex-Cannibal Corpse vocalist Chris Barnes along with guitarist Allen West of Obituary. After the fledgling line was formed, the band began to play clubs gigs where they performed mostly cover songs and it wasn't until mid-1994 that the band began to write original material, after which they signed a deal with Metal Blade Records.
Their first album, 'Haunted', was released in September 1995 and was produced by Brian Slagel (the man who discovered Slayer) and Scott Burns (who discovered Sepultura). This album was followed up by the 'Alive And Dead EP in October 1996 which included three studio recordings (including a cover of Judas Priest's 'Grinder') and four tracks from the 'Haunted' album performed live. Their second studio album, 'Warpath', was released in September 1997.
In 1998, Allen West left to rejoin Obituary and was replaced by Steve Swanson and with Barnes exiting from Cannibal Corpse at the same time, Six Feet Under went from being merely a side project to become a full-time band. The following year, the band released their third album, 'Maximum Violence' which contained a much more violent theme in the lyrics. They also recorded a death-metal version of the Kiss song 'War Machine' from the classic 1982 album, 'Creatures Of The Night'. During the summer of 2000, Six Feet Under participated in the Vans Warped Tour, a festival which, at the time, usually featured punk rock bands as the genre of Death Metal became less popular.
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Pursuing their interest in cover songs, Six Feet Under released an album entirely of covers titled 'Graveyard Classics' in October 2000, which featured track including Black Sabbath's 'Sweet Leaf', Deep Purple's 'Smoke On The Water', and Jimi Hendrix's 'Purple Haze' but with death metal makeovers in regards to the timbre of the vocals and instruments whilst still keeping most of the original riffs and rhythms of the songs intact.
Although the band continues to release original material including 'True Carnage' (2001), 'Bringer Of Blood' (2003), '13' (2005), 'Unborn' (2013) and 'Crypt Of The Devil' (2015) the band have also made a secondary career of releasing covers albums with 'Graveyard Classics 2' hit shelves in October 2004, which focused solely on AC/DC's 'Back In Black' album. This was followed by 'Graveyard Classics 3' in 2010 which featured tracks from the likes of Mercyful Fate, Metallica, Slayer alongside Van Halen Twisted Sister and Bachman–Turner Overdrive.
Now, the fourth volume, 'Graveyard Classics IV: The Number Of The Priest' is about to be released which sees five Judas Priest tracks and six Iron Maiden numbers given the death metal makeover treatment. If you're looking for the standard big hitters from each band like Priests' 'Breaking The Law', 'Living After Midnight' or 'Running Free' and 'Run To The Hills' from Maiden you might be a tad disappointed as these tracks don't feature at all, however if you're more of a hardcore fan of either band then the choices the band have made prove to be inspired and showcase some often overlooked classic tracks.
As far as the Judas Priest tracks go, it's pretty good stuff. 'Night Crawler' that was originally included on 1990s 'Painkiller' album is a favourite Priest song of mine it works really well here. The instrumentation is top notch and the vocals from Barnes fit in with the track really well, as long as you don't expect anything near the performance of Priest front man Rob Halford.
'Genocide' is taken from 'Sad Wings Of Destiny', Priest's second album released in 1976, as it's a track that I've not heard this for years, so it's good to revisit it in this context. This version is a slower paced number than some of the other tracks here and suits Barnes' vocal style. Drummer Marco Pitruzzella bashes out the solid beat and keeps the tempo under control, and overall it's a good cover of the original track.
Likewise 'Invader' from the 1978 album 'Stained Class' is another track that's not been on my playlist for many, many years so it was nice to reacquaint myself with it. The guitar from Swanson is really good here especially during the solo section but unfortunately it's stuck very much in the background, however, he comes into his own here during the solo section. Barnes' vocals are joined by a second voice in there on occasions which bolsters the sound and overall it's another good take on an often overlooked track.
Six Iron Maiden songs fill out the rest of the album with two early favourites in the shape of 'Murders In The Rue Morgue' and 'Prowler' taken from the 1981 'Killers' and their 1980 self-titled debut album respectively. Both tracks fare well with the latter especially, suiting Barnes' vocal style.
'Flash Of The Blade' is a genuinely overlooked track from the 'Powerslave' album, which was also used by Dario Argento in his 1984 horror film Phenomena starring then 13-year-old Jennifer Connelly, and although the guitars and drums are good here, the vocals seem to be lacking somewhat. The same issue affects 'The Evil That Men Do' (the very first Maiden song that I ever liked) in that Barnes seems to struggle to get the lines out in the right place. With the latter especially, he comes in late at the beginning in the hope he can get the lyrics out correctly but seems to be constantly chasing to keep up with the music. Still he gives it a good try and ultimately it's not a bad effort at all.
'Stranger In A Strange Land' from 1986s 'Somewhere In Time' album was last included in Iron Maiden's live set list on their 1999 'Ed Hunter' tour and has always been a firm favourite of mine. The slower tempo is almost exactly the same as the original and they vocals are also really good. The band aren't trying to replicate every nuance of the original but still manage to create a close copy of the song which is as good as the original as it is different.
You can hear the band's version of Judas Priest's 'Invader' here:
You can see Six Feet Under live here:
Saturday 2nd July - Roxy Concerts, Flensburg
Tuesday 5th July - Backstage Halle, Munich
Wednesday 6th July - p.m.k. Innsbruck
Thursday 7th July - Rockfabrik Ludwigsburg, Ludwigsburg
Friday 8th July - Z7 Konzertfabrik Pratteln
Saturday 9th July - Turock Essen
'Graveyard Classics IV: The Number Of The Priest' Tracklisting:
Murders In The Rue Morgue
Flash Of The Blade
The Evil That Men Do
Stranger In A Strange Land
Six Feet Under are:
Chris Barnes – Vocals
Steve Swanson – Guitar
Jeff Hughell – Bass Guitar
Marco Pitruzzella – Drums