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MAXIMUM BARNES: 
An Interview with Chris Barnes of SIX FEET UNDER

By Alicia Downs

    Itís pretty damn safe to say that Chris Barnes has made a solid career out of scaring the hell out of parents, politicians, and pansies with his music. Back in the days of CANNIBAL CORPSE even Bob Dole waged war against the dude - not to mention that fact that listening to anything he imagined was enough to taint my sense of normalcy.

    After his CANNIBAL stint, Barnes moved on to concentrate full time on his former side project, SIX FEET UNDER. Now, eight years and six albums into SFU, Barnes and company are awaiting the August 7 release of their newest offering "True Carnage" in order to prove that some things - including a flair for beyond brutal music and atrocious lyrical concoctions - never change.

    Now years after my first CANNIBAL experience and engulfed in a world I would have never imagined putting in the "what I want to be when I grow up category," I sat at home waiting for my phone to ring on Friday the 13th knowing full well that soon, Chris Barnes' thoughts were going to be on the other end of the line.

    Upon listening to the three tracks off of the advance promo EP of "True Carnage," a few initial impressions stood out.  For starters, the new album is heavier than the band's other works. "True Carnage" might be best described as a combination of extreme, mammoth, heavy, and brazen, at least until Websterís gives me something that is heavier than heavy.  Secondly, Barnesí vocals are still harsh barking tales of disturbance, but they come across even more inaudible than usual, translating that his vocals have progressed to be about as heavy as the music. Which is pretty damn heavy indeed.

    All massive, heavy metaphors aside, Barnes noted that the sound on the album is not only heavier but also brutal. "Itís just the next step and we know whatís going on with our sound and what weíre doing.  Weíre more focused sound-wise and I think whatís added to it sounding heavier was that we tuned down to A and dropped the vocals down a few steps." 

    After Adam West (co-founding member of Six Feet Under and Obituary guitarist) left in 1998, Steve Swanson stepped in.  "True Carnage" is his sophomore effort with Six Feet Under. Barnes attributes much of the brutal dynamic resulting from Swanson settling in as guitar player and writer, resulting in some charismatic combinations between the two.  Barnes also recognizes Swansonís ability to appreciate where Barnes writes from and catering his playing to that sound. The result is a project where both players feed each otherís intensity.  

    The most obvious talked about aspect of this album aside from the mammoth playing will undoubtedly be the combined forces of Barnes and rap guru Ice-T on track "One Bullet Left." Barnes said that about half way through "One Bullet Left" he was asked who he might like to work with. He thought of Ice-T immediately.  Barnes holds a high respect for Ice-Tís musical and social accomplishments, saying, "I think he has said, next to Bob Dylan, some of the most important things in the 20th century."  To Barnes it seemed like a natural combination for the two non-conformists known for outlandish aggression to combine talents even if it was unexpected. The result is a track that features the aggressive rap tactics of Ice-Tís raging emotion running parallel to Barnes. 

    While most death metal fans may have closed out any familiarity with Ice-Tís value in the musical community, the track combines the idea that no one hath more fury and aggression than an Ice-T/Barnes combination.  "One Bullet Left" easily reminds those familiar of the unapologetic vehemence Ice-T unleashed from the now infamous "Cop Killer."

    Barnes dismisses any comments shunning the idea of a combo between death metal and rap worlds figuring that some people will get it and some wonít. For the most part he feels like true fans will be open to it and "like it a lot because [Ice-T] says something pretty brutal and if they have any brains theyíll like it."

    Now, for those of you who requested this topic be brought up (and you know who you are) I now promise the others reading this that this is the last time I will again ask any musician what they think about Napster. Quite frankly, I am bored of the topic and - with the exception of the few fans that were curious - does anyone else really care? Now that I have gotten that out, Barnes said that he is really just indifferent about the whole thing, "Iíve never downloaded anything off Napster so I donít know. But I donít see it hurting us too much.  Iím neutral on the whole thing.  People are going to do what they are going to do anyway so - whatever - if they want to go out and buy it they will."

    Back to something I actually give a damn about. I asked Barnes about the new boom of mainstream attention to death metal via Morbid Angel touring with Pantera. Six Feet Under also got in on the action playing for audiences at last yearís Warped Tour. While Barnes said that some audience members were "totally, fucking, like 'What is that?!" others got it. However, Barnes fesses up to really enjoying the tour because he spent most of his time "high as fuck."

    But if the Warped Tour does not appeal to your senses for catching death metal acts, fret not. Barnes confirmed that they will be promoting "True Carnage" with a United States tour kicking off sometime around September 20. (Exact details can be found as they are confirmed at http://www.sfu.com). At the moment, the tour is scheduled to include Dimmu Borgir and Napalm
Death.


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