"I don't think I've been too pissed off - it's just the usual me," Six Feet Under main man Chris Barnes asserts with his snaggle-toothed grin. Of course he's referring to the band's latest slab of death, doom and destruction dubbed Commandment...
"I don't think I've been too pissed off - it's just the usual me," Six Feet Under main man Chris Barnes asserts with his snaggle-toothed grin. Of course he's referring to the band's latest slab of death, doom and destruction dubbed Commandment, a self-assuring statement of sorts and one that sees Barnes and Co. raising the ante in the realm of extreme underground metal.
It's just another snapshot of the striking Barnes - but this time it's in 2007. "That's it... that's all it is," says Chris. “I don't really analyze things too much, man. I just kind of drew from my imagination."
Remarkably Commandment, due out through Metal Blade Records on April 17th, 2007, was constructed completely from start to finish in the studio, basic tracks and mixing were recorded at Mana Recording in St. Petersburg, Florida, vocal tracks were recorded at The Hit Factory Miami, with long time friend and engineer Chris Carroll. Barnes spearheading the Production with the stable lineup of former Death/Massacre bass legend Terry Butler, guitarist Steve Swanson and drummer Greg Gall.
"It was a big journey getting through it," says the singer, explaining the process of building the brutal beasts that make up Commandment - coincidentally ten of them! "We wrote the whole thing in the studio again and that's always a daunting undertaking, just being able to start writing at the drop of a hat. It took us a couple of days to really find our zone and what we wanted to start off doing. I think we accomplished it. We worked real hard. It's never an easy thing to write an album in 12 days. We react really well in a pressure situation. Like a brainstorming-type session where you just get together and throw ideas off of each other and see what sticks. On 13 (2005), we went at it like that and on this album it was pretty much the same. We feel comfortable sitting in the same room just doing it. It's one of the lessons in writing - don't over-think it; you just write. It's a little tough to get started, but once we sat down and talked things out, it went forward pretty easily. We work well together when we have a goal."
And Commandment's goal is straight-forward in nature, somewhat less experimental than previous efforts, Six Feet Under twisting the knife slowly with such memorable new agitating anthems as 'Doomsday', 'The Edge Of The Hatchet', 'As The Blade Turns' and the ultimate statement 'Thou Shall Kill'. Commandment lives with a bludgeoning death metal undercurrent while laying down the band's patented pulsating groove.
"I just think it's a natural progression of where we are at and it turned out really well," says the dread-locked maniac with the mic about the band's seventh proper full-length. "It's heavy, there's a lot of good groove-laden riffs on there. Lyrically, there's a lot of interesting things on here. I think I attack subjects that I usually bring out in my records – mainly, the idea of the darker side of life and human existence and questions of our own demise as human beings and the idea of impending doom. I know I have thought about my final day and how I'll die. That tends to haunt me somewhat. I've tried to bring that feeling into what I write. The idea of certain folklore ideas we have about death, biblical-type reactions to that. Certainly lyrics that stress the idea of death in many different ways, whether it be a fictional story of the human race being overtaken by the living dead and using that as a type of symbolism for other things in life. Just different beliefs we all have, trying to focus on the horror of death as I usually do."
"The album title encompasses all those ideas," he continues. "To me, when people think about commandments, the Ten Commandments, moral commandments, I always question things like that and have been more in tune with human nature and the human animal and our reaction to certain things in life. Different philosophical beliefs that I have that encompass that. In my opinion, there is only one true commandment and that's blood. Blood to me is the only real thing that matters. The blood that pumps through your veins everyday."
And to use Commandment as a title at this stage in the game has stark symbolism attached to its meaning and relevance. It can be viewed as Six Feet Under's crowning achievement, somewhat spiritual, not in the religious sense, but from a deeper reality.
"It is open to interpretation and that's another reason why I like that title," Barnes expounds. "It encompasses those things that we've put across in our music. It’s a really strong word and it's open to many interpretations. It sets the tone. I've had that title written down for a long time. I'm always scribbling something down and I put it aside for future use, whether it be a song title, an album title. That's been sitting there for a few years and I said 'This is the one.' It felt right. It definitely encompasses what we’ve generated for lyrics. It's a strong word and there's a lot of power to it. It just kind of worked well with what I had sitting in the back of my head for this one."
There's been plenty of thoughts running rampant in the godfather of death metal's head these days. A little older, a little wiser, but still hard as nails. Barnes sums matters up: "I guess I just keep on getting meaner like an old junk yard dog."
And his bark remains as loud as his bite. Philosophizing about the perils of death and the ills of humanity on an ongoing basis took a sharp turn recently. The singer explains: "I've seen more human mortality at this point first-hand and have confronted those things in my life over the past year. That's kind of an important reflection to me and I've brought that out in ways in my lyrics on this record. As you get older you think about things in a different way. I've always heard that about growing up - you know once you've reached a certain age. And you really do, as time goes by. Ten years flies by in what seems to be a few months. It just seems like the days get shorter as time goes by. You start to realize that 'Hey, I've pretty much lived half of my life.' I've got consciously, before my brain starts to go, another 30 years maybe before I just start to fall apart; 30 years isn't that much time. Just that realization and understanding of human mortality does drive you in a way as an artist and a writer. That's just an interesting thought that creeps into your head at a certain point. I never thought I'd get to that point, but over the past year I've had to deal with things a little bit differently in my life and in my family's life. Looking at human mortality enhances your perspective on life."
Barnes has breathed a little life into death. And along the way he's looked into the mirror and reached a point of self-reflection. Too deep for death metal? -Maybe a little deeper than just six feet under...
"It is maturity I guess; it's age, it’s life experience," Barnes ponders. "Those things that you've experienced through your life filter into your system and it all depends how you handle it. People handle tragedy in different ways. People handle good things in different ways. People win the lottery and end up losing it all within a year. Life is a lottery to me and you shouldn't waste it. You should go and do what makes you happy. And for the most part I'm happy with the way my life is. Whether that is from experience or maturity - being able to look back at things and be happy with the way things turned out and the way they are going and what I have left in me. I'm lucky enough to be born and lucky enough to have had a good path I know myself. I feel like I've won a billion dollars this time around. Some people don't get to experience that type of life. I'm lucky and feel blessed that I got to experience what I've experienced this time around."
But what lives must die and Barnes still dwells on that final day. "I think probably a lot of pain," he says with a laugh, about the final hours with his heart pumping his commandment of blood. "Grasping for breath in some way. Not being able to fight any longer. It's definitely a depressing thought when you think about your final day in this realm, on this planet. I'm sure not ready to let go of this great life I'm enjoying for this many years. I don't know if I fear that day, as much as I more will miss this daily life and enjoying the things that are here, like basking in the sunlight of this Florida weather," he laughs. "I'm sitting in my backyard looking at orange trees."
Some call him twisted, others the personification of death itself, but these days Barnes is looking life straight in the face. So does he actually treasure life? "Yes, I'm very happy," he concludes. "I do treasure life. We're given a great gift by whatever to be here and I think there is a reason behind things. I don't know what that is and that is one of those things that drives me as a writer; that thought, my own human existence and others and the ills of society and the way people treat each other. Mistakes that I've made, things that have slid by and things that have been good to me as well. I feel reflecting on your life is a positive thing. I think going back and thinking about things in the past is really healthy for your energy form. I do cherish life. It's a beautiful thing to be alive. I think the time period that I've lived; from the late '60s through to this century has been a pretty interesting point in time."
BIOGRAPHY by Tim Henderson