Almost every fan of death grind knows this album. Probably one of Cattle Decapitation’s most well-known albums is To Serve Man. After a few years of being one of the biggest underground goregrind band, Cattle Decapitation started adding in a touch of death metal to create the sound that now has them being the top opening act on almost every tour they don’t end up headlining. For a lot of goregrind fans at the time, this was their first real taste of death grind music because a lot of the hardcore grind bigots that I’ve talked to are not very big fans of Dying Fetus, Misery Index, Lord Gore, and other death grind bands at all. But then again, the 1998-2002 period was pretty much when death grind really started getting big. So it’s possible that Cattle Decapitation decided to jump in on the action and see what they could do. Well, as far as I’ve heard, there weren’t any complaints upon the release of To Serve Man. In fact, this was Cattle Decapitation’s breakthrough album before Humanure took their popularity to the next level.
Well, with other bands like Skinless, Fleshgrind, Exhumed, Lord Gore, Wormed, and Severe Torture starting to play this mix of death metal and grindcore around this time period, Cattle Decapitation couldn’t have started this at any better time. So they were really just in the right place at the right time. Unlike some of the bands that had a much more prominent death metal sound in their music, Cattle Decapitation still had A LOT of their original goregrind sound in their music, sort of like how Lord Gore ended up. So this record in particular acted as a transition album that bridged the gap between their original sound and the ever-expanding sound that they currently have.
The nasty gurgling of the vocals on this album (and pretty much every Cattle Decap. album to be honest) is one of the things that stand out. Travis stays true to their musical roots and manages to build around the style he’s already built up instead of doing something completely different. One of the things that’s particularly respected about these guys are the lyrical themes. For a lot of bands, when they go through a change in musical style, there’s also a change in lyrical themes. As if the really gory and violent pro-vegan themes weren’t apparent enough on Human Jerky and Homovore, To Serve Man isn’t any less explicit. The fact that Cattle Decapitation went through a style change without changing anything else is something that isn’t seen often and I really respect. Even if it’s a band that I don’t like that much, it’s still something that’s somewhat hard to do.
Although Travis already did this in Homovore, To Serve Man is where he started using a wider variety of vocal styles, and the number of the different styles he uses gets bigger and bigger with each album. This was the album where everyone was getting their bearings before they mastered their signature sound in Humanure. But you start to hear a lot more shrieks and vocal layering on this album to help satisfy those who love their goregrind sound.
The drums are tamer on To Serve Man. There aren’t very many blast beats at all, which makes the overall sound of the music less intense and not quite as brutal. But their drummer still manages to create some very innovative and memorable drum patterns and fills that end up inspiring other future death grind and grindcore bands. A lot of people out there will generalize anything having to do with grindcore with blast beats. This album helped remind people that grind doesn’t always need ridiculous drumming. In fact, it’s the vocals that take the front of the line here. So the vocals definitely help make up for any possible loss of brutality (as if there’s any at all). Back to the drums, there are faults present. Although the drummer does an excellent job of creating intricate and unique patterns, they all have the same vibe. This and the guitars make everything sound monotonous throughout the duration of the record.
Which is kind of true, almost all of the songs on To Serve Man sound the same; the songs blend together a little too much. If there were some more unique guitar solos or breakdowns thrown into some of the songs, it would be much easier to tell the songs apart. But here, the only song that I would consider to be different from the rest is Testicular Manslaughter because of the audio clip at the beginning. But even that isn’t saying much because it still ends up blending right into the next song without changing. This problem was very quickly fixed with the following album, Humanure, so I’m not going to complain much since everything else about To Serve Man is fantastic. This album gets my score of 15/20. If you’re new to these guys, I would not recommend choosing this as your first Cattle Decapitation album. But all Cattle Decapitation fans know that this is an easily likeable album.