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You can see it as jumping on the bandwagon, but this release seriously deserves the overall amount of praise it has had. In this review I plan to justifying why this praise is due. I first discovered Cattle Decapitation a few years back upon hearing their release "Humanure". I was drawn in by their views on animal rights and their approach to death metal. That's right, I'm a vegan, I eat rice cakes, live on tofu, hug trees on Sundays (and the occasional bank holiday weekend), eat disgusting "raw" chocolate bars and irritate hardworking chefs when I enter their restaurant.
Anyway my diet aside, this album should be appreciated by any fan of death metal regardless of agreeing with the band's lyrical content. Everything to do with Cattle Decapitation throughout their history has improved, if one were to play their early material (such as "Human Jerky") and then listen to "Monolith Of Inhumanity" you would not be blamed for recognising them as two different bands. Whilst their early works showed a passion for music and competent performances, it was not until "Humanure" that these guys started to prove themselves as a worthy name in the death metal scene.
Many people seemed surprised by this release, however upon listening to their development from "Humanure" to "The Harvest Floor" it was obvious to me that their style was changing. This release is essentially a development of "The Harvest Floor", we have Travis Ryan's demented vocal performance, insanely fast drumming and interesting guitar-work from Josh Elmore that doesn't stick to the traditional style you expect to hear in a death metal album.
However this time around these guys had some tricks up their sleeve. "Monolith Of Inhumanity" has an incredible atmosphere surrounding it. This atmosphere is partly due to the occasional quieter sections, a great production sound and an effective incorporation of melody into their sound.
The first noticeable change from listening to this is the vocal performance. Travis Ryan is a highly versatile vocalist. He goes from traditional death growls, brutal death metal "croaks", black metal rasps, souring high pitched screams and a newer technique which is a strangely haunting type of clean singing. The sheer versatility of the vocals on this release is enough to keep any listener interested as you never quite know what filthy sound will be spewed from Travis's mouth. Vocally, another impressive aspect I want to elaborate is the use of clean vocals. I am usually cautious of clean vocals in certain styles of metal. The forced transition from screaming to singing in metalcore is one of the many reasons I personally hate the genre. This is not to say I hate clean vocals in metal, I just find it hard to see clean vocals working in more extreme forms of metal. This album however proves me wrong, the clean vocals in this album add to the incredible atmosphere. Take the track "Kingdom Of tyrants" for example. The vocals in this track create a very haunting chorus to this song and it it is hard to deny the power conveyed as the line "Here in the garden, we know not what we do" is delivered upon the audience.
Having (gristle) licked Travis Ryan's arse enough, let us not forget the guitar-work of Josh Elmore and the bass playing of Derek Engemann. The guitar parts of this track have seriously improved. This is imagine is due to Josh Elmore seriously developing his song writing and Derek bringing along a new musical input into Cattle Decapitation. Either way throughout this album there is some incredible guitar-work, we have faster and more technical riffs, groove oriented riffs, strange melodic cleaner ideas and even the lone "slam". All these different approaches to song writing add to the versatility of "Monolith Of Inhumanity". However having many styles of riff does not instantly make a decent song, these guys manage to pull it off without it feeling disjointed. To further explain the impact of Derek joining the band, the bass playing is very creative, you will often hear the bass rearing its ugly head and breaking away from Josh's guitar playing.
Onto Dave McGraw's drumming, from hearing "The Harvest Floor" I knew his performance would be impressive. This time around he has developed his creativity behind the drum-kit, incorporating a more "jazzy" styled approach. He will often go from blast beating to using complex gravity blast sections and complex yet fitting fills. An important factor to his drumming is he knows when to hold back and simplify his playing in order to aid the other performers. I would like to analyse his drumming further, but I have always found the drums to be the hardest instrument to describe, you really have to hear this album to appreciate Dave's drumming.
The overall production is flawless, every instrument is heard. That's right, this is a modern extreme metal album WHERE YOU CAN HEAR THE BASS GUITAR. If you have read any of my other reviews, my usual complaint when it comes to production is a bass guitar buried into the mix. Another positive aspect regarding the production is in relation to the clean singing. The clean vocals are improved by the use of effects (I think it is reverb and delay, but I may be very wrong) that create a very haunting and abysmal feel to the parts. As I previously mentioned, the use of these vocals is perfect in "Kingdom Of Tyrants", you will have to listen yourself to understand what I mean.
Overall "Monolith Of Inhumanity" is a straight up masterpiece. I would recommend standout tracks but it is very hard to do as every track is very strong. If I were forced too, I would say "Forced Gender Reassignment", "A living, Breathing Piece Of Defecating Meat" and the epic "Kingdom Of Tyrants" are the best on offer here. These tracks all sum up this cd perfectly, the effective use of groove, the sheer virtuoso technicality needed to play this shit and the incorporation of melody into Cattle's sound.
I think that just about sums up my opinion of this album as I have arse-licked it quite enough for one day and I wish to return to my humus and nut cheese sandwich before I return to tree hugging and alienating myself from the rest of society.
This is truly an amazing release that took me off guard. I have listened to most of Cattle Decapitation's older work and liked it, but was never amazed in any sort of way. In search of better death metal, I eventually forgot about Cattle Decapitation and never listened to the Harvest Floor, which is where I would have noticed an enormous progression and would have had an idea of what was to come.
Monolith of Inhumanity greatly builds upon the ideas of the previous album and refines them to create their most experimental, melodic, brutal, and best album yet. There are multiple unexpected twists in this album. Just from the first track, “The Carbon Stampede”, it is clear that this is a different Cattle Decapitation with more atmospheric qualities, variations of tempo, technical virtuosity, and unorthodox vocal techniques.
The musicianship on Monolith of Inhumanity is superb and everything is audible thanks to the excellent production, which thankfully is not overdone. The drums, for the most part, are blast beating away, but occasionally deter from the standard deathgrind style by slowing things down, sometimes for extended periods of time, such as on “Forced Gender Reassignment” and “Lifestalker”. Altogether, the drumming is nothing short of impressive, and somewhat original. Dave McGraw has more than proven to be a useful addition to the band.
Josh Elmore is a phenomenal guitarist and it really shows on this album. Monolith of Inhumanity is littered with gritty, intense, and original technical riffs. Similar to the drumming, the guitar slows down at times, which helps to create dark, ominous, sinister, and downright nasty atmosphere in combination with the faster, technical parts. Sweep picking is present throughout the album on tracks such as The “Carbon Stampede” and “Gristle Licker”, but is never abused. Far too many technical bands use sweep picking as a crutch for a lack of creativity and thankfully Cattle Decapitation is not one of those bands.
Derek Engemann, the bassist and newest member of the band, proves that he is a force to be reckoned with, his fingers relentlessly plucking away for the majority of the album. The bass, like the guitar, is technical and showcases a gritty/muddy tone; however, I wish that it was a little more audible at times, my only real gripe with Monolith of Inhumanity.
