Frontman Chris Barnes said (about a month before “13″ was released) that this album was going to be his band’s “Reign in Blood”. No, “13″ doesn’t have Slayer-esque guitar soloing, and it isn’t as original, influential or all around great as “Reign In Blood”-but with this album, Six Feet Under prove that they rank among the best in modern death metal.
SFU’s last studio album, “Bringer of Blood”, was good, but it suffered a bit from a lack of fast, brutal, death metal blast beats. It was still plenty heavy, but it was often heavy only because of Barnes’ vocals (his voice could make Hansen heavy!) That usually isn’t the case with this album. I think Six Feet Under knew they could do better than “Bringer of Blood”, so they followed that album up (rather quickly) with “13″, easily their best work since 1999’s “Maximum Violence.”
“Decomposition of the Human Race” could be this album’s next single. It begins with an ominous intro, then the drums kick in, and eventually a churning (almost vibrating) riff comes aboard and runs throughout the rest of the song. The beat changes to a faster chug when the vocals begin. A guitar solo is near the end, but the song ends with a “boom boom boom boom”.
“Somewhere in the Darkness” is highlighted by good riffs and two more guitar solos (the first of which is speedier than the solo on the opening track.)
The title track has heavy chugging riffs, but Barnes’ voice sounds hoarse on this song (except for the whispering and death metal growl near the end.)
The lead single, “Shadow of the Reaper”, is a great headbanger and will probably be a concert favorite. The first minute of this song is without vocals, and the beat is pounding (making a catchy “boom boom-ba boom boom” sound). The fast riffs and drums eventually slow down and chug, but then the song starts over with the “boom boom” beat. This is one of those songs that you’ll want to listen to several times, before you proceed with the rest of the C.D.
“Deathklaat” begins with circular, cascading, (almost machine gun) riffs, while Barnes bellows “I’m going straight to hell, to burn in flames with the devil!”
“Stump” explodes out of the gate. About the first minute is a fast and brutal onslaught (similar to “Murdered in the Basement” from SFU’s last album). There are two pauses in this song; after the first one, things pick up where they left off, but after the second one, the riffs and beat become slower. This song speeds up again after the guitar solo, with good, fast and almost out of control riffing (by Steven Swanson).
“13″ does have a few small flaws, however. First of all, the production, by frontman Chris Barnes, is really not very good. And on some tracks (i.e. “Rest In Pieces”), it’s just plain bad. Six Feet Under wrote and recorded this album in a hurry, and it has that “hurried” feel to it. This album would’ve been quite a bit better if the production were louder and not as dumbed down. You can atone for the poor production by really blasting this album (cranking the volume up all the way). Also, the fast songs make up for the production, but not all of the songs on here are fast. Such songs as “The Poison Hand” are still heavy, but they slow down the pace of this album. Thankfully, things pick up again for tracks ten and eleven, however.
Furthermore, the mixing could be better in spots, (as in the end of “Stump”, where the guitars almost drown out the drums). Maybe if the drummer would do more pummeling double bass work, he’d be more noticeable.
Finally, it appears Chris Barnes’ voice isn’t as strong as it once was. As previously mentioned (in the title track), his voice almost sounds hoarse sometimes. Plus, he doesn’t shriek at all on this album (something I would have liked him to do).
But those few small flaws aren’t anything to deter you from getting this album if you’re a Chris Barnes/ Six Feet Under fan, a fan of death metal, or even if you’re just getting into death metal. This band (and especially Chris Barnes) are death metal icons, and this album is the best death metal you’re going to get in 2005. It’s not Chris Barnes’ (or SFU’s) best work to date, but at least they’re headed in the right direction.