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Cattle Decapitation
Death Atlas Dean Brown , December 2nd, 2019 09:47

Now that we are starting to wake up to the imminent climate apocalypse, Cattle Decapitation seem more prescient than ever, finds Dean Brown

Despite a volume of reported warnings from ecologists and other learned academics for decades, the rapid degradation of our planet at humanity’s hand has now become a hot topic. However, instead of dealing with such evidently serious issues in a productive, inclusive manner, we have done what we always do: split into factions to push disparate agendas and argue in circles, all the while our billowing emissions increasingly tighten their death-grip on our collective throat and everything suffers.

To be fair, we probably all deserve extinction, since we have chosen money as our god and our selfishness gets in the way of creating a better, more sustainable world. This is pretty much the underlying nihilistic stance death/grind phenoms Cattle Decapitation have been firing off about on socially conscious screeds such as 2004’s Humanure (replete with striking vegetarian friendly artwork of a cow defecating human remains), 2006’s Karma.Bloody.Karma and on a grander scale, the rightfully acclaimed Monolith of Inhumanity (2012) and its follow up, The Anthropocene Extinction (2015).

As we reach boiling point – environmentally and socio-politically – Cattle Decapitation’s conceptual message has never been more timely. "The core concept of this record is humanity's insignificance despite what we've convinced ourselves," explains vocalist Travis Ryan in the press release accompanying the promo. "That's kind of why this album cover takes place in space, to remind you that 'the universe always finds a way to purge’. In the grand scheme of things, our species is merely a fleeting thought."

While you gaze into the void in existential agony while pondering that terminally bleak quote, you could do a lot worse than rip through Death Atlas (a true contender for death metal album of the year) at high volume to try drown out the gnawing silence of our worthlessness. Written primarily by Cattle Decapitation’s core trio of Ryan, Josh Elmore (guitars) and Dave McGraw (drums) – Belisario Dimuzio (guitars) and Cryptopsy’s Olivier Pinard (bass) joined during its creation – the band’s sound has never been as instrumentally refined or as atmospherically vast as it is now, on career-best LP Death Atlas.

Hyperspeed blast-beats and sweeping double-bass runs syncopate with razored tremolos and seismic tech-death riffs as 'The Geocide' erupts in world-shattering fashion following the tense, filmic intro of 'Anthropogenic'. The pacing of the album from thereon out is perfect. Strategically placed mood-pieces reflecting the album’s concept give the listener a needed reprieve from the aural bombardment resulting from technically dazzling, yet hook-laden and structurally unique tracks such as 'Be Still Our Bleeding Hearts', 'Bring Back the Plague' and Morbid Angel-trapped-in-a-blackhole maelstrom of 'With All Disrespect'.

Even those relentless additions to Cattle Decapitation’s canon, however, have subtle layers of keyboard added to the bombast, and coupled with Ryan’s multi-headed vocals – guttural growls, Dani Filth-esque banshee shrieks, the occasional pig-like gurgle, and the much more prominent use of his extra-terrestrial cleans (which sound like alien vocal cords dissolving in a vat of acid) – the dynamism is next-level for death metal. Ryan even manages to convey a profound sense of despair and resignation with those distinctive vocals of his, particularly during the album’s emotionally heightened closing moments ('Time’s Cruel Curtain' and the title track), and his ability to craft outstanding hooks in a band that runs the gauntlet of every extreme metal style you can think of is hugely impressive.

With Death Atlas, not only have Cattle Decapitation managed to equal anything put forward by metal’s best in 2019, they’ve created an album that will stand the test of time, just like the masterworks of their inspirations – Carcass, Napalm Death, Suffocation, Death and beyond. But most interestingly of all, there’s a striking impression that they can top this excellent record in the future. That is of course dependent on whether or not we become immolated by a natural inferno of our making in the meantime...

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