To Serve Man

Cattle Decapitation

Metal Blade Records, 2002

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Let's put the bold statement out on the table right at the start of the review: Grindcore is dead. Finished. I don't recall hearing a new idea in this genre for at least the last five years. These are not the ramblings of an anti-metal crusader; this is coming from someone who fell in love with the glorious noise that is Napalm Death when I was in college, and who still enjoys metal with a lightning-fast backbone.

But grindcore - at least these days - leaves out one major key... namely, songwriting. More often, it seems like bands are playing fast just because they can, and they back it up by throwing in unintelligible grunts and lyric sheets filled with concepts which would make Stephen King puke.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Cattle Decapitation is today's example of what I'm referring to. To Serve Man, their debut release, is touted as being a macabre masterpiece. What it comes off as being, at least to my ears, is a whole lot of nothing. Mindless head-bashing songs with no structure thrown into hyperdrive is not songwriting. At least early grindcore bands actually tried to throw a little skill into their work.

David Aster's trap work is less drumming than it is machine gun fire, rarely deviating from a set pattern which could have been programmed into a robot to play. Bassist Troy Oftdeal is heard one time, and then is so badly distorted that his contributions to this disc are minimal, if not non-existent. Guitarist Josh Elmore never seems like he's given a real chance to show whatever talents he may have, trapped in limited song structure that gives almost no room for true soloing. And vocalist Travis Ryan? Well... let's put it this way. If I had even understood one word of what he was saying, I'd probably still be upchucking, especially after reading the lyric sheet. (Then again, one doesn't pick up a disc with song titles like "Land Of The Severed Meatus," "Testicular Manslaughter" and "Colonic Vilius Biopsy Performed On The Gastro-intestinally Incapable" and expect to hear Romper Room-type songs.)

When you get right down to it, it's not the lyrical content that bothers me - Lord knows I've heard enough doing this job where I've got about the same iron-clad constitution as Jack Klugman in Quincy, M.E. It's more the poor approach to the whole process that Cattle Decapitation takes in regards to their music. There isn't enough musicianship to make these songs interesting. Morbid Angel, for example, writes songs which not only have the occasional lyric you can understand, but have some real structure. There is an actual tune behind the musical ferocity. Anyone can throw a guitar down the stairs to make it sound musical; it takes a real musician to make that chunk of wood sound good when you play it fast. Cattle Decapitation has yet to learn this.

If you're offered To Serve Man, tell them to take it back and bring you something that's well done.

Rating: D-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2001 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Metal Blade Records, and is used for informational purposes only.