Chris Barnes has established himself as a cornerstone in grind and death metal formed through his seminal performances with Cannibal Corpse and extensive work with Six Feet Under. While many who have had such a mighty impact on metal may rest on their own accomplishments, Barnes is quick to dole out recognition of his own influences via the ongoing Graveyard Classics series. He and his Six Feet Under brethren use this forum to present their own readings of songs that were pivotal in his own development, most of which set the course for heavy metal in the early days.
Graveyard Classics IV: The Number of the Priest, the newest installment in this series, features five Judas Priest classics and six Iron Maiden staples, all delivered in Barnes’ inimitable style. But don’t go looking here for Priest’s mainstream “Breaking the Law” or Maiden’s overplayed “Run to the Hills.” Instead, Six Feet Under stab to the heart of each of the legendary bands with the former’s “Starbreaker” and the latter’s “The Evil that Men Do,” among other covers of similar ilk, all selected for the album by Metal Blade head honcho Brian Slagel.
While the notion of the Graveyard Classics series is noble, to say the least, the results, particularly on this fourth installment, are lukewarm – even awkward – with Barnes’ distinctive growl riding atop uninspired instrumentation. It is as if they decided to meet in the middle, somewhere between the classic arrangements of the originals and the death growls that are trademark in their own sound. It is confusing, and tracks like “Night Crawler” and “Prowler” would have been served better if Six Feet Under would have gone full death metal with head-shearing aggression, dirty chugs and lobotomizing blast beats to accompany Barnes’ guttural croaks.
Graveyard Classics IV: The Number of the Priest is interesting, to say the least, but Six Feet Under stopped short of fully burning their own indelible brand on these classics. Instead, they deliver a series of cover songs that are played with a safe approach by a band and a man whose reputations are anything but safe.
Graveyard Classics IV: The Number of the Priest is out May 27 on Metal Blade Records. Pre-order it here!
SkullsNBones Rating (Out Of 5):