Review Summary: The sound of sanity being ripped away.
To be honest, I wouldn't blame you if you haven't heard of Circle of Dead Children before. Originating as a grindcore group from Pittsburgh, the name alone certainly sounds like it isolates their audience to the special few who are interested in arranging deceased kindergartners into shapes. But if that didn't initially put you off giving one of their several releases a listen then it's certainly not a bad idea to start here with their 1999 release 'Exotic Sense Decay'. Here, you can find a near perfect grindcore release; implementing elements of doom, noise, black & death metal in a fantastically diverse and entertaining mix that is astonishing for an EP that lasts just over 12 minutes.
One thing that certainly sticks out about this EP is that the production levels are just right. They fit the sludgy, delusional atmosphere that CODC create with their own brand of grindcore. Taking the opening track 'Pigeon Vs. Crow' as an example of how well they succeed - there's this slow and empty whine of feedback before the drums come pounding in with a d-beat at the same time as the vocals and guitars roar in an absolutely manic style. The heavy riffs descending in a wonderfully uncomfortable (and surprisingly fitting) pattern, which is largely sustained for the faster moments of the songs on the EP. Later on, the guitarist reaches into slower and more relaxed chords, often allowing the drummer to really demonstrate his skill through some technical drum fills. Aside from these small moments, he effectively blasts away, nailing the speed of songs 'Wotton' & 'Grabbing N' - both lasting under 30 seconds. It's this kind of proficiency that grindcore is renowned for as a genre, and here there's no exception.
All the while, the vocalist Joe Horvath is giving out his ungodly screams, bringing clarity to his disturbing and nihilistic lyrical content, e.g: 'Let the steel be my Christ, let the blood create the path. Ignored like the dead pigeon gutted by the cat, impregnated our babies with psychosis and lamb vomit.' His vocals really give life to how distorted and fractured the reality in the lyrics is being percieved. Even more so, his range is absolutely outstanding; intense pig squeals can be found abundantly across the 7 tracks, his screams reaching into hysterical, emotional shrieks in 'Ten Fingers (My Last Ten Minutes) as well as some seriously guttural growls across the entire EP; at their best during 'Skull Of A Hermit/Brain Of A Faery'. Horvath's vocal style has always been a signature aspect of CODC's music, and is at absolutely no fault here.
But it's not all 'so fast it's like being punched in the head' straight up grindcore. CODC take time to firmly establish the atmosphere on this EP; and that's an aspect that works so well on this EP. Tracks like 'Wotton' and 'Scarecrow Trailer Park' take advantage of this to lay down an almost psychedelic electronic base to the music inbetween the full-on assaults of grindcore and noise. Another good example is the very intimidating fading sound of the bass strumming away in the final track over an ancient sounding audio sample. CODC are very resourceful to solidly make their music their own, rather than anything else otherwise typical of grindcore or death metal. It's a rare feature nowadays, where often grindcore is hard to distinguish from one another.
Circle Of Dead Children have often had a bad rep for their releases, their sparse fan base seeming to leave them in the middle of the road, their signature style typically resulting in their music being misunderstood as mere noise. And so CODC have been releasing albums infrequently over the time since their 1998 inception. However, buy a copy and check it out, you'll find plenty of originality here that makes Circle Of Dead Children a pioneer for modern grind and death metal ever so frequently ignored.