Sound — 7
Death metal and grindcore enthusiasts are undoubtedly already familiar with Cattle Decapitation. The San Diego band was founded in the mid 90's and they've released several critically acclaimed albums throughout that time. The Harvest Floor is the group's newest effort and instead of slowing their frenzied pace down, they've only gotten sicker with age! Obviously out to prove his might, new drummer David McGraw checks in with a breakneck performance. He attacks his snare drum with bloodthirsty abandon on tracks like on the relentless opener, The Gardeners of Eden. His work here easily puts in the same class as guys like Dan Wilding (Aborted) and Brian Harvey (Pig Destroyer). Producer Billy Anderson (Brutal Truth, Sick of it All) highlights the separate players and performances enough to have them stand out but he never loses grasp of the fine songwriting the band have obviously honed over the last couple of releases. Anderson also doesn't overdo things leaving enough thickness in the guitars to set the album apart from the endless flock of synthetic sounding metal albums coming out these days. The only drawback, sonically speaking, is the clicky bass drum sound but McGraw's expert playing more than makes up for it.
Lyrics — 8
Cattle Decapitation is made up of four vegetarians and their lyrics have always reflected that. If anything, their views towards humanity's consumption of animals have been nothing short of vitriolic. They still manage to often inject some humor into their songs but with music so harsh and intense in nature, it would be easy to miss it if you didn't have a lyric sheet in front of you. On The Harvest Floor humans are victimized in some truly ghastly acts of violence. On Tooth Enamel & Concrete vocalist Travis Ryan growls, pain like you've never felt before/your face instantly grated and scraped along the sidewalk/chiseled up, filed down and a concrete crown. Ryan's performances are pure unadulterated brutality here yet he somehow still squeezes out a few decipherable lines here and there. Not only does he possess one of the most guttural vocal styles around, he also unleashes a higher pitched, demonic voice in specific spots that jump out of the speakers like ravenous dogs. His approach on We Are Horrible People is proof alone that the singer will stop at nothing to get the band's message across. No matter what the consequences of his singing methods have on his throat in the long run.
Overall Impression — 8
Josh Elmore flexes his veteran chops throughout The Harvest Floor. He shreds like no one's business but more importantly, his command of riffing and rhythm in general is superb. The way he chops up the main refrains on Into the Public Bath will leave listeners breathless. Elmore is the ideal match for McGraw's thunderous drumming because his picking hand seems to know no boundaries. Having been around the underground metal circuit for quite some time now, Cattle Decapitation are part of a large family of bands keeping the scene fresh and thriving. To mix things up a bit, the band have invited some outside guests to contribute to the recordings. The most compelling has to be avant-garde artist Jarboe (ex-Swans) who lends her bewitching voice to the epic title track. These are the kind of left-field ideas more death metal groups should have the guts to try. In the end, The Harvest Floor is the sound of an assured act firing on all creative cylinders. Even though it's still so early in the year, this one will probably make the best-of lists come December.