Grind’s impenetrable wall of noise – even that of its death-infused factions – is difficult by design, most likely to keep the uninitiated away. The issue, though, is that a wall of noise is fairly easy to create: drummer that can play fast blastbeats, guitarists of varying degrees of skill playing in the upper registers, screaming or growling or gurgling singer, bass player optional. Though it’s true for any metal genre, it seems twice as true for grind: the best grind makes sense of the chaos, eschewing the paint-by-numbers quality of the (tens of?) thousands of unsuccessful blastmeisters. Though Cattle Decapitation may seem like another grindy death metal band riding a gimmick, The Harvest Floor, their latest, is a legitimate achievement, skillfully walking the razor-thin line between chaos and precision. Through 37 minutes of jumping between grind, death metal, and brief forays into black metal, the band never seem to sweat. Making sense of the ridiculous speed grind requires a level of admirable expertise; Cattle Decapitation have the sort of skills that put them squarely at the head of grind’s noisy pack.

Though the band push The Harvest Floor to the level of great metal record by the same means most great metal records do – diversifying their approach – there’s still a lot of vicious, borderline-unlistenable (in a good way) material to savor. The guitars play some substantial riffs, but alternate them with atonal squealing and screeching. The drums propel everything forward, predictably at a pace that usually runs the gamut from fast to blistering. And vocalist Travis Ryan’s only moment of clean vocals come at the end of the CD, by way of a raspy, ragged croon mixed back behind the rest of the band’s ominous eye-of-the-storm calm on “Regret and the Grave.”In fact, the diverse portions of The Harvest Floor – the melancholy arpeggios interspersed throughout “The Gardeners of Eden,” the melodic trudging in the middle of “The Ripe Beneath the Rind,” the female cooing on the down-tempo title track – all feel like preparations for the album’s most brutal portions. And those portions, even without the buildups, are deeply satisfying in their own right. Despite the band’s usual velocity – which, despite grind’s decades-long existence, is still impressive – the music beneath it is worth making out, and definitely worthy of at least a sneer and a nod, if not full on worship.

The band’s unique take on death metal’s gore theme (they’re ardent vegetarians with a violently misanthropic world view, singing more about animal rights than serial rapists or Satanic rituals) is still present throughout the record, both lyrically (which, like most death metal and grind, is obscured by growling) and via samples of what seem to be slaughterhouse noises with people being the object of said slaughter. Though a diet of roots and berries aren’t necessary to enjoy the band’s message (just because one enjoys a plate of bacon doesn’t mean they can’t at least give props to the band’s different perspective on gore), the music also isn’t overwhelmed by it, making their well-crafted, well-executed brand of death grind enjoyable by both the PETA and People Eating Tasty Animals crowds. Though fleshing out a chaotic sound ruined Cryptopsy, it’s only made Cattle Decapitation stronger and more enjoyable, rewarding those willing to wait around until the band drop back in at full force with the intensity of a buzz saw after a well plotted trip to the outer reaches. It’s one thing to play fast; it’s another to control yourself amidst the speed. The Harvest Floor‘s well-thought-out approach produces results both challenging and gratifying.

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(4 out of 5 horns)


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