November 29, 2019 Cattle Decapitation – Death Atlas (Album Review)
San Diego-bred death camp Cattle Decapitation is back with Death Atlas, on Friday, November 29th through longtime home Metal Blade Records. Their eighth overall album, finishing just past fifty-five minutes, Death Atlas marks the band’s longest opus to date, following the pattern of their recent albums slowly outpacing their forebears.
Over two decades, Cattle Decapitation – currently Travis Ryan (vocals), Josh Elmore (guitar), Belisario Dimuzio (guitar), Dave McGraw (drums), and Olivier Pinard (bass) – have created an interesting genre for themselves: their songs contain melodic portions that keep the band firmly planted in the Death Metal and Grindcore genres, but the fact that some tracks result result in harsh ethereal landscapes has their eyes point heavily toward the throes of Black Metal. Adding in the strong Thrash Metal influences, particularly on guitar and vocals (Travis Ryan is respectfully influenced by Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth of Overkill) and the band can take turns within several genres without sounding tired or disparate.
During the airy, eerie parts of the chorus of “Be Still Our Bleeding Hearts,” the vocals carry more of a Thrash Metal vibe, whereas the high pitches used in “Vulturous” are much more in line with a Black Metal ethos. These these two songs, and the album in general, methodically and effectively intersperse deep guttural snarls and swirling, but the meandering guitar solos keep at least two of the band’s four “hooves” in the technical Death Metal camp. Furthermore, tracks like “Absolute Destitute” and “One Day Closer to the End of the World” also help flex the band’s technical chops, with blast beats underpinning the biting guitar one would expect.
Continuing a habit begun with “The Burden of Seven Billion” on 2015’s The Anthropocene Extinction, the band’s previous record, Death Atlas contains a handful of smaller ditties interspersed for dramatic narrative effect, starting with opener “Anthropogenic: End Transmission,” moving through “The Great Dying” and its later sequel, and wrapping up with penultimate warm-up “The Unerasable Past.” The tracks all hammer home the band’s firm beliefs regarding destructive path worn by the current habits of the human race, ranging from the handling of basic environmental factors to the needless consumption of, and passive disregard for, animal life. The emphatic verses of “Bring Back the Plague” also amplify this point, and after a blasting Black Metal opening, peppered by equally bleak choruses, the title track draws the points of overuse and over-consumption to a close as the album fades off; the cause itself lives on for future albums and generations.
Cattle Decapitation have made a long living through their oddly effective mix of Black, Thrash, Grind, and Death Metal, and Death Atlas is the latest chapter in their story. The effortless mix works strongest on “Be Still Our Bleeding Hearts,” “With All Disrespect,” along with the title-track, and the increased use of disconcerting interludes brings their worldly view into stronger focus. Additionally, the additions of Pinard and Dimuzio to the lineup are seamless, and the band is close to their height here. That is why Cryptic Rock is pleased to give Death Atlas 4 out of 5 stars.