Cattle Decapitation

Cattle Decapitation needs no introduction. Their trajectory has been astronomical since The Harvest Floor and they’ve yet to disappoint. Death Atlas let me down, but only because it was simply pretty good, and not the greatest album in the history of mankind. I saw them live back in November of 2022, the new one was ready for pre-order with a signed laminate, so I just had to do it. That’s easily the earliest pre-order I have ever done, but none of that means anything if they don’t bring the goods and slap those big ol’ balls on the table, son.

Oh, and they do. HARD. Shaking that table. I have absolutely no doubt this is going to be on my year-end list and certainly several more. It’s difficult to pick standout tracks or moments, but that’s why I’m here, so I’ll give it a go.

The first one I’ll mention is “We Eat Our Young,” taking nothing away from the opener. Travis begins using his low roar but moves into his higher-pitched vocals, and back, changing styles on a dime. That breakdown right before 2 minutes is monstrous, and if you’ve listened to the band, you’ve heard similar riffs before, but this is more of a signature that works, not an “oh, here goes this shit again” moment.

In this review, I believe it’s important to mention that this is in no way a reinvention of the sound Cattle Decapitation has established, but certainly a confident refining. What struck me with past efforts were those  “goblin cleans.” You’ll know what I mean about 2 minutes into “Scourge of the Offspring.” It’s one thing to have these vocal styles in your repertoire, but to be able to do all of them at the highest level is a feat. It wouldn’t mean much if the band didn’t also bring it, which they do.

Take for example “The Insignificants.” The vocals are in top form, but the production shines here, much like the rest of the album. If you had doubts about the band’s songwriting, this one has many changes, including the slower, clean part around 3 minutes in. Then, the first clean vocals appear on the album, if you don’t count the earlier goblin ones. It makes a riff fest into a song with a defined climax. Excellent.

The first half of Terrasite is STRONG. Perhaps the second half is stronger. On “A Photic Doom,” those feral vocals with the rolled “r” sound make me smile every single time. I wanted a breakdown, which I felt was teased around the 2-minute mark, but instead, I received another monstrous riff, followed by a melodic guitar solo. The goblin cleans also make an appearance at the end.

The two final tracks, “Solastalgia,” and “Just Another Body” could have both been the closers, but of course, only one can, so we’ll talk about the former, even though I want to talk about the closer. Trust me, we’ll get to both. I point out “Solastalgia” could be the closer because it takes a turn slightly before 3 minutes when it slows down. This feels like it would lead to a fadeout and end the album. Even though the feral vocals kick back in, followed by the goblin cleans, the phrases “the end of hope” and “lose our minds” carry the song to a conclusion. On first listen, I could not have been the first person to think it was the end of the album.

However, as I mentioned, it’s not. That comes with the 10-plus minute “Just Another Body.” It begins with a somber piano melody and an introduction that lasts for a little over 2 minutes. If you ever had a doubt they could write a lengthy, heavy, atmospheric epic, this track proves you wrong with all of its twists and turns while still sounding definitively like Cattle Decapitation. Nearly 7 minutes in, the clean vocals begin and they’re haunting this time around. Then the album ends. That’s a bummer.

When it’s over, I immediately want to play it again. The album is over 50 minutes, so it’s rare I feel that way. However, it only feels like 35-40, which is incredible. As I mentioned before, this is a surefire year-end contender and I’m certain I will not be the only one who feels this way. Repeat listening reveals subtle hooks each time. It truly is one of those albums that continues to open and become catchier the more you listen.

This style of death metal/grind/whatever you wish to call it is never “accessible” in the general sense, but Cattle Decapitation comes very close. It all feels like a natural step in their continued evolution. They’re truly, along with Worm, one of the most exciting, inventive, and spectacular bands in metal. I know this is getting praise everywhere, and there’s nothing more I enjoy than being a contrarian, but when it comes to this monolith, its power is undeniable.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by J Mays
May 15th, 2023


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