Album Review: Cattle Decapitation – “The Anthropocene Extinction”

cattle decapitation the anthropocene extinction

How many people prefer Cattle Decapitation‘s earlier, rawer material over the technical and brutal brand of deathgrind they’ve showcased since? Five? Maybe ten? Conventional wisdom holds those first few releases to be more or less unlistenable, but to me, those jarring elements distinguish the band far more than the more conventional feel they’ve adopted on their subsequent output. The band’s new, seventh, full-length, The Anthropocene Extinction, doesn’t fully change my mind in that regard, but it is some of the strongest work they’ve done since that transition. 

Anthropocene is a nice continuation of the band’s work on 2012’s Monolith of Inhumanity, and gets their message of humans-as-destructors across as vehemently as ever. Sonically speaking, this style presents an excellent backdrop to that worldview, bleak and immersive enough in its aggression as to physically bowl you over. Guitarist Josh Elmore and drummer Dave McGraw attack with a ferocity that makes it seem as though there are four of each of them and they’ve surrounded you from all angles. It’s a credit to returning producer Dave Otero that their maelstrom all sounds precise and finely tuned in the final mix.

But as fitting as the music feels, Cattle Decapitation wouldn’t have anywhere near the amount of bite without their lyrical content. Fortunately, that’s still in top form as well. Whether growled, screeched or conjured from the bottom of a sewer, lines like “We’ve made this goddamned place a toilet / Maybe it’s high time we flush it” are enough to make you shudder, and vocalist Travis Ryan delivers them all with pure fury. (Interestingly, though, the most resonant titles come on the album’s calmer moments: the mid-album instrumental, “The Burden of Seven Billion,” and the penultimate track, “Ave Exitium” — which translates to “Hail Destruction.”)

Speaking of which…yes—for the third album running, the band’s given us another “calm before the storm” sequencing to close things out. The song itself is fine, but we could probably do without the album-to-album predictability. And for as much talk as there’s been around Phil Anselmo’s guest spot, he ends up getting kind of buried in the storm. Unless you know where to look, you’ll probably miss it. (Hint: it’s early in the album, and it’s more “we’re taking over this town” than “is there no standard anymore?”) A waste? Yeah, a bit of one.

All told, though, this ends up being a nice listen. I’ll play my weirdo card here and continue to think “it’s still no To Serve Man,” and you’ll laugh and post snide comments and whatever the hell because it’s the internet. But for folks who want to counter me and defend Cattle Decapitation’s evolution since then, The Anthropocene Extinction would be one of the strongest pieces of evidence.

Keep it heavy,

The Anthropocene Extinction will be available August 7 on Metal Blade Records. For more information on Cattle Decapitation, visit the band’s Facebook page.

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