Six Feet Under is an American death metal band from Tampa, Florida, formed in 1993. The band was originally a side project formed by Cannibal Corpse vocalist Chris Barnes with guitarist Allen West of Obituary. Six Feet Under have released eleven albums, and are listed by Nielsen Soundscan as the fourth best-selling death metal act in the U.S., with album sales over 370,000 (sales numbers are taken from 2003).
After Chris Barnes and Allen West joined forces, they recruited Terry Butler, who knew West from his involvement with Massacre, and Greg Gall, Terry Butler’s brother-in-law. Six Feet Under first played in 1993 at clubs, performing mostly cover songs. The band began writing original material in the middle of 1994. Because Barnes was already signed to Metal Blade Records with Cannibal Corpse, Six Feet Under signed to this label.
Their first album, Haunted, was released on September 1, 1995. Haunted was produced by Brian Slagel (who discovered Slayer) and Scott Burns (record producer) (who discovered Sepultura and worked with Napalm Death, and Deicide, among others). By this point Chris Barnes had made Six Feet Under his main priority. In 1996, in the process of recording the album Vile, he parted ways with Cannibal Corpse.
Six Feet Under’s next release was the Alive and Dead EP on October 29, 1996. A dual studio/live EP, it contains three studio recordings (“Insect”, “Drowning”, and a Judas Priest cover, “Grinder”) and four tracks from Haunted performed live. The band released their second studio album, Warpath, on September 9, 1997. Of note are the tracks “Death or Glory”, which is a cover of the Holocaust song, and “4:20”, which showcases Barnes’ clean vocals and his love of marijuana.
In 1998, Allen West left to rejoin Obituary and was replaced by Steve Swanson. This is the only line-up change that the band had until January 2011. Combined with Barnes’ departure from Cannibal Corpse, the arrival of Swanson helped turn Six Feet Under from a mere side-project to a band in its own right. July 13, 1999, saw the release of Six Feet Under’s third studio album, Maximum Violence. As the name of the album suggests, the lyrics on this release are much more violent than on past releases. The band also recorded a death-metal retooling of the Kiss song “War Machine”.
Maximum Violence had sold over 100,000 copies worldwide, a status that hadn’t been reached for a while for a death metal band during the late ’90s when death metal saw a decline in popularity. It led to some unexpected promotional events for the band. During the summer of 2000, Six Feet Under participated in the Vans Warped Tour, a festival that, at the time, usually featured punk rock bands.
Further pursuing their interest in cover songs, Six Feet Under released an album entirely of covers, Graveyard Classics, on October 24, 2000. The songs were given death metal makeovers in regards to the timbre of the vocals and instruments, but the original riffs and rhythms of the songs were left intact. Songs include Black Sabbath’s “Sweet Leaf”, Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water”, and Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze”.
The group’s fourth studio album, True Carnage (August 7, 2001), was also their first recording to feature guest artists : Ice-T raps while Barnes roars on “One Bullet Left”, and Karyn Crisis joins Barnes for “Sick and Twisted”. The songwriting on True Carnage is more groove-oriented than past songs. The tracks are still crashing and mostly slow-paced, but have less static. True Carnage peaked on the Billboard Heatseeker’s charts at number 18.
The band next released Bringer of Blood, on September 23, 2003. The tuning on this album is very dark and murky. In addition to his trademark guttural vocals, Barnes also began using higher pitched pig squeal vocals on this release.
Graveyard Classics 2 came out on October 19, 2004. This cover album focused solely on the 1980 AC/DC album Back in Black. Allmusic reviewer Wade Kergan remarked that the death metal-makeover on these forefather songs “are equal parts menace and kitsch… Six Feet Under are obviously having a blast as they rip through them”.
Six Feet Under released their sixth studio album on March 21, 2005, entitled 13. While writing the lyrics, Chris Barnes reportedly entered “a vision” from smoking large quantities of marijuana and meditating.
Six Feet Under toured for the majority of 2006 before hitting the studios to record their next album, Commandment, which was released on April 17, 2007. The album works within the band’s formula. According to music critic Chad Bowar, the album has “catchy death metal songs… [that are] crushingly heavy, but also have a great groove to them”. Six Feet Under played Metalfest 2007 tour alongside openers Finntroll, Belphegor and Nile, their most heavily promoted tour to date. A music video for “Doomsday” aired on MTV2’s Headbangers Ball, starting on November 10 of that year.
On December 24, 2007, Six Feet Under announced on their website that they would go to the studio in early 2008 to record a new album. The album, titled Death Rituals, was released on Metal Blade Records on November 11, 2008 in the US, and November 17, 2008 in the UK. Graveyard Classics 3 was released on January 19, 2010.
In early 2011, Terry Butler left to join fellow death metal band Obituary. Drummer Greg Gall had also left. In November 2011, Rob Arnold and Matt Devries posted statements saying they have departed from Chimaira to play in Six Feet Under full-time. However, in 2012, Matt Devries left the band to join Fear Factory, replacing longtime bassist Byron Stroud. The vacant position was subsequently filled by ex-Brain Drill 7-string bassist, Jeff Hughell.
The band’s ninth studio album Undead was released on May 22, 2012. It was also announced on the same day that Rob Arnold would be replaced by Swedish guitarist Ola Englund of bands Feared and Scarpoint. The band says that Rob will remain a central writing partner and collaborator on future Six Feet Under releases. The band released their tenth album Unborn on March 19, 2013. In 2013 guitarist Ola Englund and drummer Kevin Talley departed the band. Marco Pitruzzella took over on drums.
On May 5, 2015, Six Feet Under released their eleventh studio album, Crypt of the Devil. On this release Chris Barnes incorporated Phil Hall, Josh Hall and Brandon Ellis from the band Cannabis Corpse for the studio line up. In April 2015, Jeff Hughell had to step out from the Hatefest tour in Europe and Victor Brandt of Entombed had to fill in as a temporary bassist.
The band released their fourth cover album Graveyard Classics IV : The Number of the Priest on May 27, 2016 with Ray Suhy on guitar and bass and Josh Hall on drums, both from Cannabis Corpse, appearing on the album. In 2016 longtime guitarist Steve Swanson left the band and was replaced by Cannabis Corpse member Ray Suhy.
The band will release their twelfth studio album in 2017. It will mark the debut for guitarist Ray Suhy and drummer Marco Pitruzzella, in addition Jeff Hughell will be recording guitar along with bass for the next album.
Chris Barnes formed Six Feet Under with the intention of writing death metal that wasn’t simply about blast beats and speed. They play a more groove oriented style of death metal, performing slower, or more mid-tempo paced songs than most death metal acts. Barnes’ lyrical style has changed little since his departure from Cannibal Corpse, though the lyrical content is not as shocking as that of his first band. Today, Chris writes about violence, gore and death, with some political leanings, such as the legality of marijuana and criticism of the government.