It's tempting to wedge Circle of Dead Children into the gore/grind sub-genre: there's the imagery of the band's name, the unreadable thorny-splatter logo, the comical, constipated porcine belchings of vocalist Joe Horvath, and the Napalm Death Scum-era chaotic bursts of speed. However, this Pittsburgh outfit's artistic vision and ambition stretch beyond shock tactics and horror-movie worship, as evidenced by early albums like Starving the Vultures and especially The Genocide Machine, which were a notch more intelligent than most cookie-cutter grindcore bands. The first check in the plus-column for Human Harvest, the group's fourth album, comes via the typically intriguing production efforts of Today is the Day genius Steve Austin, who gives CODC a devastating mix, including his trademark dry-as-a-wheat-pancake bass drum thwap, a clear-yet-clearly-subterranean guitar sound, and a myriad of vocal effects that add different shades of black to cupped-microphone, death metal growls. Sure, most of the songs are of the pull-the-pin-toss-and-take-cover variety, a majority of the tracks clocking in at less than a minute, grinding away at blinding speeds or trudging through waist-deep sludge like Khanate or Grief. It's too bad the vocalizations are so indecipherable, considering the lyrical devastation contained within, apparently excavated from bile and black souls -- "White Trash Hammer" and "Rocket" read like demented haiku, and "Bring Her a Mushroom Cloud (Pt. 01)" and "Alkaline" yield elements of personal despair and political hopelessness; two elements combined to create poetry of the bleakest kind. The band stretches for album highlight "Mother Pig," a four-minute crust-inspired foray into noise experimentation that sounds like Doom consuming Neurosis, Swans, and Carcass for a soon-to-be-expunged brunch. Still, CODC has yet to reach the grindcore mastery of Brutal Truth's Need to Control or Sounds of the Animal Kingdom, because without a scrutinizing listen and a squint at the lyric sheet, the album's half-hour length whizzes by in a blur of chaotic noise and grunting. Human Harvest is worth the effort for grind fans looking for more than blastbeats and hacked-up-for-barbecue lyrical excursions (and be sure to stick around for the "hidden" track, a harrowing two minutes of electro-distorted growls that bring to mind King Kong swallowing a tank armada).
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AllMusic Review by John Serba