Friday, April 15, 2016

METAL OP/ED - Dear Chris Barnes.....

Chris Barnes' music and I go back a long ways. Sure I missed out on the initial Cannibal Corpse hysteria but I will always remember my first experience hearing Six Feet Under.

It was somewhere around the second half of the nineties and I recall the day because I was playing hookie from work. Working in an art store those days and being easily pissed off by things not going my way I decided the weather was too nice to spend inside of a building making copies for local businessmen who had nothing better to do than tell me how nice it was outside. So I made up a bad excuse for getting out of work, "Bad microwaved Bacon" and called up a few friends. I made some burgers on the grill. The burgers must have been of low grade quality because we all laughed at the post cooking shrinkage of the patties while consuming a few twenty twos of Mickey's Malt Liquor.

My buddy Clint always brought with him (and still does) a folder full of cds to play on the boom box. We probably played a few obscure death or goregrind albums that day. I digged most but one in particular nailed it out of the park. The lyrics "Prepare yourself for the worst, it's coming soon" over a really awesome death groove sent signals to my brain. I immediately turned to my friend and asked to see the cd jacket. The album artwork was of a strange skull spiraling into a number six. I remember him telling me about the theme of the album and the song 4:20. After that day I tried to pick up anything that remotely sounded like that album. It sent me down the path of darker, heavier and stranger type of music.

A few years later, Six Feet Under released a covers album, Graveyard Classics.  The album is a strong collection of various classic rock tracks all done in the vein of Six Feet Under. I decided to unleash the album on a car full of my friends as we took a road trip to Salem during Halloween festivities. Up until that time I don't believe I had even heard the whole album. It turned out to be a great album given the context of our drive and the time of year. Context being the most important word. Was it overall a great album? NO. Was it life changing or even something that would turn a passive listener on to more music of it's kind? Maybe. I know that it made a fan of at least one of my pals who would go onto listen to some of their earlier work.

So you may be asking yourself, what's the point of this story anyway? Well I called this post "Dear Chris Barnes" for a reason. How would you approach an old friend who's lost direction or continues to create music that they no longer put their heart into anymore? Maybe you'd want to ease into the conversation and express your appreciation for their past successes. Tell them how much you enjoyed their life's work and how it was a pathway drug to some cool ass music from many other bands you'd probably have never listened to if not for that work.

Graveyard Classics 4 is a harsh slap in the face. Barnes vocals, once the cornerstone of the death gore groove movement have been reduced to a shadow of it's former self. The novelty of covering well known tunes in a raw death metal style has worn off. What began as throwing in a cover song on an album here or there has turned into full tribute albums dispersed in between mediocre original releases. How can you compare what the band did with Priest's "Death or Glory" on Warpath with Priest's lesser known "Invader" on volume 4 of Graveyard Classics? It would be very difficult for any band to try to top their peak work which I always said was Maximum Violence but how far must you fall off the map before you realize that the fans aren't buying into the cash grabs anymore. Cash grab is exactly what this latest Graveyard Classics is.

Dear Chris Barnes, please stop with the Graveyard Classics and focus on material that's new and full of that old energy you used to have. If your voice isn't up to par, get some vocal coaching or add some distortion like Ozzy.  It will be an improvement over what you've been releasing for the past ten years or so. I say this because your music matters. Do it before we're all Six Feet Under.

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