Without diving into clichιs about the highly improbable happening, "Undead" is a fairly enjoyable effort from the notorious and shunned Six Feet Under. The band's track record was, for the most part, utterly deplorable in any decree of rational judgment when stacking the aforementioned group's efforts against Cannibal Corpse and other death metal factions because of the incredibly vapid musical performances and the decrepit, failing gutturals belched out of Barnes' throat before "Undead." The total shift in content really isn't that much of a surprise considering the exile of longtime employees Terry Butler and Greg Gall; Barnes established a new lineup featuring Kevin Talley among others, and their presence here is completely beneficial to every aspect of Six Feet Under's sound. Instead of a pale, withered blueprint, "Undead" is a fleshly and rotten plate of groove-infused death metal, surprisingly good at its unrelenting darkness spawning from the murderous hole within Barnes' imagination of death metal.
The usual Six Feet Under output typically had one semi-decent song followed by an army of abhorrent dung, but "Undead" is quite the opposite. Instead, nine or ten of the anthems are actually coherent and substantial pieces of death metal with a spicy dash of groove when applicable, if you can believe that. To accurately sum up the changes on the musical end, this is Six Feet Under doing what Six Feet Under has always done, except maximizing the aggression to an unseen level. The songs strike hard and with a strengthened sense of conviction despite the innate foundation, and most of them kick at least partial ass. Just beefy, brutal death metal; nothing out of the ordinary, yet certainly fresh and rejuvenated, really. Barnes still sounds a little stale, but his performance strikes like that on "Butchered at Birth" with the clarity of his signature gutturals, and thankfully that 'oink' is seldom used.
Perhaps the new members made the crypt a little more endearing, but regardless of reason, this is quite gratifying stuff. I mean, you know what you're getting into here with the savage yet punching style of groovy death metal; anomalies only exist on the only significant end: the content. The frenzied percussion and riffs growing into the standard groove fare on the noteworthy "Formaldehyde" and the sinister, creepy crawling guitar work slithering through "Blood on my Hands" are easily some of the finest examples of instrumentation penned under the Six Feet Under moniker. Stunningly good stuff, no joke. "Reckless" rocks in a fumbling bulldozer like a good chunk of the record, and there's no absence of this upgraded musicianship throughout "18 Days" and "Depths of Depravity." Some of the ending themes are a little lame, but I'd say Six Feet Under deserves some credit, because lightning certainly does not strike nine or ten times without an ounce of skill.
Obviously, "Undead" has a little baggage, but it is a mandatory demonstration of improvement that I never thought would reasonably happen. If Six Feet Under had had a quarter of the energy and fire here scattered throughout its career, we probably wouldn't find "Undead" so surprising. In fact, there's absolutely almost no debate that this is easily the best record Barnes has been involved with since "The Bleeding" and Six Feet Under's undisputed crowning achievement. Granted, the shedding of skin here won't be enough to truly pacify most of Six Feet Under's critics, but Barnes and friends made "Undead" an unexpected source of cannibalistic violence which captures Six Feet Under in prime form, enough to make a fan who gave up on the squad long ago return and find the bloody bliss so warm and welcoming.