All hail Six Feet Under, the band that no matter how much people complain about still manages to get albums on the market. Since 1995 they've had an interesting progression, starting with the smashing death metal album Haunted before delving into a little more experimental music with Warpath. Then they had Bringer of Blood which was, according the fans, a disaster. They managed some redemption with 13; sadly this album had sub par production and was very hard to hear. The sound got a little experimental again with Commandment by giving a much thicker, doom metal based sound, which was a good sign. And finally we arrive at Death Rituals which is, thankfully, a return to the early days of glory with a modern touch.
The album isn't anything new from Six Feet Under, or death metal itself. The songs are chugging and mid paced with growled vocals and lyrics about dying in all sorts of manners vile. The music does have bits and pieces of new tidbits that may keep fans interested, but ultimately those that have heard Haunted or Maximum Violence probably will hear it all over again with Death Rituals.
Starting off with "Death by Machete" there's a very slow introduction that is very uncommon for Six Feet Under. You'll hear a lot of this on tracks like "Seed of Filth" and "Into the Crematorium." However, a few seconds later the heavy guitars come in with the drums in the background and the familiar sound is granted. The music is a lot slower, like on Commandment as compared to the earlier work, and much more groovy, also a plus.
"Shot in the Head" is about as close to the Haunted era sound as one can get. As the album progresses one might notice that the vocalist, Chris Barnes, is still going in full force after almost twenty years. His high pitched squeals are still pretty annoying, but his growls haven't cracked yet, nor have they become any more understandable. A lot of people have complained about his vocals, but he still is one of the best in the business. Just listen to "Ten Deadly Plagues" and you'll see why.
There's a few surprises here on Death Rituals, good ones at least. There's a good death rock n' roll cover of "Bastard" by Motely Crue. Six Feet Under has put out several solely based cover albums, so this is no surprise. What is the surprise is it's actually performed well.
The other major surprise is the track "Crossroads to Armageddon" which sounds nothing like Six Feet Under at all. Instead of the plodding death metal guitars there's simply the bass and drums crawling along with a single beat while Barnes is whispering away. Ironically, this is one of the creepiest and most effective songs on the album, and hopefully will continue to appear on Six Feet Under's future work as tracks of their own or worked in with the other music. It's the highlight of the album.
Lyrically, the band is still into detailing death and destruction as graphically as possible. But, maybe it's the music, they read as a little more mature or poetically put than how Six Feet Under did their earlier albums (I put read because most likely no one is going to listen to this album and understand the lyrics without the booklet). It isn't an album for younglings, but then again, very few death metal albums are. Anyone who enjoys death metal with a bit of structure will enjoy this, and anyone who enjoys Six Feet Under will definitely enjoy this. And even if they hate Six Feet Under, they may want to give Death Rituals a spin just to let themselves know that the band may yet have hope to live up to whatever their expectations may be.