American Death Metal entrepreneurs, Six Feet Under, just finished a mini tour through some North American cities. The reason for said campaign was to support their latest album, Unborn. Considered as a companion piece to their previous recording, Undead, this new studio venture sees the group navigating throughout some familiar territories. However, on both Undead and Unborn SFU also explores new sonic landscapes while during the process becoming a more technically proficient entity. Just before going on tour, iconic growler and SFU’s founder, Chris Barnes, spoke with us about the particularities of these new vicious slabs of infectious, groovy Death Metal.
Undead and Unborn mark a sort of new chapter in the SFU’s saga. How important are these album for you and the overall development of the band?
Chris: I think they’re really important. I mean they’re both really solid albums. They both have interesting in and outs and I think there’s a lot there for the fans as far as what they have to offer. There’s a lot of really interesting stuff there.
Was the material for both albums written simultaneously?
Chris: Some of it was, not all of it. There was a good portion of it though, that was structured out and laid out. That gave me an idea of how to position all the songs within both albums, to tell the story and really set the style on each album.
Check out the song “Neuro Osmosis”
Was it difficult to choose which songs belonged to each album?
Chris: It was at first because I really liked all the songs equally. They all had a really special place. But as I really concentrated on things and understood what I’d just come up with, I kind of comprehended the whole puzzle a little bit. It became clearer to me how each album should be handled in that respect as far as what could go on what album.
Some of these new songs are very technical and complex. That’s probably the result of working with new composers and performers like Rob Arnold (ex-Chimaria) or Ben Savage (Whitechapel), among others. Was that a conscientious approach?
Chris: Well, in a way I really didn’t think of it that way. I wanted to surround myself with certain writers that I knew had an approach to a more technical metal style in their certain ways. Those are some of best writers within those styles. I was able to hook into certain things in myself that I wanted to accomplish with what you just said really. And to try to find a way to get there. So that was more or less the way it was done, it was not as black and white. It was the same kind of the result that I was trying to achieve: great songs in those styles, on both of these albums.
But having younger Metal musicians in the line up for sure has helped to reinvigorate the band’s overall sound, right?
Chris: I am not really looking at the age of people. It’s more what they have to offer and their energy and I guess dedication to their craft. Because I’ve been very dedicated to this style of music for over half of my life now, I recognize those similarities. I crave that because I really have a hunger to keep moving forward. If I could find someone that was 80 years old and could write an awesome Death Metal song I’d probably work with him.
Both album were mixed by different engineers. Undead was done by Jason Suecof and Unborn was mixed by Zeuss. Why did you chose Zeuss for the second album instead of working with Suecof again, especially when both albums have strong stylistic connections?
Chris: Oh man! Zeuss is amazing! I had heard other bands say that he’s awesome to work with and I kind of actually wanted to work with him on Undead too but, that didn’t happen, you know? I just get along really well with him and I have really been interested on what his take on some stuff would be. He just got that old school, easygoing feel in the studio. A really easygoing guy to get along with. He really understands the artist’s perspective and believes in what he is doing and believes in what the artist come up with.
And that’s important, it’s important to someone like me to have someone behind the mixing desk that really feels and understands the music that he’s involved with not just someone who is there for themselves and just trying to, you know, to have ulterior motives behind mixing the album, that’s not what this is about. This is about really understanding music and the feel of the album and bringing out the best in that. He’s so in tune with the music and with the band. That’s a hard thing to accomplish.
If you would have to choose one song to represent each album, which songs would be?
Chris: (Laughs). That’s a tough question because the dynamics of these albums within the songs is really what drive them as a whole. It’s hard for me to choose what song really is the best. You know, on Unborn you can say that “Zombie Blood Curse” represents 50% or even 40% of the record. A song like “Alive to Kill You” (written by longtime guitarist Steve Swanson) there’s a lot of things going on here.
I don’t think any one of the songs will really (represent) the whole broad scope of these albums. The whole package between both albums. I can’t say what song I am most proud of. I always go back and forth on songs. That’s why it’s hard for me to say I have a favorite. Like I’m listening to one thing, like a thousand times or watch the same movie for three days straight and be amazed by it but then I go onto another thing that I just really dwell on. So it’s kind of different for me to…
The cover artwork for both albums are steps further towards that sort of ongoing concept that showcases a head with the band logo, this inverted six. It first appeared on Warpath and now artist Dusty Peterson has bring it back again.
Chris: Yeah man! For sure. I appreciate that you had taken the time to notice that, recognizing that. It is, I think that really symbolizes everything and the story line in all the albums. The logo, the six is to me a constant, is the consciousness and kind of a play on the yin and yang. Because in my opinion the yin and yang symbol is joined together in one circle so it’s all a oneness. That’s how I kind of feel about that whole idea, it’s good and evil wrapped up into the mind, into the human thought and that’s everything that comes out of me. It’s just a symbol for that.
So these demons within both of these albums Undead and Unborn, in a different palette, more or less symbolizes the idea of hot and cold, the idea of fire and ice. Just those thoughts and those perceptions about the lyrical content, storyline and presentation within the music.
You’ve been working with Dusty Peterson for several album now. He has become one of your closest collaborators.
Chris: Working with Dusty is kind of interesting because he kind of understands what I see. He understands like, this one fire and this one I want cold dead frozen tones. ‘Cause that’s really how the music is to me and I share that concept of both cover albums.
So, what’s in the future for SFU?
Chris: We are going to be busy and doing this thing and just having a good time. Music-wise, we already got a lot of songs structured out so we are constantly working on those ideas and working on the next step so to speak. It never ends.
Check out the song “Zombie Blood Curse”