The vocals on Monolith of Inhumanity are epic; Travis Ryan has proven himself to be one of best death metal vocalists out there. Travis Ryan possesses quite a large vocal range encompassing standard death metal growls, brutal death metal gutturals, inhuman screams/snarls, and these extremely odd melodic vocals, a new edition to the Cattle Decapitation sound. These melodic vocals can be found on, but are not limited to, “Kingdom of Tyrants” and “A Living, Breathing Piece of Defecating Meat”. In addition, the vocalist for Devourment, Mike Majewski, does guest vocals on the track “Projectile Ovulation”. His ridiculously low gutturals, which can be likened to the sound of a garbage disposal, greatly compliment the track’s overall intensity. Overall, the vocals are nasty, non-conventional and fit in well with the rest of the music.
Structure, however, is just as important as musicianship. Without structure an album of this technicality will sound like a giant clusterfuck of random sweeps, riffs, and blast beats. Thankfully, this album is well-structured. Each tempo change, riff, solo, and melodic break fits in perfectly. Hell, there is a jazzy break towards the end of “Do Not Resuscitate” before exploding into a short, chaotic guitar solo and it works perfectly; the transition is flawless and it throws the listener off guard. Even the instrumental track, “The Monolith”, compliments the final track, “Kingdom of Tyrants”. It is obvious that a lot of effort was put into the songwriting as opposed to completely forgetting about the songwriting process and adding as many technical riffs and sweeps as possible to show how skilled the band members are.
Lyrically, Cattle Decapitation is as good as they have always been. Their lyrical themes for Monolith of Inhumanity include the havoc that humans have wreaked upon animals and the environment, the devolution and extinction of humans, and anti-Christianity. The lyrics paint a grotesque picture and the vocabulary used to purvey this message is quite decent.
Everything comes together perfectly with Monolith of Inhumanity: the musicianship is superb; the songs are brutal, well-structured, and surprisingly melodic at times; there are no filler tracks; and, most importantly, the album is original. This is an album that deserves to be listened to in its entirety. Do not skip any tracks, they are all standouts. This truly is the pinnacle of deathgrind and one of the best metal albums of 2012.
Every once in a while I’ll come across pictures of cattle decapitation posted by animal rights activists, captioned with some commentary about eating steak or wearing leather, as a grotesque means to illustrate their point. Most people consider that excessive and tasteless, even gross, something that few revel in and most choose to ignore. The band is appropriately named, as popular fodder among extremists that is habitually ignored by others.
Think of Cattle Decapitation as a cow, and each section as a steak. The music is divided into many thin cuts of riffing, very brief blasts of drumming and short riffs that rarely last more than ten seconds. Delicious steaks? Not quite. More like thin sandwich steaks that need to be seasoned and cooked properly, lest they turn out tough and rubbery. They have been chopped up and cross-cut to make the tough meat more palatable, but they’re overcooked until they have the same texture as a regulation hockey puck. They took something that once had great potential, butchered it into small pieces, then overcooked it as much as they possibly could.
The most severe butchering on this album is the slurry of guitar work. There are countless brief, disjointed bursts of guitar playing, a mix of tremolo picking and power chords, but they never find a real groove because they’re too quick to jump to another riff or egregious blasting section. The bass does the same thing too, opting for random, disjointed licks when it stands out. I suppose one could say the riffs don't have enough meat on the bone. This band can’t take a cue from a band like Suffocation and write riffs that are what riffs need to be - memorable. The bursts are too short and disjointed, they rarely last long enough to grab you and hit hard. There seems to be little consideration with each piece as to it’s placement - whether it comes before or after another and how that frames it. An example of this style done well is Suffocation’s “Liege of Inveracity”, a song so well done that nearly an entire subgenre is built off of imitating it. There’s a really simple, groovy breakdown riff that you’ll never forget once you hear it, the riff before it stands well on its own but frames it perfectly, and the song breaks right back into it’s business after it’s brutal savagery is complete in due time. Cattle Decapitation do none of this, rather they put together as many licks as they can in short succession, lessening the potential impact of each and blurring all of them together into an amateur collage of ideas.
One of the more tasteless offenses against riffing is the random use of sweep picking as a riff. The same five string arpeggio patterns that every guitarist uses are not a riff, they shouldn’t be used as a riff, and they’re really stale. They can be used well, but it’s a cherry on top, not eating a whole jar of maraschino cherries. Sure, most people will eat an entire jar of them in one sitting once or twice, just like every once in a while you just want to hear some ridiculous guitar wankery or dumb it down by hearing an album full of breakdowns, but 99% of the time, the classic cherry on top of an ice cream sundae is the tastiest way to have it. If it sounds good, it sounds good, and even one that’s not assembled that well can satisfy the craving. Sweep picking and single-note chugging are things that are no good on their own, rather they need to be placed tactfully in the composition. This is more like a Mexican omelette with frozen meatballs and stir-fry vegetables thrown into the mix because they all sound good at one time or another.
The drumming is the most painfully synthetic element of this album. Constant blast beats and double bass are necessary components of extreme music, but they serve mainly to highlight how much a disjointed mess the compositions on this album are. While heavy use of triggered drum samples is a producer’s friend and can help achieve a cleaner sound in some cases, when the drummer’s approach is sheer speed, it sounds obnoxious and unnatural. It’s the same kick and snare drum samples, played a hundred times per minute each, whacking back and forth without variation. While I’m sure the goal was to make an unnaturally perfect, crystal-clear sound, that’s a really poor fit for this type of music, and mechanical blasting at high speeds is the most soulless lullaby of modern death metal that can’t have any death because it’s mechanical rather than human. Sure, a human drummer hits the drums and the triggers register all of those hits, it’s edited, and it sounds mechanical. Even a drum machine in death metal can sound alright, as old school Swe-deathers Comecon did, but it will only be acceptable if it’s not overused to make a mechanical drum sound an attraction. It just sounds like an electronic mess here - their blast beats sound more like a dumb gimmick like bass drops than a drummer hammering away hard and fast at a drum kit.
The vocals are another disappointment. They’re fairly consistent and controlled, but their consistency is also complacency. These growls are not at all emotive, they’re not captivating, they’re just monotonous vocals polished in a certain style. Technical terminology aside, vocalists like Frank Mullen sound guttural, adding a sick, deathly feeling to the music. David Vincent sounds evil and commanding, like an ethereal nightmare or the dark lord’s right hand man himself. Martin van Drunen sounds tortured, doomy, even horrifying. Travis Ryan’s vocals don’t have the extra dimension of personality, they don’t spew forth the essence of the music or drive the feeling of the music. There isn’t even much of a feeling to the music, it’s plastic, polished, and emotionless. Hammering, mechanical, and percussive, but those are only attributes of death metal, not the essence. The essence of death metal is nowhere to be found on this album.
This album is a disjointed collage of fast drum beats and unprepared guitar pieces that are thrown together into a forgettable blur. It’s not prepared well, it’s not seasoned right, and the plastic production and drum sounds are overcooked to an unpleasant extreme. This album left a bad taste in my mouth.
