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Six Feet Under

Maximum Violence

Metal Blade

Though ex-Cannibal Corpse gore-garbler Chris Barnes may never win any poetry contests ("Skull Full of Maggots"? -- c'mon!), you've got to give him credit for assembling such an astute bunch in Six Feet Under, all three members as versed in doom as they are in death metal. Comparisons/contrasts to Barnes' old cronies may be inevitable, but Six Feet Under is a much-welcomed throwback to domestic death metal's fledgling, pre-oversaturation days of the late '80s, a time before gore-grind and cardiac-arrest time-changes became de riguer (???) and subsequently passé.

   Perhaps the most accurate reference point for the band's newest opus, Maximum Violence , is Asphyx's classic The Rack , both sonic gargles straddling straightforward, gut-busting death metal with suicide-prone doom-chunder. Whereas the latter wielded ear-wrenchingly-raw production, the former chugs along in a thick, muddy froth courtesy of producer Brian Slagel and the band. Nowhere near as murderingly fun, but it's a logical pairing considering Six Feet Under's no-frills riff approach. Tedium, however, is eluded thanks to guitarist Steve Swanson's tastefully scrambled solos, which, sadly, are all too infrequent.

    Maximum Violence ? -- not quite...yet. Barnes certainly hasn't changed his tune ("Feasting on the Blood of the Insane," "Bonesaw"), which, if anything, will retain old fans, but such fare is still too predictable and lowbrow for these tastes. And thinking Barnes will ever approach the cerebral, black-as-night humor of Pungent Stench or early Carcass won't help the situation much either, because, after all, he is from America, y'know. Scrape a bit of the shine off Maximum Violence and you might have as much fun as a "Mass Murder Rampage" -- oops!

Metal Blade, 2828 Cochran St. Suite 302, Simi Valley, CA 93065-2793, www.metalblade.com

--Nathan T. Birk