The Rickety Old Shack

Cattle Decapitation — Death Atlas

album cover

Vegan deathgrind veterans Cattle Decapitation are back, issuing the long awaited follow-up to the widely acclaimed 2015 release The Anthropocene Extinction (review). Death Atlas is another batch of groove-laden mosh fuel, and a continuation of the post-apocalyptic narrative of its predecessor — a scathing indictment of humanity and our treatment of the environment. The band doesn't stray far from the beaten path, but this new record is more than just a carbon copy of its predecessor. That said, this new effort does have some flaws.

Not that one would ever accuse Cattle Decapitation of being subtle, but Death Atlas feels like the band's most heavy-handed record to date. The album is interspersed with spoken word tracks, backed by cold, ambient synths, detailing current day concerns about global warming and climate change. I don't have a problem with the narrative or the pro-environmental message, but the repetitive nature of these sections did begin to wear somewhat thin on repeated listens. I appreciate the short breaks on what is otherwise an extremely intense, blisteringly fast album, so it's not all downside, but it is not easily ignored.

Musically, this is very much what longtime fans of Cattle Decapitation have come to expect. Seeringly fast passages that stop on a dime and breakdown into chunky riffs that are heavy on groove as well as tastefully technical, and Travis Ryan's incredibly unique vocals. Since Monolith Of Inhumanity, Ryan has adopted this disturbing semi-clean singing voice which I can only describe as Golum trying to do an Ozzy Osbourne impression. It sounds sinister and deranged and provides an excellent contrast with the typical death growls, screams and squeals you'd expect from death metal / gindcore. The ease with which Ryan transitions between vocal styles is impressive, and fits the instrumentals pefectly.

However, like the narrative passages, I found the "clean" singing a little overused on Death Atlas. It sounds great in the context of the material, but it feels like they go to the well a little too much this time around. This record is also quite a bit longer than is custom for Cattle Decapitation. And that is what seems to be the chief issue here; Monolith Of Inhumanity was 43 minutes, The Anthropocene Extinction was 46 minutes, where Death Atlas is 55 minutes. My complaint is, essentially, that we get too much of a some otherwise good things.

Those criticisms aside, Death Atlas is still a very good album. Cattle Decapitation remain very much at the top of their writing game, and the material on this record is all very high quality. There are no filler tracks, nothing sounds phoned in, and there's even a bit of innovation with the inclusion of some haunting, completely clean vocals at the end of "The Unerasable Past." Not the band's absolute best, but still worth a listen (or several); I'm still excited to hear more of what the band has to offer, even if Death Atlas has some minor flaws.

Summary

Four years after etching the highest watermark of their discography, Cattle Decapitation follow-up 2015's The Anthropocene Extinction with a strong record that doesn't quite surpass its predecessor. Death Atlas is still a fantastic death grind album, even if it suffers a bit due to length and overuse of a few sound elements. Cattle Decapitation are still one of the best extreme metal bands in the world and not eclipsing a

Album Information

Release date: November 29th, 2019
Record label: Metal Blade Records

Travis Ryan — vocals, keyboards (tracks 5, 9)
Josh Elmore — guitar
Belisario Dimuzio — guitar
Olivier Pinard — bass
Dave McGraw — drums

Track Listing

  1. Anthropogenic: End Transmission
  2. The Geocide
  3. Be Still Our Bleeding Hearts
  4. Vulturous
  5. The Great Dying
  6. One Day Closer To The End Of The World
  7. Bring Back The Plague
  8. Absolute Destitute
  9. The Great Dying II
  10. Finish Them
  11. With All Disrespect
  12. Time's Cruelest Curtain
  13. The Unerasable Past
  14. Death Atlas

Link: metalblade.com/cattledecapitation

—by Derek

Published: January 4th, 2020.