Released: 2009, Metal Blade Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
Breaking free of the overt Carcass worship that ruled their early works, San Diego’s Cattle Decapitation has taken its extreme death/grind to new heights on THE HARVEST FLOOR. Employing Sunn O)))’s John Wiese and some other unorthodox guest spots to shake things up, the new record follows the path of 2006’s KARMA.BLOODY.KARMA by branching out from the narrow box of breakneck grind and challenging fans to grow with the band. Not to say THE HARVEST FLOOR is Cattle Decapitation’s LOAD or RE-LOAD, as the band is still rooted in face-peeling death metal, but the addition of ambient sound effects, strings and more rounded-out vocals will certainly take a few unknowing listeners by surprise.
Travis Ryan’s vocals have always been the clincher for me with Cattle Decapitation. On THE HARVEST FLOOR, Ryan does it all. “The Ripe Beneath The Rind” is seething with death metal rage but Ryan runs the gamut from guttural roars to pig squeals to mid-range howls. “A Body Farm” is just as dynamic vocally with its blend of screams, roars and growls, essentially opening a chapter in Cattle Decapitation’s sound. But it is the atmospheric “The Gardeners of Eden” with Sunn O)))’s John Wiese contributing ambient effects, that the band pulls out all stops. Blistering guitar runs overflowing with technical prowess mix with the pummeling drums of new skinsman (the band’s third in three years!), David McGraw to generate a lofty piece of music to challenge the band’s core fanbase. Josh Elmore’s guitars really get room to breathe, too. “In Axestasy” is chock full of blazing leads and Elmore lays down a snaky solo on “We Are Horrible People” that takes his skills up several notches. There are wicked grooves everywhere, too, with “The Product Alive” and “In Axestasy” locking in to neck-snapping beats that are excellent, albeit brief, breathers. The lurchy grind and off-tempo patterns of “The Ripe Beneath The Rind” will please older fans as the band starts and stops on a dime, moving between McGraw’s breakneck blasts and slow, punishing grooves. The title track should come with fair warning as a huge departure sound-wise for Cattle Decapitation. Brooding, moody and slow, this one is a very cool ambient piece punctuated by McGraw’s subdued militaristic drums, Wiese’s effects and a haunting guest turn on vocals by Jarboe. “Regret & The Grave” is just as off the beaten path. A cello intro that many will believe is Apocalyptica (it’s actually Jackie Perez Gratz) slowly builds the song up to a fever pitch once the rest of the band kicks in. Melodic guitar runs and mid-tempo pacing get mixed with a brutal slugfest between McGraw and bassist Troy Oftedal for dominance. Behind it all is Ryan’s schizophrenic vocal delivery to seal the deal.
Undoubtedly, Cattle Decapitation will lose some of its die-hard fans unwilling to grow with the band’s sound on THE HARVEST FLOOR. This isn’t a sudden departure as the band moved away from its early gross-out material as far back as 2004’s HUMANURE but THE HARVEST FLOOR is their boldest statement yet. The confines of grind are stifling and it is nice to see Cattle Decapitation fully stretching its wings but not completely losing its sense of what got the band here in the first place. THE HARVEST FLOOR is evidence of a finely-tuned death metal machine getting its footing and leaving its mark on a genre it helped shape.
KILLER KUTS: “A Body Farm,” “We Are Horrible People,” “The Ripe Beneath The Rind,” “The Product Alive,” “In Axestasy,” “Regret & The Grave”