“Monolith of Inhumanity” is absolutely insane. Cattle Decapitation are a Californian deathgrind band known for both their message and their sheer brutality. Their songs mainly contain lyrics about the mistreatment of animals and the perverted nature of the food industry, something shown by their name and titles such as “Human Jerky” and “To Serve Man” as well as covers of records like 2004’s seminal slab of grind “Humanure” showing a cow standing in a pile of faeces containing bloody human remains. The music itself has progressed over time, constantly advancing and refining itself. From debut “Human Jerky“s frantic grindcore attack with plenty of tiny songs under a minute in length to the heavy relentlessness of “Humanure”, they have always shown themselves to be a very capable band with plenty of remarkable aspects, not least singer Travis Ryan’s formidable vocals. 2009’s “The Harvest Floor” however took this to an ever further level, and has to be one of the best deathgrind releases ever. Elements of melody were added into the songs, which served not to water them down but to actually intensify them, adding splashes of atmosphere to their already ferocious songwriting. “Monolith of Inhumanity” is a direct continuation of this, and true to Cattle Decapitation style, it’s gotten even more gob smacking.
These are some of the most schizophrenic songs of their career, songs like “Dead Set On Suicide” and “Forced Gender Reassignment” going from section to section with extreme urgency and intensity. The songs are also very diverse, not simply being solid blast beats for three minutes like many grind bands. From opener “The Carbon Stampede” to the last seconds of track 9 “Your Disposal” there is no holding up for breath (apart from a grisly sample within “Dead Set On Suicide"), as your eardrums are repeatedly assaulted by the visceral attack. This changes however on track 10 “The Monolith”. This song is an album highlight, and shows that Cattle Decapitation are capable of doing a lot more than slicing your face off. From the slow guitars to the half spoken word, half sung vocals from Travis, the entire song is a very creepy and interesting interlude that shows Cattle Decapitation’s willingness to experiment and move outside of the box, before ripping into utterly mindblowing album closer “Kingdom of Tyrants” which is easily the best song on the album.
Throughout the record, the musicianship has been stepped up considerably. Josh Elmore’s guitar work is superb, coming out with some of the best riffs of his career and the occasional solo, especially impressive when you realize he is the only guitarist in the band. The rhythm section is as tight as ever, bassist Derek Engemann even coming out with an Alex Webster-esque bass solo in “Dead Set On Suicide”. David McGraw once again shows the sheer creativity when it comes to his drum patterns and the relentlessness essential to extreme metal drumming that made him stand out so much on “The Harvest Floor”. His fills on this album are fantastic, such as the intro fill on “Projectile Ovulation”, and the blast beats and double bass drumming are exceptionally powerful. As for Travis Ryan, he once again shows himself as one of the best vocalists in the history of metal. His range is absolutely phenomenal, using more vocal styles on this album than most singers will ever get through. He performs some of the lowest, most guttural growls of his career and then within seconds, can switch to a shriek higher than most black metal vocalists. His bestial roars and piercing screams alone would be enough to place him very high on a list of the best death metal vocalists, but one of “Monolith of Inhumanity“s biggest contributing factors to its sheer madness are the bizarre “clean” vocals Travis performs on many songs, such as “Kingdom of Tyrants” and “A Living, Breathing Piece of Defecating Meat”. Part scream, part squeal, part singing, they are brilliantly strange and unique, and are used to blistering effect on this album. They sound genuinely alien, and when used alongside his lows and screams make it sound as if there are multiple different vocalists in this band.
Deathgrind has never been known for its atmospherics, but not only do Cattle Decapitation serve up a mainly instrumental interlude full of atmosphere in “The Monolith”, but in the mid-section of “Kingdom of Tyrants” slow rhythms and Travis’ bizarre scream-singing combine to make a very atmospheric offering slap bang in the middle of an aggressive grind song. The very last minute of “Kingdom of Tyrants” proves to be the best single minute of the entire record, as build up, blast beats, blistering guitars, and every single form of Travis’ fantastic vocals fuse into an absolute musical masterpiece. “Monolith of Inhumanity” is a perfect example of how to do ear-battering grindcore properly, being able to incorporate atmosphere and melody into it without losing an inch of its brutality, and showcasing buckets of originality and creativity with it. Cattle Decapitation are a band who deserve your attention, and if they keep making albums like this they are bound to keep on going up and up in a genre which contains no one on the same level as them.
San Diego's Cattle Decapitation is not a group I've ever been able to build much of a connection with in the past. This isn't simply because of my fundamental contradistinction to the dietary politics and anti-human ranting which informs most of their lyrical themes. Hell, if concurrence with the philosophies, religion, or ethical practices of musical creators was some mandatory qualification for my patronage, there would be painfully little music in my collection. No, most of their albums have always thrown up a purely musical barrier for me, since they originate from a tradition of grind and post-metalcore extremity which rarely seems to hinge on distinct, memorable songwriting or the multitude of noteworthy riffs I generally seek out in any metal niche. Oh, they've got them: a million fluttering, crashing and whizzing around each set of songs they've spawned, but most seem to blast past me with little fanfare, dangling off my earlobes for a few seconds and then plummeting into the food disposal like so much meat, bone, and gristle.
That said, it would be an injustice to ignore the band's enormous leaps forward in production, songwriting and musical ability over the last decade, since they've intensely refined and defined their skill set to the point at which they'll give just about any progressive or technical brutal death outfit a run for its money. That point is Monolith of Inhumanity, hands down the band's most impressive musical manifestation to date, and one that dwells upon the edge of the envelope in terms of its mechanical, meticulous attention to detail. Where this album succeeds is in its sheer, flesh-shearing variety. Callous, inhuman fits of celerity and aggression are surged against shores of slower, grooving bombardment, wherein all manner of modernized death/thrash outbreaks are stored to infect the listener before returning to the full-scale forward charge. The production here is as polished as you'll find anywhere in the current proliferation of brutal death/grind, but rather than gimp the extremity, it only serves to enhance it further. There are blast beats and double bass patterns on this record executed so precisely that your ears will bleed, but at the same time you can make out each of the inestimable guitar progressions, which range from lightning mute-streams to denser, shining, dissonant chords that function off influences as wide as black metal and jazz.
In all honesty, I wouldn't be surprised if David McGraw were given some sort of 'drummer of the year' award for his performance here. It's nothing unique, perhaps, but that's the worst you could say of it, because the man is essentially a new model of the human metronome, his technique so fast and flawless that he's liable to discourage (or further inspire) a younger generation of skin bashers. Even through the album's most eloquent, atmospheric moments (the bridge of "Lifestalker" or "Kingdom of Tyrants", for example) he keeps the battery so harried and head-spinning that you really have to wonder if he's really just using the music of Cattle Decapitation as a front for his nefarious scheme to track down and murder a young incarnation of John Connor. The other hero of this outing is long-term stringer Josh Elmore who offers us a dexterous and dynamic sortie of licks that cover a pretty broad spectrum of death metal, grind, black metal, metalcore, groove and thrash chops. To be perfectly honest, only about half of these riffs are really any good, and the rest a pretty bland canvas of predictable and prepackaged formations you could find on many similar albums (or paraphrased from his own earlier tunes), but I definitely won't argue that he's come a long way in keeping a listener engaged for more than a choice few moments.
