I may be slightly deranged. There’s something about absolutely awful music that just makes me laugh uncontrollably, especially when an album gets regarded as a cult classic because of how bad it is. To this day, I still throw “My Pal Foot Foot” by The Shaggs on Spotify playlists (even just to sadistically taint them with hilarious outsider music). An absurd number of records like this are lost in the ether of talentless mediocrity, but I also can’t help but think something genuine actually went into the art these musicians attempted to create.
It’s as easy to find objectively bad music these days as it is to find objectively good music, and this week’s record, “Nightmares of the Decomposed,” by American death metal band Six Feet Under, might be one of the funniest listening experiences I’ve steeled myself through in quite a while.
Most of the humor attributed to “Nightmares of the Decomposed” is reserved for vocalist Chris Barnes (whose best work isn’t in Six Feet Under, a band which has been together for over two decades, but rather when he was briefly the vocalist for the earliest 1990s Cannibal Corpse albums, which are classics of the genre now). There are almost too many comparisons one might make to Barnes’ vocal delivery on this record, but the one that caught me instantly was from the painful entirety of the track “Zodiac.” Barnes sounds like a patient who’s recently survived throat cancer and although his doctor has repeatedly told him he can’t—and shouldn’t—scream or growl anymore, Barnes nonchalantly dismissed this, as if to say “What? There’s no problem—if anything, I sound more menacing now.”
Musically, I can’t say anything that doesn’t make Six Feet Under come off as the most diluted, by-the-numbers bland death metal band on the planet. I don’t know if Barnes deserves extra recognition for suggesting he’s still a capable vocalist or if he deserves to be incriminated for it, but regardless I can’t help but laugh hysterically when his vocal cords, strained from years of poor vocal training (and metric tons of marijuana smoking), literally squeal like a baby piglet on tracks like “The Rotting.” I’m amazed the rhythm section doesn’t match how cheesy and embarrassing Barnes sounds, but this is where I’m reminded that “Nightmares of the Decomposed” was meant to be taken seriously, and some of the fun is ruined. Or is it?
I don’t think I’ll ever listen to another Six Feet Under record in my life, and it’s hard to believe that “Nightmares of the Decomposed” was my first. In fact, I want to keep it that way, because this record is now special to me because of how laughably bad it is. So much so that listening to Six Feet Under’s normal records that sound unabashedly normal (for death metal, that is) would poison my personal enjoyment of what Barnes & co. have given to the world. This excruciating, humiliating, yet wonderful disgrace.
Listen (or maybe you shouldn’t) to “Nightmares of the Decomposed” by Six Feet Under on Spotify