Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Six Feet Under - Decade in the Grave (2005)

If Decade in the Grave bears some passing similarity to the 2003 Cannibal Corpse boxed set 15-Year Killing Spree, then congratulations: you are one sane and rational human being. Yet, Chris Barnes and crew have actually attempted to one-up his alma mater with 5 discs rather than the four found in the Corpse-camp. Metal Blade have done a bang up job with the packaging, once more, and I actually found that the cover art to this compilation is the best of Six Feet Under's career, even if it's just some undead gravedigger standing in a pile of bones. Of course, Cannibal Corpse have traditionally written some damn fine music, while Six Feet Under are fans of sucking, so the actual value of the audio content is not nearly on par with that, but if you're one of those 6FU diehards or chuggalos who worship the mundane ground the quartet are trampling upon, then this is something of a substantial bone being tossed in your direction.

Of the five discs, the first two are a mere 'greatest hits' package, which translates to sheer and unrequited uselessness on a truly corporate scale. Since Barnes has maintained strong relations with Metal Blade, there were obviously no licensing issues, so you'll find quite a selection from the six full-lengths and the band have thankfully left off the covers from the Graveyard Classics series, or their earlier Alive & Dead EP. Considering that a large percentage of the band's music is immediately disposable, then this is very little cause for excitement. Reprinted drivel. And the selection here is questionable, with the band leaving off some of their better songs like "Human Target", "Bonesaw" and "Shortcut to Hell" completely in favor of more laughable selections at every turn. Also, I cannot understand why material has been included from 13...it had just come out some months prior to this. A little too soon to double dip?

Once you've gotten past these, then the material is something more along the lines of what fans would probably want out of the boxed set. Disc 3 contains the demos and sessions from the Haunted, Bringer of Blood, and True Carnage albums, all of which are less inspiring than the final studio versions, but at least are not direct reprints. There are a pair of songs here which have been included from the 13 sessions: "A Knife Fight to the Death" and "From Flesh to Bone", which are performed with that same post-Obituary, semi-thrashing appeal that dominates the album, and arguably would have been fit for the official release just as much as some of the cuts that made it. Lastly, Six Feet Under have chosen to include the entire live bonus disc from the Maximum Violence album, half-decent sounding and welcome for those fans who do not have the re-release that originally included it.

By far the best part of the compilation comes with disc 4, which contains both of the Leviathan demos (Legions of the Undead and the '87 rehearsal). This was Chris Barnes' band prior to joining Cannibal Corpse, and there were a few early Malevolent Creation folks in there. They played a brutal form of splatter speed/thrash metal which was quite good, a mix of the rampant aggression of Slayer, Kreator, Destruction, Possessed, and Dark Angel, with splatter sounding vocals redolent of crossover gods Cryptic Slaughter or The Accused, with a little spin of Mille Petrozza (Kreator). Barnes' vocals here were FAR better than the cheesy snarls he uses throughout the 6FU catalog, and frankly I would be glad to plunk down the cash just to attain these two demos on a single disc. Tunes like "Violent Slaughter" and "Lamentation of Death" kick some serious ass, and its a wonder that band didn't go a greater distance.

Finally, there is the DVD, which collects the band's official videos with a few live performances. The videos themselves are pretty weak. "Dead and Buried" and "Shadow of the Reaper" show the typical narcissism of the band rocking out, while a few of them have some narrative being interspersed amidst the headbanging through actors, and then some like "The Day the Dead Walked" have a bit of makeup and special effects. Cheesy shit, nothing to write home about and nothing interesting in any way. The live spots are taken from the Full Force festival in 2004 and a Berlin, Germany performance from 2005, and honestly these are not half bad. The band gets into the gig, Barnes even speaks a little German, and the songs don't sound wholly abominable in that setting, at least not on this disc.

Decade in the Grave feels pretty complete for a boxed set, due only to the wealth of material involved, but of course it could have been a lot better. Perhaps released without the rehashed compilation discs, but just demos, rarities, and the video content, it would be less weighted with 28 annoying reprints. Then again, most of the 'demo sessions' disc could also be scrapped. Most of the points I'm awarding this are for the Leviathan demos (which are great) and the DVD live performances, which are the only things here worth caring for. That said, the rarities and bonus tunes on the Cannibal Corpse set were are superior (like their Razor cover), and even though that's still choked with redundant crap, it's a better purchase than this.

Verdict: Fail [4.5/10]


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