Elsewhere, the album wasn't so attractive to me. The vocals are a garden variety configuration of rasps, grunts and deeper gutturals you've heard countless times before, occasionally apprenticed by some earnest, grimy, dystopian cleaner tones that recall a band like Gojira or Darkane. Despite Elmore's quality as a player, the leads lack impact. The bass player is obviously great, but he's only given a few measures through the album in which he can really shine. His tone and technicality are spot on, yet he is simply buried by the exhilaration and momentum of the drumming and guitars. As I mentioned before, there are quite a number of patterns and riffs here which simply don't stand up across multiple exposures. I'd call out a lot of the accelerated bursts, honestly. I often felt like this album functioned more on a statistical sense of strength and finesse than emotional resonance. Not to the point where you feel its content is as robotic and disaffected as something like Brain Drill, but certainly it is borne on that same assumption that its audience is more interested in being impressed by the instrumentation than any enduring songwriting, which is why when the band lurches into a moody, atmospheric, apocalyptic piece like "The Monolith", it stands out so much from the remainder by virtue of its aesthetic differences.
In the end, while I was interested enough to go out and actually buy the album based on clips of what I'd heard and the recommendations (and requests) of a number of folks, I did not wind up thinking it the salvation of death and grind that several seem to espouse. Structurally, it's a technical marvel that one might appreciate like a work of impossible industrial artwork in some metropolitan courtyard, but beyond that my own reaction to the Cattle's music was lukewarm. Blindingly well-executed, and certainly a league past earlier albums like Humanure or Karma. Bloody. Karma. Loaded to overflow with lyrics of civilization's collapse due to its carnivorous consumer-culture. However, it almost unanimously lacks any facet of menace or evil in its construction that I so desire when listening to death metal of any stripes, old school or new, musically or lyrically. I just don't feel any more doomed or desperate here than I do listening to an Al Gore sermon. A taut, vice-like, acrobatic escalation from the band's backlog, but unlikely to compel many more spins from me in the coming months.
MAN! 2012's been a hell of a fucking year. We have been witnessing albums being released by countless bands whom are familiar to us which is what made this year amazing from a music viewpoint, and relevant overall. One band I'd like to mention is the band Cattle Decapitation(obviously). My god I never thought I would say this, but this band has hit a new point in the death grind genre by combining all their influences and culminating it into this mammoth release that I consider to be their magnum opus and overall their best release since their predecessor "The Harvest Floor"'. This is one strong contender for album of the year along with Reign Supreme by Dying Fetus
The album name really justifies the fact that this band has something awaiting for you that will leave you mentally scarred for a while. If that wasn't enough of a hint, the album cover manifests the kind of reaction you'll most likely get at the end of the listening experience like I did.
In the past, Cattle Decapitation's overall production sound was very muddy and you could hardly hear anything that would kill the musicianship going on. Although it's gotten better with the album prior to Monolith, this one sounds a lot more crisper and I think that was one of their intentions for this 2012 release.
The art and craft this band creates on this album can be simply be put for lack of better words, and that is these guys show no remorse or regrets to showcase their true potential abilities put into this record. There's hardly any breaks and it really shows how talented these guys are from Travis Ryan's predator haunting vocals, to the melodic guitar shredding finger acrobatic skills of Josh Elmore, to the groovy audible bass new comer Derek Engemann showcases, and Finally the thunder powering animal-like drum machine that is Dave McGraw who manages to be consistent with the albums sound, and unsurprisingly, steals all the spotlight. You're attention will most likely be garnered on his insane drumming abilities which truly manifests himself as one of the best drummers in today's music scene.
The band has also matured tremendously since their last release by being more diverse than their predecessor which is a strong conviction because I thought it was impossible for them to top it. They also have incorporated a lot more progressiveness into this one as it's notable in most of the songs on here so it gives it a pretty nice touch and adds a lot to the music. As mentioned before, this album has no give for your soul at all due to the fact that it's a full force wrecking ball ready to cause your ears to bleed, and tear your speakers from its uncanny, unexpected brutal inhumane sound. One more thing to mention this is not a typical "Brain drill" album where all you hear is random fast noise. No, this is one of those extreme death grind albums where everything is coherent, clear in terms of music, and at a tolerable level. If that wasn't enough, this album also incorporates some kick-ass grooves in the half part of the majority of the songs which are awesome to head bang to.
I don't know how much I can praise this album other than the fact that this is the best Cattle Decapitation has ever put out. Forget about remembering this band by their early material because those are irrelevant, and this one makes up for all those mediocre attempts which is very distinctive from all of them on so many music levels plus their last one(which was the only album at the time before this one that I enjoyed by the band). Overall if you've been living under a rock listening to generic death metal that is getting to the point where you can't find any diversity or brutal inhumanity from a band, well look no further than Cattle Decapitation. If you're new to this band, start with their last album and this one. If not, than you are really missing out on one of the greatest bands in today's modern metal scene.
Hailing from California, Cattle Decapitation are an adamantly pro-animal-rights death/grind band who have been steadily releasing material for the past decade. This spring, they released their fifth full-length, Monolith of Inhumanity.
After years spent building a cult following of vegans and environmentalists, Cattle Decapitation may have just broken through with one of the defining masterpieces of grind. In comparison with their rough previous works, this album is mature, diverse, and perfectly willing to take its time crafting atmosphere. The musicianship is razor sharp on all fronts. The guitar blasts out crunchy riffs psychotically when it has to, but it can also produce sparkling solos and mellow, gloomy passages. The drums are as fast and ferocious as anyone could ask for, providing a relentless energy which drives the record forward. The distorted bass goes wild just beneath the blistering guitar assault, fleshing out the sound perfectly. The vocals range from angry shouts and shrieks to demonic roars with equally stellar effect, and some eerie spoken portions crop up as well. Also, strewn throughout the record are these extremely gritty but not quite growled singing sections which present an unusual sound in a grind release and which really round out the gruesome vocal excellence on display.
What strikes me most about this album is that even though the band slows down in places and provides more distinction, progressive instrumentation, and atmosphere than the vast majority of grind or death/grind records out there, the end product is still unbelievably savage. The quiet passages and the shifts to slower tempos highlight the brutal ferocity of the rest of the record, giving you the same gut-wrenching anticipation as the long ascent at the beginning of a massive roller coaster. And like the coaster, there's a still moment at the top where you can feel yourself cresting the peak, then the wild rush of excitement as you careen downward into chaos.
I really can't recommend this album highly enough, which is saying something since I'm not the biggest grind fan in the world, and I've honestly always found this band slightly annoying in the past. But this is, put simply, the best death/grind album I've ever heard. If you have even a passing interest in death/grind, get this album. It may well go down as the new high-water mark in that style.
