Released: 2010, Metal Blade Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
Somebody, please make them stop. Please. Six Feet Under are back with the third instalment in their campaign to make classic hard rock and metal songs completely unlistenable. Yep, GRAVEYARD CLASSICS III is upon us. While I’ve found some of their original material passable, I’ve never understood the band’s fascination for cover songs. Chris Barnes’ one-dimensional grunt on top of super compressed guitar tones belting out death metal karaoke has never appealed to me, but apparently there must be an audience somewhere, as the band continues to crap out these cover albums every few years or so. That, or somebody has some compromising photos of Metal Blade label chief Brian Slagel. While I had zero expectations for this disc, I found myself not loathing this album as much as I thought I would. That’s not to say that GRAVEYARD CLASSICS III is necessarily good, just that it’s not as bad as I’d prepared myself for it to be.
The song choices on GRAVEYARD CLASSICS III are more metal-centric than on the last two collections, which help to make SFU’s approach to them more digestible. But the band’s self-imposed restrictions leave you with a “what’s the whole point?” feeling about the whole thing. The band (unsurprisingly) never places so much as a big toe outside of their comfort zone which makes things even more uninteresting. Guitarist Steve Swanson’s limited ability is on full display for all to cringe at, as he tackles more complicated tunes like Mercyful Fate’s “A Dangerous Meeting,” Metallica’s “Frayed Ends of Sanity” and Van Halen’s “On Fire,” choosing to gloss over the more intricate guitar lines with some grade school noodling. But on less flashy songs like Prong’s “Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck” and Twisted Sister’s “Destroyer,” the stripped down approach is less offensive.
But the biggest problem with GRAVEYARD CLASSICS III is Chris Barnes. I’m not sure if it’s the sheer volume of weed that this guy has burnt over the years, old age, or what, but his voice is shot. What used to be death metal’s signature growl is now reduced to unintelligible gurgling grunts and barks. Listening to him here, it’s hard to believe that this is the same guy who sang on Cannibal Corpse’s THE BLEEDING, or even SFU’s own HAUNTED. Over the course of the last several SFU albums, you can hear his voice progressively deteriorating and here he sounds especially tired and strained (check out Anvil’s “Metal on Metal” or Slayer’s “At Dawn They Sleep). If Barnes still had some of that growl left or any kind of vocal inflection, this may have actually been a fair album. But alas, he does not, and consequently GRAVEYARD CLASSICS III suffers.
SFU may be able to get away with these kinds of shortcomings when hiding behind their own compositions, but the songs choices on here are out of the band’s league. Many have said it before, and I’ll reiterate it here – if Six Feet Under didn’t feature a former Cannibal Corpse frontman, no one would care. There are a few passable moments on GRAVEYARD CLASSICS III, but those moments are few and far between. Consider this one for die hards and masochists only.