When he's not drag racing near his Tampa, Florida home, Six Feet Under's Chris Barnes is a non-stop death machine. In fact he may be the only living grandfather of death metal - a tag he "always gets a smile out of," the singer admits with a blushing tone. "If anything, that kind of recognition makes it worthwhile for this style of music. I definitely appreciate that."
On the verge of unveiling their latest slab piled with human remains, Six Feet Under are getting grim this time... grim reaper that is, a recurring theme surrounding the 11 tracks found nestled within this freshly-hewn casket. Recorded at Morrisound Recording in Tampa, Florida and Criteria The Hit Factory in Miami, the band's eighth full-length studio effort, 13, "will rip your fucking heads off," as Barnes so eloquently describes (although this is a mission statement the dread-locked legend has used since the band's debut, Haunted, in 1995). Along with guitarist Steve Swanson, bass legend Terry Butler (Death, Massacre) and drummer Greg Gall, the foursome continue to follow a strange career path that merges simplistic death metal with their fetish for the tried 'n' true classic sound of the art form. And consistency is the key to Barnes' rather stomach-turning ideals.
"We try to put out some kind of release every year," he says, with respect to the band's creative outbursts that have been an ugly but regular occurrence for over a decade. "Most bands outside of the '70s and '80s were releasing one album every three or four years. I don't have that much time. I feel like I have to keep moving and keep creating as much as I can while I'm here. I'm not gonna dilly-dally and play the games most bands play. I'm here to write lyrics and make music for ourselves first off. We are definitely in touch with the people that like our music and we try to stay in tune with our fans. I think that's one thing I've always done: stay aware of what's going on out there around me in the music industry. I've always had a real love for this thing that I do. It's a passion of mine and I really, really love creating. And to do that every three years or something... I can't pace around that long. I'm an anxious type of person. When I know I want to do something I do it. It may take me a couple of minutes to plan it out right, but I do it and I get into it. I can't wait for when it comes time to write; it's my passion."
"This album is my main catalyst right now," he continues. "We've been getting this together since October. Now with mastering being completed and a release date set, it's just a matter of really pushing myself to accomplish the next step in what I did with this record and what the band did in writing it. It's just taking it to the next step, which is what's going to drive me the next six or seven months."
And Barnes more than ever guides the SFU death ship, as he's also credited with producing 13 alongside longtime engineer and mixer Chris Carroll. 13 features the following tracks: 'Decomposition Of The Human Race', 'Somewhere In The Darkness', 'Rest In Pieces', 'Wormfood', '13', 'Shadow Of The Reaper' (first video directed by Gary Smithson, featuring actors Meagan Crawford and Aaron Kinser), 'Deathklaat', 'The Poison Hand', 'This Suicide', 'The Art Of Headhunting' and 'Stump'.
Fans of Barnes' Cannibal Corpse roots (he split with the band after 1994's The Bleeding) and the malicious, speed-ridden underbelly of Six Feet Under's death metal vision will embrace 13.
"It seems like it's more on the up-tempo side." Barnes describes the frenzied affair. "I think it's a direct echo of where we were when we wrote it. We had just got off the road, three or four days before we went into the studio. We had no material written. I had an idea of approaching this album in a different way, writing and recording. We just went into the studio and wrote this thing. The aggressiveness and the tempo reflected our mindsets. We really tapped into our feelings and it set our pace. We've been putting out lots of releases and doing lots of touring. From studio to tour, studio to tour… everything. We've been on the wheel this past year. I didn't want to let the band relax after being on that. I wanted to use that energy that forward motion, and it really showed itself in the writing process and in the recording, which was really what I had an aim to do. We wanted to get a breath of fresh air in the writing process and hopefully that would stir things up a bit and make this album contain more stand-out songs. When you force yourself into a situation, you tend to absorb the energy and it definitely helps you; I think that was my motive on this one - for me and for the band."
But while idle hands are the devil's playground, taking advantage of the momentum proved fruitful. Creatively speaking, 13 came together in a flash of death metal spirit, nurtured along with Barnes' focus on extraneous ingredients and spiritualistic accompaniment.
"I had a vision, like everything else I've done through meditation and smoking lots of marijuana. I've developed a keen third eye sense - it's a straight vision, tunnel vision. I can't break free of that tunnel. There's one set mind pattern in motion and I have to follow it. That was really my idea for this. I said, 'That will work, this will work.' Some people will use this against us if they don't like it, but this is the strongest stuff we've done. I always say it, but this is completely off-base for us writing-wise and it works in an aggressive way. We wrote this album and laid the drum tracks down in seven, eight days. I wrote 14 sets of lyrics (11 for 13, the rest for the box set) in just under five days. I laid my vocal tracks down in six hours on this thing. Everything came together so spontaneously and to me it's more solid than anything we've ever taken time on. I really don't know how it came together but it did; it's weird. They're really good songs. A lot of great albums were written in the studio under the influence of lack of sleep and entertaining substances. It's a good thing to go back to the way things sounded and the way people put things together. Some people at the label are saying this is the best thing since Haunted. I really think we accomplished something and we pushed ourselves in a different way and it formed itself right. It was a cocky thought I had, but everything I do has got a little bit of ego to it - it's got to. That's what an artist does, he embraces his own creation and that's where it begins. Hopefully people will enjoy it as much as I do."
The lyrical element behind 13 is, once again, not for the weak at heart, as Barnes plunders the dark side, scythe in hand. "It's definitely a loosely based concept," he says about his twisted poetry. "It takes you through a story. Everything I've done lyrically is about life and death. And this is no different, but it's a little more concentrated and focused towards the grim reaper and the thought of the coming of death in many ways individually and on a grand scale. People that are really into my lyrics notice certain patterns of reminiscing towards older things that I've written. There's maybe a little bit more of a puzzle here to try and connect the pieces. 13 is kind of that, but directed in a manner of things to come, things that have been, things that are happening.
The number 13, on many different levels, biblically, historically, supernaturally, is a vague type of thing; it's not just a scary number.“