Chris Barnes’ outfit Six Feet Under has been rather prolific throughout its career, with eight full length albums, one EP, and now three cover albums, all in fifteen years. As is the case with most death metal bands, of course, minimal progression has really been made, and their later work sounds marginally different from their earlier stuff (partly thanks to a change of guitarists). Still, Six Feet Under has had a few ideas unique to the genre, the first and most obvious being the heavy groove they incorporate into their brutal death metal approach, and large abandonment of high speeds. Another was their choice of covers; while most other death metal bands would cover Venom, Possessed, or some other progenitor of the general extreme metal genre, they would cover groups like Thin Lizzy or the Monkees. After a while, they put out 2000′s Graveyard Classics, which was a well conceived all-covers project, and sounded good. Ten years later, they’ve slapped together ten more covers with Graveyard Classics 3, and by now it’s become clear that this particular idea has well worn out its welcome.
Despite the clear intention of these covers, they’re played very faithfully, and nothing really new is tried with the exception of Chris Barnes growling the vocals instead of singing them, which of course for this band is nothing new at all. The most interesting song here is their take on the Ramones’ Psychotherapy, for the obvious reason that the Ramones are the only band on Graveyard Classics 3 who are really out of Six Feet Under’s element. It’s impressive that they’re able to take such a fun, sarcastic song and make it sound so menacing; lines like “Gonna kill someone” and “I’m gonna burglarize your home” are taken so out of context that it deserves mention. After all, the best covers are usually those that take a completely different perspective with a song, rather than attempting to simply replicate it.
Still, as mentioned before, the covers are largely too faithful to be very compelling. Even songs the listener may not be familiar with still sound like Six Feet Under, but not; A Dangerous Meeting (Mercyful Fate) and Metal on Metal (Anvil) are clearly Eighties metal, where the Metallica (Frayed Ends of Sanity) and Slayer (At Dawn They Sleep) songs are just that. Of course, this is not intended to be an artistic statement, just the band cutting loose and having fun playing favorite songs, but it just doesn’t feel like it had to be released as an official full length. Especially when they did this much better the first time around.
While Graveyard Classics 3 is mostly mediocre, some covers are just plain bad. Van Halen’s On Fire sounds incredibly tired and boring, but the worst by far is Prong’s Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck. This was the one I was personally most interested in hearing, and it was the most disappointing. The band’s version has absolutely no edge, and it’s hard to believe that Chris Barnes and co. couldn’t think of more creative things to do with this song. Despite being heavier than the original, it sounds strangely watered down, and listening to Chris Barnes imitating the background screams from the original with his own high pitched howls is a hard thing to not laugh at.
Not to call Six Feet Under a lackluster band, because as far as their genre is concerned they’re perfectly adequate, but the gimmick of giving older songs a death metal flair has gotten old, particularly as the theme of an entire album. It certainly was a good idea when they first did it back in 2000, but by now (and especially after the somewhat bland second volume, which was a reinterpretation of AC/DC’s Back in Black album) it’s lost its charm, and coming from a band who is unquestionably talented but also undeniably past their prime, it’s nothing that merits more than one or two listens.