Playbill

But this gore-metal group can be trusted in the kitchen. It brings to mind the "Treehouse of Horror" episode in which the Simpsons discover that, all along, the aliens just wanted to fix them some food. Blow some dust off the band's To Serve Man CD cover, and it reads To Serve Veggie Meals for Man.

Well, no. Actually, the title track says: "Men, women and children shall be strung / Sliced from hands to feet / Innards save for a tasty treat / And beaten profusely to tenderize the meat / Choice cuts from the slaughter / Husband, mother, daughter / Dead families kept together / Their hides made into leather."

Like most of Cattle Decapitation's material, vegetarianism is taken to antihuman extremes. Musically, the group travels to an equally remote end of the spectrum. All jackhammer jolts, bludgeoning breakdowns, treadmill-set-to-death drumbeats and straight-razor riffs, with robust rhythms that rattle rib cages and vocals that approximate projectile vomiting, the group's choppy songs embrace the most brutal aspects of various virulent heavy-music subgenres.

Early records such as Human Jerky and Homovore took a traditional animal-rights stance, spelling out slaughterhouse atrocities and declaring meat to be repugnantly unhealthy. In disgusting detail, Cattle Decapitation described foul stenches and oozing bodily fluids, savage strikes to the senses that could make Ronald McDonald switch to bean curd. On To Serve Man and Humanure, Cattle Decapitation loses patience and decides to massacre mankind. The lyric sheets resemble cannibal cookbooks.

Cattle Decapitation ends Humanure with nine minutes of unspeakably ominous noise from a slaughterhouse floor. Like the most haunting horror films, it's menacing because of what it leaves to the imagination. All the track reveals is an eerie industrial clamor, some sickly squishing and an occasional anguished yowl. But the mental picture it conjures is even worse than the group's grotesque satirical scenarios.

Though it ends on a sobering note, Humanure isn't without comic relief. Cattle Decapitation draws humor from its subject matter (the human-roadkill rant "Pedeadstrians"), wry wordplay ("Trying to grab your gas mask / An uneasy task / When your pubis is dismembered from your abdomen") and fluent ventures into office-speak ("Your request for a pleasant death has been denied") and infomercialese ("The human / So many uses / Once drained of its juices / Perfect for home, boat or office").

But even more absurd than the group's lyrics is the fact that many fans take them at face value.

"Some people actually think we have something against animals," Ryan says. "Like, they'll walk up to us and say, 'Fuck, yeah, decapitate them fuckin' cows!' "

Although the group's pitch-black wit is refreshing, its nonfiction adherence to its antihuman stance is even more compelling. Lurking behind the songs' slasher movie-style stage blood is Ryan's belief that the world would be a harmonious utopia without humanity's interference. Slipknot's cosmetic nihilists use the slogan "People equal shit" to foster us-against-them camaraderie with their self-esteem-starved "maggot" fans. Ryan posits the same equation as the ultimate solution to earth's crisis. When people are nothing but fertilizer, a fate he believes to be inevitable, nature will reign.

"They're trying to give the kids something to identify with," Ryan says of Slipknot and its ilk. "I'm actively alienating everyone who walks around on two legs. My angle is more like 'I hate you, and there's nothing you can do to redeem yourself.' "

Dig in! -- Andrew Miller Tuesday, January 25, at Mary Jane's Fat Cat, 4216 Washington Avenue, 713-869-5263. Earlimart and Pedro the Lion

If the California indie rock realm were a high school, you might say that Earlimart's main man, Aaron Espinoza, was being primped for the position of prom king. After establishing himself as the go-to production/recording don of Los Angeles's east side -- by means of running with the likes of Grandaddy, the Breeders, Folk Implosion and the late Elliott Smith -- Espinoza caused a splash with 2003's Everyone Down Here, and sustained it with a diet of steady touring back and forth between the coasts. While his band's latest, Treble & Tremble, continues in the same soft-sung, psychedelic pop manner found on Everyone, what results is a more personal, tender record, dealing with themes of loss and alienation: Espinoza's proximity to Smith is clear throughout, and the record is admittedly about episodes leading up to and surrounding his death. But regardless of the tragic attachments, the string-laden codas, juicy acoustics and subtle electro-drums interrupted by the occasional Ringo-fill make for a stunning album.

Sticking with the high school theme, Pedro the Lion front man David Bazan would be the -- what exactly? -- Young Life president? Naah, he'd be a band geek and founder of the C.S. Lewis fan club. Still, it's another literatus, namely Arthur Miller, who seems to have had a hand in shaping the cast of Pedro the Lion's latest, Achilles Heel, full as it is of gambling-addict husbands, faithless lovers and joyless amputees. It's a dour crew, all brought to life through Bazan's just-secular-enough-to-sell coo and midtempo balladeering that nearly evoke (gasp) a B-list Coldplay. The gems ("A Simple Plan," "Discretion") pit uplifting melodies against lyrical melancholy, and eschew Bazan's usual God-fearing parables for blurry impressionism. Even when Bazan takes to the pulpit in "Foregone Conclusions" ("You were too busy...to hear the voice of the spirit begging you to shut the fuck up"), the slowed vocals distract from his proselytizing. This subtlety makes for an evocative (if mixed) set of messages, without the Sunday-school aftertaste. Thank God. -- Abigail Clouseau and Nate Cavalieri

Sunday, January 23, at Mary Jane's Fat Cat, 4216 Washington Avenue, 713-869-5263. Early show: Doors open at 2 p.m.

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