(Originally posted on beardsetc.blogspot.com)
Ye gods, what a whirlwind of filth! It’s a pleasingly rare happenstance to find a death metal album that feels intrinsically unique, a beacon of individuality in a storm of sameness that also does nothing to betray the established archetypes of genre. Indeed, Cattle Decapitation are planted firmly within the established bounds of their constituent influences, those being technical death metal and grindcore, respectively. However, the way they utilize these building blocks is unlike anything we’ve yet seen, blurring the boundaries and sculpting their own filthy icon, brick by brick. The end result is a mentally unhinged, brutal, and dare I say progressive take on their chosen stylistic marriage, eliciting reactions of fear, excitement, and pure disgust at the resplendent decrepitude of this malevolent monument.
The only new addition to the Californians ranks since 2009’s The Harvest Floor is bassist Derek Engremann, whose muddy, quivering tone is appreciably even in the mix, and the man has the skill and fortitude to match the decrepit heroics surrounding him, his flippant, filthy, finger-fucking gymnastics finding their place and then some in this roiling morass of sound. The riffing is absolutely insane, but we’ll get to that in a minute. What truly needs focusing on here is vocalist Travis Ryan, who has without compare developed the most interesting vocal style I’ve heard in years. Yes, his gurgling lows and shrieking highs have continued to grow stronger, as they have in every album prior, but now he bellows out this unsettling, inhuman… I hesitate to call it ‘clean’ vocal style, but he really is singing, powerfully and on-key, sounding like some disheveled apocalyptic mutant bellowing to the sky on top of some corpse-strewn altar of damnation. It’s so weird, so different, and so unbelievably fucking filthy, it adds a seriously strange weight to the generally whirling, slamming, grinding predilection of Monolith of Inhumanity. That’s perhaps the most fitting title imaginable, I must say. In every aspect, this is a fucking Monolith of Inhumanity.
The Carbon Stampede begins the proceedings by crashing the gates to all the worlds’ sewers with a heavy, crushing doom-inspired riff, and then rides the resulting tuberculosis tidal wave onto the unsuspecting dregs of humanity, crashing down and brutally grinding them with interminable percussive force. Dead Set on Suicide channels pure Napalm Death at inception, then morphs into its own compellingly strange hurricane, splattering your life in beautiful, diseased filth. A Living, Breathing Piece of Defecating Meat is a smelly, poignant, fist-pounding anti-human manifesto, full of grinding bravado and an unforgettable vocal melody in its chorus. Forced Gender Reassignment is as unrepentantly psychotic as it sounds, musically and lyrically crafting a tale of riveting horror. This is the sound of sociopathic insanity, beyond anything else I’ve yet listened to, barring perhaps the dementia of Anaal Nathrakh. I simply cannot do justice to just how involving, how utterly fucking sick, this is.
Gristle Licker is a cannibalistic nightmare fraught with wild leads, taking turns between slamming you with nihilistic, hammering riffs and grinding you into powder with sections of mechanistic intensity. Projectile Ovulation is as insane as it sounds, simultaneously hilarious and despicable in its attention to rancid detail, pointing out the filth that humanity brings to this world, while including some chuckle-worthy levity.
“The uterus as a weapon
A gross underestimation of vaginal deception
Human reproduction: a massive stimulation of biological
Grounds for accusation and total annihilation
Bleeding and breeding in need of some terminating”
Lifestalker is like an epic sci-fi masterwork, featuring melodies that wouldn’t be alien to an Obscura album, slowing down to a crawl as it floats through unknown, indescribably strange galaxies. Perhaps the best of all is the closer, Kingdom of Tyrants, a looming compositional tower draped in skulls and internal organs, the character that Ryan’s vocals evokes standing on the peak, dealing out scalding death to the scarred, wasted landscape. I could go on, I really could, endlessly bestowing each track with adjective raimants, but I think the point is beyond proven. Monolith of Inhumanity is incomparably sick, completely insane, simultaneously grinding your soul into oblivion and managing to be spirit-blazingly epic in its quest for humanity’s collective torn throat. Every sequence of genre-blending notation builds fantastic images for the vocals/lyrics to roam free in, like some psychotic musical blood ape roaming fields of gore, mountains of desecrated human remains to feed upon and create unholy, unthinkable garb, the sky a sickly eternal orange, the devastation complete as far the eye can see.
Monolith of Inhumanity is amazing, a commendable work of skill and imagination, a veritable starship of incomprehensibly alien, yet wholly involving, sound. These musicians should be commended for what they’ve done here, deconstructing the archetypes and boundaries of genre and using these exact same pieces to build something new, strange, furious, and abominably memorable. The outer shell of Monolith is familiar, as it utilizes these aspects we know so well, but its interior is completely innovative, and I dare say this is the death metal album to beat this year. The misery, the majesty, the purulent sickness, the unbridled hatred of humanity… all of them warm my shriveled, angry, black little heart immensely. Truly, Monolith is a new benchmark for spirit and creativity in the realm of death metal. If you are in any way brutally inclined, and think humanity an incorrigible sickness that would be better off cleansed, it’s time to buy this record. Deny its power, and the gimp shall get to know you motherfucking biblically.
*note: I originally had this scored at 10/10 (100% on MA), and while indeed the album is a flawless new pinnacle of death/grind, a perfect score should be reserved for those albums that you know are going to stay with you for your entire fucking life, with no measure of doubt. Simply, I'm not sure Monolith fits that description. Not yet. I do not want to be one of the so many reviewers who make the claim of 100% so lightly as to diminish its impact. However, this should by no means dissuade you from reveling in its immaculate filth. Make no mistake, this deserves your money.
-Left Hand of Dog
Cattle Decapitation is a band influenced by the older brutal death metal basics (Cephalic Carnage, Putrid Pile). They also tend to gravitate towards the fast-paced, ever-changing, fractured structuring evident in deathgrind (Aborted, Carcass), and fuse all of that together with the firm, raw kick to the jaw that is the band's drumming style, very akin to that of Exhumed in some ways. The hardest thing to describe Cattle Decapitation, then, would be their sound. You can never imagine what this band sounds like; you have to hear it, and even then, you'd be hard pressed to come up with more words than 'awesome'. I suppose that's a good way to talk about Monolith of Inhumanity, the band's latest and longest release, due to drop May 8th. The first thing I have to say about it is that it's awesome.
The second thing I have to say about Monolith is that it adds several new layers of musical depth to the already-insurmountable amount of influences and parallels. For example, the technical riffing style present on The Harvest Floor is a tad more fleshed out on this album, appearing at length towards the middle of the album. Songs like "Gristle Licker" and "Projectile Ovulation" also feature a similar style of guitar structuring, even reminding listeners of Deicide's spectacular early releases. A good amount of speed and brutality meets with top-notch production and insane vocals, courtesy of Travis Ryan. This hallmark to their older sound is present in almost every song, and is rather refreshing when combined with what the band had become rather than sounding stale or contrived. One of the best examples of this sound are in songs like "Forced Gender Reassignment", which ends on a massive, lengthy breakdown, and album opener "The Carbon Stampede". I swear there's a moment the drums go into 64th-note gravity blasts and the BPM boils over 350 or some other crazy, inconceivable occurrence. This band is just completely freaking insane.
