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The Harvest Floor

Metal Blade (2009)
Rating: 9.5/10

Many, many years ago I was the editor of an online magazine and one of my writers had been talking with a new label we were interested in working with. He had gotten a package of new releases from them and he was going out of his mind over one particular band. He gently placed the seven-inch vinyl on the turntable and told me that nothing he could say could serve as sufficient warning for what I was about to hear. He was absolutely right. The label was independent stalwart Three.One.G and the seven-inch was Cattle Decapitation’s Human Jerky (1999).

To this day the very same San Diego, California-based band continues to defy categorization every time they release something new. They lead an almost supernatural existence within the generic context of extreme music and their latest offering, The Harvest Floor, elevates them to a new plane of existence. They are so much more than “extreme music”.

The Harvest Floor is an accomplished record. I’m not sure I have ever said that about a record this heavy, but, in a similar fashion to related band The Locust, Cattle Decapitation have gotten much better with age. At first they were a brutal mess that pulled you in out of pure intrigue, but now they pull you in because of their amazing control of their instruments. For example, tracks like ‘In Axestasy’ and ‘We Are Horrible People’ should sound like a sonic mess. There are so many things happening on so many different levels in both songs that they simply shouldn’t work. Somehow the band manages to harness everything, keeping it on a lengthy leash, but a leash none the less. The result is a (gasp!) dynamic, interesting, and wildly brutal duo of songs that rank among the bands best to date. Inaugural track ‘The Gardeners Of Eden’ and ‘The Product Alive’ are excellent as well, allowing some brief melodic guitar moments to seep in and surprise you in the most welcome way.

It’s the atmospheric title track and its follow-up, ‘Regret And The Grave,’ that blow your mind though. After ‘The Harvest Floor’ grasps your attention with its low key, instrumental sound ‘Regret And The Grave’ opens with strings and harmonies before unleashing its inner beast to rip your face off. Vocalist Travis Ryan utilizes what seems like a hundred or so different voices here and it’s downright creepy. Clocking in at about eight minutes total, this pairing could well be called epic. This is a long way from the days when Cattle Decapitation songs clocked in well under a minute each.

If you have never heard Cattle Decapitation before, then The Harvest Floor should be your jumping off point. While Karma.Bloody.Karma (2006) sounded like a band with nothing new to say, this album is the sound of grown-ups reclaiming the unbridled passion of Humanure (2004). The songs are exactly right for once and the band fully realises their potential. The Harvest Floor is the album Cattle Decapitation will be remembered for.

Mark Fisher