Released: 2006, Metal Blade Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
In something of a reversal of the Ripper Owens/Judas Priest scenario, devout Finnish Six Feet Under fans, Torture Killer, actually landed Chris Barnes to become their new lead vocalist on sophomore effort, SWARM!. With Barnes handling many of the lyrics, the body count is high and the gore factor is cranked to eleven, so there are no surprises there. What is surprising on SWARM! is that Barnes’ vocal style hearkens back to TOMB OF THE MUTILATED-era Cannibal Corpse with less reliance on the squeals and garbled gibberish of some later Six Feet Under releases. Barnes also gets behind the production desk (with Hate Eternal’s Erik Rutan handling the mix) giving SWARM! a punchy, organic sound with everything balanced nicely, a lesson he could bring to his own albums, which up until last year’s 13, have been plagued with muddy, sludgy tones and uneven mixing. The rest of Torture Killer provides the necessary components but the bottom line is, SWARM! sounds like the best Six Feet Under album since MAXIMUM VIOLENCE, or at the very least, Barnes fronting an SFU cover band with some revitalized chops.
The fact that the simplistic songwriting has been left buried with Six Feet Under, “Swarm!” bursts out of the gates with an arpeggio-laced, mid-paced death metal groove that continues on through much of the CD. Jari Laine’s riffing is chock full of licks stripped from your favorite Obituary, Cannibal Corpse and Six Feet Under albums and Torture Killer seems to unashamedly relish in this. “Forever Dead” and “Sadistic” contain enough chunky chords to get necks snapping and Tuomas Karppinen’s soaring solo on the former is something to hear. Likewise, the tweedly solo snuck into the speedier “Multiple Counts of Murder” shows Torture Killer has a little more to offer than their heroes. The grinding riffs and hard-hitting drums of Tuomo Latvala highlight “Sadistic,” a groovy slice of wickedness featuring some of Barnes’ most brutal lyrics in years. While Barnes’ voice is clearly not capable of the register it once possessed, he does stretch his throat in places here, most notably the gut-churning growl at the end of “I Killed You” and a lower-than-low croak on the title track. The occasional squeal is brought to the table but Barnes mainly sticks to the traditional death metal growling.
SWARM! may very well be the greatest Six Feet Under album the band has never done. When the student outsmarts the teacher, it is time for the teacher to rethink his future and with a box set and a return to form of sorts with 13, Six Feet Under could be on permanent hiatus if Torture Killer clicks. Barnes has already said he is a “full-time member” of Torture Killer, so where that leaves Six Feet Under has yet to be determined. SWARM! is a solid, old school death metal album without a lot of frills but enough talent behind it to stand out from the pack, so fans can rejoice while Chris Barnes works out exactly which direction he wants to go in with his main gig.
KILLER KUTS: “Forever Dead,” “Multiple Counts of Murder,” “Sadistic,” “A Violent Scene of Death”