While tracks like the aforementioned "Projectile Ovulation" might go as far as to include pitch-shifted vocals, all is not a mere reminder of the old with this Cattle Decapitation record. "Lifestalker" is the first big, sudden realisation that something had changed radically. It opens up like another fast-paced track, but then it slows down out of nowhere before exploding into a symphony of pseudo-clean vocals, slowed, gloomy drumming and melodic guitars. Cattle Decapitation added a twinge of melodic death into their sound; not only that, but it sounds good. The high vocals on "A Living, Breathing Piece of Defecating Meat" are also incredible, and are another indicator of change, but none can compare to the awe-inspiring sound of "The Monolith" and follow-up album closer "Kingdom of Tyrants". If you've listened to The Harvest Floor's title track, you'd expect this to be another creepy, moody instrumental that sets the scene for the last track. Instead, you get a slow instrumental beginning and a thought-provoking message from Travis Ryan's surprisingly-enjoyable clean singing voice. Now, don't get too excited; it isn't an opera or anything, but the man has serious vocal talent. If you're curious, "The Monolith" is the title of the slower track that precedes "Kingdom of Tyrants" in the band's latest music video, so check that out on YouTube if you haven't already.
What makes this album so incredible is the fact that they were fantastic to begin with. When I reviewed The Harvest Floor, I thought it was a very solid album and that Cattle Decapitation's next effort would bring about a logical progression mixed with their usual brutal-as-your-mother sound. Boy, was I wrong. Monolith of Inhumanity is far better than any fan of the band could have possibly hoped for. There is literally no way anyone could have expected something this incredible from the band. The drumming is brutally vicious, yet carries just as much weight when it slows down to provide a different sound. The tracks actively dictate where the rest of the song goes, and definitely help the rest of the band's sound mesh together. The guitars are a masterwork combination of deathgrind, technical death, and brutal death; their variety adds so much to the album's listenability. The vocals of Travis Ryan blew me away with their ferocity alone, but the emotion and the weight of his tones and his message carry just as much meaning to me, if not more. The album is vicious, powerful, emotional, and for all intents and purposes, awesome.
A pure gem like this deserves a 10 out of 10.
1. "The Carbon Stampede"
3. "A Living, Breathing Piece of Defecating Meat"
4. "Gristle Licker"
10. "The Monolith"
11. "Kingdom of Tyrants"
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This is the album against which all future deathgrind will be judged in my library. There isn't a single bad spot on the album. It's chock-full of melody, brutality, technicality, and of course, gore. In addition to it being brutal as hell, it's musical.
For me, the high point on this album is definitely the mucus-and-saliva-drenched vocals. Travis Ryan is a fucking champ. I've seen these guys live (which is quite a spectacle), and this album perfectly encapsulates his commanding performances. He sounds grotesque, inhuman, tortured. There is something creepily mammalian in the shrieks and gurgles found throughout, but it just doesn't sound quite human. I suppose being animal rights activists, that's the whole point. It's supposed to sound just human enough. Travis also does some other interesting things on this album--mostly extending his experimental high-pitched "singing/shrieking" semi-clean vocals seen on The Harvest Floor. Your Disposal and Kingdom of Tyrants are good examples of this style. Then there are the gagging vocals on Lifestalker (along with more clean vocals). Really, each song has a signature vocal style. I would listen to the noises coming out of this guy's throathole all day.
Guitars on this album are also quite good. Josh is constantly pitch-shifting, tempo-shifting, and sliding. I really like the octave drops on Projectile Ovulation and Dead Set on Suicide--it couples well with Travis's low growls. Each song has a unique solo and feel to it, and is easily recognizable as it's own distinct monster. He borrows styles from all over metal--djent, grind, brutal death. It's riff after brutal riff of various tempos filled with the shriek of well-executed harmonics and octave shifts.
The drumming is excellent. The album is full of pounding double-bass, gravity blasts, snare fills, and well-placed cymbal crashes. Dave hardly ever repeats himself, and you won't be hearing any of that generic fast clicking found in most modern death metal, except where fitting. And there, it's supplemented with creative cymbal and snare fills or cutaways. He uses blazing gravity-blasts and slows it down to crashing cymbals where appropriate. The drums on their own are actually quite musical, and very interesting.
I am sure the bassist is very talented, but a lot of the audible bass work is pretty simple here. If you try hard enough you can hear him shredding when the tempo picks up in certain songs, but the sound is lost in the mix for the most part, at least for me. And that's unfortunate. When audible, it seems to just mimic the guitar parts, except for solos like as heard in the beginning of Dead Set on Suicide.
Highlights (if I can't say every single fucking song):
Ever since Cattle Decapitation announced that they were working on a brand new album I knew this was going to be one of the most anticipated releases of this year… but not for me. You see, I have always been rather dismissive of Cattle Decapitation. Their early sound just never resonated that well with me as I found it to be hackneyed and stale, making me wish I would have found something more constructive to do with my time. Because of that I had essentially ignored their existence… until now. Last week the band had released a music video for the song ‘Kingdom of Tyrants’ and it immediately caught my attention. Not only because of the incredible visual direction, but the band had been able to craft a song that I really enjoyed. With this new revelation I became rather intrigued about what else may lie within “Monolith of Inhumanity“.
What I found in the guts of “Monolith of Inhumanity” was certainly surprising. The opening track, ‘The Carbon Stampede’, does a lot to help destroy the previous notions I had once held for Cattle Decapitation. After the initial introduction, the band comes screaming forth in a brutal and grinding fashion. An interesting fact I found is that all of the current (and even some ex) members of Cephalic Carnage do guest spots in the gang vocal portions of ‘The Carbon Stampede’, which sounds ridiculously good. After such an excellent start, I couldn’t help but to wonder if the rest of this album may pale in comparison.
As it turns out the surprises kept coming, as Cattle Decapitation were able to do far more right than wrong on “Monolith of Inhumanity“. If there is one thing I need to give them credit it on it is being able to spread their wings and not be confined in the small box that is death metal/grindcore by adding a lot of new elements. You’ll hear smatterings of melodic death, progressive, thrash, brutal death, and black metal throughout this album. Being able to take all those different ideas and influences and make them work is exceptionally difficult, but Cattle Decapitation were able to sidestep that harbinger of death.
Tracks like ‘The Carbon Stampede’, ‘Dead Set On Suicide’, ‘Forced Gender Reassignment’, and ‘Lifestalker’ are all incredibly engaging. But, I would have to say the final three tracks of ‘Your Disposal’, ‘The Monolith’, and ‘Kingdom of Tyrants’ are the real winners here. They build off of that idea to use multiple ideas and make them into one “Monolith of Inhumanity” (do you see what I did there?). ’Your Disposal’ has a wicked black metal tinge to it that I was not expecting, and when you combine that type of riff with Travis Ryan’s vocals then it becomes one cataclysmic affair. When it comes to both ‘The Monolith’ and ‘Kingdom Of Tyrants’, I believe they should have just been put into one track because they work far too well together, and you can watch the video I linked to in order to see my assertions being proven right before your very eyes. I want to mention that if it weren’t for Travis Ryan’s astonishing vocal range or David McGraw’s spectacular drumming than this album wouldn’t be half as good as it is.
