Six Feet Under


From the opening moments of “Know-Nothing Ingrate,” which kicks off Killing for Revenge, it’s immediately clear that Six Feet Under focused their energies into something that’s as brutal, lyrically visceral and musically dazzling as one would hope for from the ground-breaking Tampa-bred death metal lineup on their 14th studio album.


Killing for Revenge, a gnarly beast of a record that’s not for the faint-hearted, dishes up nightmare-inducing imagery courtesy of frontman Chris Barnes via the vocalist’s trademark guttural vocals. Both the album title and darkly detailed red-hued album cover by artist Vince Locke are perfect containers for the brutality within. “I chose the title Killing for Revenge after we completed writing and noticed that all the lyrics and storylines had a common theme of revenge. Revenge by human or revenge by nature—or both in the song “Bestial Savagery,” which describes the destructive paths of man-made storms,” Barnes says. “The album title describes the flow of the stories within the lyrics perfectly.”  


Killing for Revenge marks the second album that Barnes and guitarist Jack Owen (ex-Cannibal Corpse) have created together since reuniting for 2020’s Nightmares of the Decomposed, an album one critic praised an “often slow-ish and doomy yet crushing death metal” which offered an “uncompromising show of strength.” Owen also produced Killing for Revenge, with Barnes as production assistant. “We worked well together in Cannibal Corpse,” Barnes says. “He was probably my favorite person back then in that band. I loved him to death as a friend and a musician, so I’m really comfortable giving him the reins because I just have such great respect for him as an artist.”


It’s clearly a partnership that works, given the brilliance of Cannibal Corpse’s early work under Barnes and the fact that the Owen-Barnes rekindled symbiotic relationship has breathed new life, or perhaps new death, into Six Feet Under. “I asked Jack to map out what parts of the songs he wanted lyrics for, and he just started writing lyrics instead and gave me a demo vocal track for pretty much all the songs,” Barnes says. “I thought it was great. That’s how the music and lyrics wanted to appear this time, so I just let it come through that way and worked with him in a collaborative way. Like we did back in the old days, like on the song ‘Shredded Humans’.”


Six Feet Under was initially formed as a side project for Barnes during his final years with the band that he co-founded, Cannibal Corpse. It became the frontman’s sole focus in 1995, coinciding with the release of their debut, Haunted. Only Barnes remains from the original SFU band, but the quality has remained remarkably consistent. The current lineup of Barnes, guitarists Owen and Ray Suhy, bassist Jeff Hughell, and drummer Marco Pitruzzella make for a devastating unit.

While Barnes is the sole remaining member, Six Feet Under is about more than he and Owen. The singer is thrilled with the current lineup, and what each member brings to the table. “Jeff and Marco have been with me for about 10 years,” Barnes says. “I’m really fortunate that I have probably the best musicians in metal. If you look at it, we have the same amount of original members as Cannibal Corpse. Jeff is a killer bass player. Marco’s probably the best drummer out there. Jack’s the greatest songwriter I’ve ever been involved with over the 30-plus years I’ve been doing music professionally. And Ray is just a phenomenal guitarist who can play everything from jazz to death metal. The lineup now is untouchable.”


The chemistry between the five men is palpable; listening to Killing for Revenge, one could be forgiven for assuming that they hid themselves away somewhere for a couple of months and hammered it out in blessed, creative seclusion. Not the case.“We all recorded it on our own, in different parts of the country since we’re all spread out,” says Barnes. “I think the most important thing is to put everybody in a comfortable space so that they get a great performance. That’s what you want to capture. It’s really hard nowadays to afford everyone being in the studio recording like we used to back in the ‘90s. It can be done just as effectively this way.”


The songs on Killing for Revenge—highlighted by the singles “Know-Nothing Ingrate,”  “Ascension” and “When the Moon Goes Down in Blood”—dive headfirst into subjects that are as gleefully vile, graphic and downright grotesque as you might dream of from a Barnes/Owen project. After all, the two men were vital cogs in the Cannibal Corpse band that released such delightfully offensive death metal classics as Butchered at Birth and Tomb of the Mutilated. Highlights of this latest Six Feet Under opus include “Compulsive,” which tells the tale of a disturbed individual in a padded cell, eating himself alive: “Display of carnage for the poor soul who finds you; To discover sick survival that binds you; Heaving lungs the only thing intact; Scattered expelled organs your final act.”


“Jack wrote 90 percent of the lyrics on this album, and that was one that he came up with the storyline to,” says Barnes. “How you want to interpret it is up to you. You can find deeper meaning or metaphors or symbolisms. But I would say a good interpretation is someone suffering who is devouring himself. You could look deeper as it being about addiction.”


The album opener, “Know-Nothing Ingrate,” launches Killing for Revenge as the LP’s first single. 

“I kind of went back and forth on what song should be the first one to throw out into the world,” says Barnes. “Jack liked the idea of ‘Know-Nothing Ingrate‘ as the first single as well.”


“Know-Nothing Ingrate” was written early in the album process. “We wanted to keep the aggression of a prior Six Feet Under song like ‘Amputator,’ explains Owen. “I wrote music in the style of early Dark Angel or Kreator, who always had cool driving drum beats. I had all the riffs in my head as I wrote the drums in a couple hours. Lyrically, It’s basically about online trolls who voice their uneducated and unnecessarily spiteful review of any artist’s output. You’re entitled to your opinion, and I’m entitled to mine.”

Six Feet Under also recorded a cover of Nazareth’s “Hair of the Dog,” which appears on all formats of Killing for Revenge with the exception of vinyl. “’Hair of the Dog’ has such a heavy groove to it and the vocal is so killer and memorable that it seemed like a perfect fit for us, and something fun to add to the album as a bonus track,” explains Barnes. “Plus there’s cowbell!” Clearly, 2024 is shaping up to be a massive year for Six Feet Under, and Barnes hopes to take full advantage.“I’d like to get a tour put together,” he says. “I would love to get back out on the road. It’s been too long. Three of those years were due to the pandemic. I love being on the road. I love being in a tour bus and being in front of people on stage. I have missed it so much. It’s what I was meant to do.”

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