[29 January 2010]
PopMatters Contributing Editor
There’s actually a fair bit to like when it comes to Six Feet Under’s Graveyard Classics series, as vocalist Chris Barnes and his bandmates have fun tearing through some of its favorite metal songs. For one, the band has excellent taste when it comes to covers, and the longtime core of guitarist Allen West, bassist Terry Butler, and drummer Greg Gall puts an effective death metal twist on classic metal and hard rock tracks, whether it’s AC/DC’s “Hells Bells” or Accept’s “Son of a Bitch”. However, when Barnes comes in with his monotonous, gurgling vocals, it becomes so tacky it’s impossible to keep a straight face. He might have been one of the founders of the classic “Cookie Monster” death growl on such Cannibal Corpse classics as Tomb of the Mutilated and The Bleeding, but his vocal style has become so parodied at times over the last decade (his Corpse successor George “Corpsegrinder” Fischer is a far more charismatic death metal vocalist). Nowhere does it get more painfully obvious than when he tries to growl atop an otherwise capably performed Mercyful Fate cover, as he does on Graveyard Classics 3.
The idea of Barnes taking on lines originally sung by the operatic King Diamond is ludicrous. That’s just how “A Dangerous Meeting” feels, as Barnes butchers the song, his perpetually baked performance completely undermining the efforts of his mates. While the kitschy vocal gimmick gets old really fast (BTO? Really?), some tracks actually do work, such as Slayer’s “At Dawn They Sleep” and a couple of Canadian early ‘80s classic in Anvil’s “Metal on Metal” and Exciter’s “Pounding Metal”. In the end, though, it’s the same old Six Feet Under story: excellent instrumental tracks, inept lead vocals, and another waste of time for listeners.