Despite Cattle Decapitation doing multiple things to change my perception of them for the better, I could still hear some instances where I still had causal to be worried about the overall product. There were some instances where the band were unable to continue the intensity from one track to the next. ’A Living, Breathing Piece of Defecating Meat’, ‘Project Ovulation’, and ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ are the prime examples of how to not capitalize on electric energy. The riffs in particular would feel uninspired or lacking in balls. I do want to focus on ‘Project Ovulation’ for a quick moment, because this song should have been far better than it turned out to be. Mike Majewski (Devourment) did guest vocals on it that sounded fantastic, but the music itself was akin to a lifeless Warbringer most of the time, and his guttural vocals just did not fit that type of music. That is a squandered opportunity if I had ever seen one.
The production values of “Monolith of Inhumanity” are flawless. This is one amazingly clean record. Every instrument sounds perfect, and every growl or scream that Travis emanates is soul shattering. You can even hear the bass which is a miracle within itself. Sometimes the riffs can get a little muddy if there isn’t a lot of variation in them, but it isn’t that big of a deal, especially when you would come to expect something like that with this type of music. I have no complaints about the production other than that. Good work, sound engineer!
After not paying attention to Cattle Decapitation since 2004, I was really blown away by what they showed on this record. ”Monolith of Inhumanity” may still have some of the same faults I saw with the band back then, but they have really come a long way in showing that they are versatile musicians who are more than capable of writing diverse and coherent music. There was no way I could have predicted I would enjoy this album as much as I have, but I am definitely coming away with a new-found respect for Cattle Decapitation. This is definitely not your average death metal/grindcore record, folks.
Originally written for Metal Blast: http://www.metalblast.net/2012/05/cattle-decapitation-monolith-of-inhumanity/
Pure, unadulterated, terrifying death metal. That sentence is Cattle Decapitation’s newest album Monolith Of Inhumanity in a nutshell. They’ve come a (very) long ways from the earlier days of Humanure and Karma. Bloody. Karma. by a long shot. The level of technicality is much, much higher on this album than it has ever been before and that really sets this album apart.
On the first track “The Carbon Stampede,” they employ a variety of different grooves all in one song. With a couple of riffs that slowly get faster and faster, it all goes down and they head off into insane territory with compressed packed guitars and drums. The drums seem like they’ve gotten a hell of a lot faster than before, most notable with the rapid bass pedals. The drums don’t get too technical, but at the speed they’re played, it’s arguable at what level of progressive death metal is played here. The vocals are more in line with the song “Regret And The Grave” from their previous album The Harvest Floor. The guitars have a couple of very different but both impressive solos. One being a noisy and technical solo, the other being a more groove oriented solo. All stops at once when they find a heavy and simple groove at the end of the song.
Listening to these tracks, you can see how many different progressions are played within the median song length of three minutes and fifty seconds. The harsh and unique vocals that made “Regret And The Grave” stand out on their last album is put into almost every song. “Dead Set On Suicide” is about as straight forward death metal they get, with the band following the bass player’s cue throughout the song. But not one thing really stands on its own on this song as they all have their chance to shine at any point. This shows the extreme amount of song writing that they all put together into this album and is the main reason why it out performs the rest of their catalog.
“Forced Gender Reassignment” is another track that employs the more straight forward death metal as well. I could see this track being an introductory track that fans can show new people who would be interested. Let this one grow on you, then head into the rest of the album. For being the heaviest track, “Projectile Ovulation” takes the cake on that one. It has some really unique and creepy guitar lines that, when coupled with the bass, provides an immense sound that blows away most other death metal bands.
Cattle Decapitation have erected a monolith of unforgettable proportion. An audible monster, "Monolith of Inhumanity" will infest your brain like maggots on a week old bloated, rotting carcass. Every element and feature fit together perfectly, and the album gives a sense of rounded completion. Travis Ryan uses his vocal, and writing talents in new ways never thought possible, from ultimate low gutterals to ear piercing highs. There is a new incorporation of animalistic "clean" vocals and an artistic use of growls. Lyrically, Ryan has created abounding brutality never delivered in any material prior and it is sure to leave a horrific vision charred into the mind's eye. Josh Elmore shreds faster than ever before, making use of sweeps and frenzied patterns during verses, leaving his actual solos feeling tame and slow. Newly enlisted bassist, Derek Engemann, delivers pounding bass lines that aid David McGraws' machine-gun fast drumming style with the ability to leave the listeners' ears bleeding. Add in the crystal clear sound and grade A mixing quality, Cattle Decapitation have vomited forth a masterpiece.
It's safe to say that Cattle Decapitation have had a rough past. When initially formed, the band were largely mocked, and for good reason, given the poor quality of their first series of releases. The San Diego four piece eventually carved their name into the stone with 2004's full-length, "Humanure", which amassed rabid fans from all over the world and launched Cattle Decapitation into the pits of underground popularity. After mixed reviews of the following album, "Karma.Bloody.Karma", in 2009 the band went with a new and more progressive, atmospheric direction with the unveiling of "The Harvest Floor", which had all of the ingredients to make a good album. While the release got a good response and rave reviews, the material still felt unpolished and lacking. Could "Monolith of Inhumanity" finally be the long awaited pinnacle in Cattle Decapitation's career?
Similarly to their previous three releases, a short cinematic bass introduction leads the content. What follows is a slow groove riff that progresses into an unrelenting hysteria that will unleash hell upon the listener with machine gun drumming and sweeping guitars. "The Carbon Stampede" delivers the first line of clean vocals to ever be done in any Cattle Decapitation song, similar to some experimental vocal segments in "The Harvest Floor" but different and more refined. These vocal parts aren't entirely clean, and are hard to describe, as Travis Ryan still uses his signature animalistic style. Another new element given are the derogatory references to Christianity, which first appear in "Dead Set On Suicide" and again in "Forced Gender Reassignment", which remarkably pushes Cattle Decapitation to a new level of the perverse brutality that they are known for.
An easter egg worth mentioning is that the album title (along with the word tyrant, A.K.A "Kingdom of Tyrants") was referenced in "The Product Is Alive", a song from their previous album "The Harvest Floor", which also had a similar easter egg as did "Humanure". Travis Ryan openly discussed that "A Living Breath Piece of Defecating Meat" was conceived as a follow up concept for a track from the EP "Human Jerky" called "Gestation of Smegma", so it isn't surprising that this album has references to previous material, and is a treat for their older fan base.
The long term problems that hindered Cattle Decapitations' previous releases have all but vanished. The sound quality is clear and provides layers of depth thanks to adequate volume mixing, though the only inhibiting factor that hasn't become extinct is that the drums sometimes work themselves to the forefront and cause the rest of the material to become overshadowed, but this can be readily overlooked since David McGraw drums like an otherworldly bio-mechanical god. Essentially, there are no real problems heard or found in the material on "Monolith of Inhumanity", and the material allows moments of calm that gives the content breaks which contrasts highly with the powerfully intense song composure. This also marks the first album to feature bassist Derek Engemann, who delivers driving bass riffs that fuse the drums and guitar together without error.
