The fine cats that are Cattle Decapitation have been flying their extreme flag for an astounding 23 years, evolving dramatically from their simplified gore-grind roots to the progressive death metal/grind/black metal/doom/everything behemoth that they are today. From the release of their 2012 Monolith Of Inhumanity opus, the band have become a phenomenal force of nature and sound within the metal community, and the four-year wait for their new album, Death Atlas, has kept fans on their toes.
The constant theme throughout their years of music has been very much an eco-friendly (less emphasis on the ‘friendly’ part) view of the world around us, mostly from an animal perspective, and regarding the human race as being much further down the food chain than they would like to be. With this new album, they have painted a bleak and honest portrait of Planet Earth 2019, focusing on the climate crisis and the dark reality that we and our children are faced with, utilizing everything from the melancholy artwork to the darker-than-thought-possible melodies to help push the message home. It’s not something that will appeal to the headbangers that just want tunes to slam to, but Cattle Decapitation has provided a soundtrack to the ecological war ahead which will make far more of a lasting impact on those willing to listen.
Check out the amazing short film of “The Unerasable Past” by Wes Benscoter here:
For the most part, nothing drastic has changed musically; the group still create a wall of impenetrable sound with furious riffs, soul-destroying percussion, bowel-removing bass, and vocals that lay waste to, well, pretty much everything. That said, Travis Ryan utilizes every inch of his incredible vocal range, one that now dominates everything from an impactful clean tone to the shrieking, growling monster that we’ve heard before. This, in conjunction with the huge atmospheric landscapes and spoken-word pieces (one of which is by Jon Fishman of Phish fame), makes for a claustrophobic yet liberating listen.
All the songs on offer have their own personality, but it is the title track which closes the album that will get folks talking. One of their longest songs ever at nearly ten minutes, it runs the gamut of their influences, from pounding intensity through eerie passages and into a darker, starker sound. It is easily their most adventurous and progressive work and one that gives us a clearer idea of where they might be headed on the next release. Whether or not this will please the punters is neither here nor there – this is a statement by a band that knows what they want, don’t play by the rules, and will stop at nothing to get their message across. And that’s something that deserves kudos all-round.
If I had one qualm with the album on initial listens, it’s that it felt about ten minutes too long and was quite a lot to take in one sitting. But once you’ve been on the journey a couple of times, the bigger picture becomes clearer and the music opens up to reveal a message that needs to be shared, housed in a harsh cocoon of distortion and brutal metal. With Death Atlas, Cattle Decapitation has made an album that will sit comfortably next to the best in their stellar discography and will reward handsomely with each repeated listen. In a dying world that desperately needs a wake-up call, they might well be the ones to make the espresso, kick us out of bed, and slap us in the face; and that’s what makes this one of the most important records of the year.
Unfortunately, it seems we’re “One Day Closer to the End of the World.”
Death Atlas Track Listing:
01. Anthropogenic: End Transmission
02. The Geocide
03. Be Still Our Bleeding Hearts
05. The Great Dying
06. One Day Closer To The End Of The World
07. Bring Back The Plague
08. Absolute Destitute
09. The Great Dying II
10. Finish Them
11. With All Disrespect
12. Time’s Cruel Curtain
13. The Unerasable Past
14. Death Atlas
Run Time: 54:58
Release Date: November 29, 2019
Record Label: Metal Blade Records