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Circle of Dead Children

Human Harvest
Martyr Music

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Radio-friendly nu-metal may rule the airwaves and the minds of the young and impressionable. But the authentic metal underground continues regardless, unabated but also mostly unheralded. If there's one Pittsburgh-area metal band that readers of Terrorizer and Metal Maniacs are likely to be familiar with, it's a trio which avoids many of the typical head-banger stereotypes -- they don't have long hair, they don't sing about Satan, and they don't drink blood or mope about in mist-shrouded Nordic castles. (Though they do have an unreadable logo.)

With the jump from Willowtip -- a label aimed at the hardcore punk/death metal crossover contingent -- to more traditional metal bastion Martyr Music (which has its base in Pittsburgh but a European partner in Holland's Hammerheart), Circle of Dead Children has migrated into territory staked out by legends in its field of hybrid death/grindcore, such as Napalm Death and Carcass. They have dropped their membership from five to three, losing a bassist in the process, so the results are not quite as spectacularly low-end as on Starving The Vultures, but satisfying nonetheless due to the production work of Today Is the Day's Steve Austin.

The chops remain intact. CODC wastes no breath with ponderous epics, as they blaze through scorching leads, machine-gun blast beats and harsh, grinding distortion in song after brief song, topped by the alternating banshee-shriek and Lucifer-growl of vocalist Joe Horvath. "Mother Pig" careens very nearly into total noise freakout, while tracks such as "King Cobra vs. Queen Bee" retain a semblance of hardcore roots from the circle pits of yore. Dillinger Escape Plan followers and Relapse Records fans can relate.

As always, the lyrics aren't about imaginary demons, but real evil -- the impending environmental apocalypse, engendered by the downward spiral of human suffering and corporate greed, as told succinctly on "Rocket" ("We hide behind what we create / But this time the product shall consume / And shit us back to what we once were"). From ashes arise to ashes return, and CODC sees no hope or consolation other than our ultimate destiny as worm smorgasbord. A bleak outlook, to be sure, but realistic -- and one only decipherable via lyric sheet. Recent events have indicated that CODC might be going through either a terminal breakup or a radical phase change. Given that they're poised to ascend, that would be a shame, but suffice it to say that should that comes to pass, Harvest would provide a fitting epitaph.

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