Josh Elmore handles the guitar with an inhuman mastery, consistently showing off hypersonic yet melodious riffs and techniques during verses and choruses. When it comes time to unleash a skillful solo, while the solo itself is fast, it sounds slow and mellow in comparison to what is heard during the rest of the content. This isn't to be taken as a bad thing, but at first it sounds odd since it is completely backwards from what one expects. There is not a single track on this album that sounds anything like what preceded it; which ensures capturing attention since the material doesn't become stale or refurbished.
Highlights here would have to be "Gristle Licker", "Forced Gender Reassignment" and "Kingdom of Tyrants". These tracks each enlist something radically new and different than anything Cattle Decapitation have done previously. "Gristle Licker" is a slower doom styled song that demonstrates new uses for vocal additives, complete with a segment that sounds as if Travis Ryan is endlessly spilling sewage from his mouth. "Forced Gender Reassignment" is lyrically one of the most intense songs available, speaking of the mutilation of genitals and other horribly disfiguring acts of extreme violence. "Kingdom of Tyrants" carries on from its abundantly atmospheric predecessor "The Monolith" (which has the same concept as the title track from "The Harvest Floor", but is not entirely instrumental) and is one of the most moving and thought provoking tracks listed.
"Monolith of Inhumanity" will rip open and devour your very soul if you let it. Dense with hatred for humanity, technology and religion, thick with descriptive vulgarities and explicit gore, Cattle Decapitation have truly out done themselves and redefined their genre, raising the bar for anything and everything prepared to come afterward. Are you ready to approach the monolith?
- Villi Thorne
Cattle Decapitation have shown steady improvement over the years. From their noisy, violent, and frankly horrible beginnings (Human Jerky and Homovore), they have ascended into lofty heights of nigh on perfect instrumentation and composition. This release is just that: nigh on perfect. Never in any deathgrind album have I heard such tasteful technicality. Or any metal album for that matter. Cattle Decapitation have a knack for instilling within this listener the urge to writhe in homage to their undulating hate.
First I shall examine David McGraw, one of the finest drummers ever to grace the grind. If I had to describe his style in two words, those words would be relentlessly elaborate. His incredible speed is not just an exercise in endurance (although I'm sure what he does here requires a great deal) it is tempered by a pleasant cornucopia of explosively subtle fills and rhythmic variation. The group as a whole expresses this. Almost like the sound is a hovering bespined anaconda shivering with revulsion as it rockets forth like a organic torpedo. David accentuates and propels its every unpredictable movement with his unbelievably fast and dextrous feet and hands.
Secondly I shall examine Travis Ryan. A versatile, volatile, and vile vernacular this man malevolently spews from his spurthole. His lyrics have always carried with them a dripping pseudo-medical vibe. When he isn't preaching the evils of society, he is describing in horrific detail how he is going to fuck your organic systems up. However where he truly stands out in my opinion is not in his lyrics (though they are top notch) but in his vocal rhythm. While many vocalists howl their blasphemy OVER the band, Ryan immerses himself WITHIN the previously described anaconda torpedo that is the band. He colors the unity with his mucus laden discharge. He is the voice of its agony. And he doesn't do it with a uniform grunting, he also has a emaciated high end that makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end, and in this album he exposes an as yet unheard tortured clean howling. This is my favorite performance of extreme metal vocals, for their sonic versatility, lyrical intensity, rhythmic unity, and sheer pain and malevolence.
Third I shall examine Josh Elmore. As the sole guitarist in the band he is the melodic meat of this beast. He displays here some of the most technically difficult guitar work in metal. However, he doesn't sacrifice the music on the altar of technicality like other guitarists of his skill are wont to do. He unloads his sweeping tastefully. In this album what solos he does grace the music with are truly emotional pieces of musical genius. My favorite is probably the one from the central section of "Lifestalker". Its relatively slow, but just dripping with damaged soul. Throughout the album his relentless riffage merges with David's relentless drumming, and accentuates it even further with ubiquitous yet tasteful dissonance and shrieking. This man has some serious talent.
And last but certainly not least we have the new bassist, Derek Engemann. Following up the excellence of Troy Oftedal is a difficult task, but Derek succeeds. He provides the rhythmic beef of the band. His bass isn't lost in the guitar, and when he deviates from the groove laid down by the guitar and drums, it can be heard. And what is heard is not a disappointment. It's complex and compelling. In the album he has a few prominent bass fills that serve well to provide additional variation to the sonic landscape. Occasionally the drums and bass will enter a sublime groove, and this provides further variation. The beginning to "Gristle Licker" and near the end of "Do Not Resuscitate" come to mind as good examples of both. His tone is chunky and distinct and compliments the guitar exceedingly well. Another tremendous talent within the band, his bass work is muscle of this unstoppable anaconda.
This album is truly great. I haven't heard better extreme metal. Its packed with variation, violence, compelling rhythm, unrelenting speed, emotional pain, and a terminally chaotic vibe hitherto unheard of. Listen to it, listen closely, and listen often. I can't recommend it enough.
After releasing one of my favourite albums ever with 2009's "The Harvest Floor", Cattle Decapitation had their work cut out for them to make a worthy follow up. Could they deliver anything close to the sheer excellence of that album? Yes. Yes, they could. This album is spectacular. This album is a natural evolution from the sound that Cattle Decapitation had on The Harvest Floor. That album was full of musical elements you wouldn't expect from a grind band, such as ambient string sections and whatnot, and Cattle Decapitation have placed a few new elements to their sound on this release.
The typical traits of a Cattle Decapitation album are all present, from Travis Ryan's trademark guttural gurgles and high pitched shrieking to David McGraw's mind melting gravity blasts like on The Carbon Stampede, from the epic solo skills and various riff styles from Josh Elmore heard in Dead Set on Suicide, Gristle Licker and Lifestalker to the complex bass fills courtesy of Derek Engemann. Those haunting melodies from the previous album are here as well, notably on Lifestalker and closer Kingdom of Tyrants. In addition is the obligatory slow paced ambient track in The Monolith, following much in similar fashion to last 5 minutes of Alone At The Landfill from "Karma Bloody Karma" and the title track of "The Harvest Floor".
There are two guest vocal spots on this album. One is the whole of Cephalic Carnage for a hardcore gang shout in opener The Carbon Stampede, and the other is from Devourment frontman Mike Majewski, laying down some guttural grunts to match Travis Ryan's himself.
The production job is quite well done, as one would expect from a Metal Blade release. Even the drum tone has been fixed. The drums on The Harvest Floor were just a tad too clicky and the guitar found itself drowned out at times. None of that is an issue this time around. Everything is mixed perfectly in my opinion.
Cattle Decapitation have delivered their third outstanding album in a row, and with a few more listens I see this surpassing The Harvest Floor in my books. Any long time fan of the band will find this excellent, and new fans of the band might consider this a decent starting point as well.
Highlights: Kingdom of Tyrants, A Living Breathing Piece of Defecating Meat, Lifestalker, The Carbon Stampede