This ‘Cattle Decapitation’ article was written by Oliver Wheeler, a GIGsoup contributor
Let it never be said that metal cannot be beautiful. Certainly the name Cattle Decapitation alone does not inspire images of rolling hills and fields of dandelions, however, the beauty of Cattle Decapitation comes in the subtleties, a soaring guitar riff over a cacophony of instruments, an anthemic chorus placed between savage instrumentals. The true excellence and beauty of The Anthropocene Extinction lies in the contrast of the guttural vocals and ugly melodies against the lightning guitars and vocals that soar above the mayhem of instrumentation.
With all that said, The Anthropocene Extinction is certainly not an album that will win over people who are not fans of metal. Beginning with ‘Manufactured Extinct’, Cattle Decapitation immediately begins to show off loud, heavy production with oppressively dark guitar riffs that quickly turn into a broken staccato rhythm with vocals seeming to rise from hell itself. The majority of the songs after this can best be described as a riot of blast beats, tremolo picked guitars and vocals growled like Cerberus. From a technical point of view, the skill displayed in The Anthropocene Extinction are all extremely impressive, making these dark, dingy segments of the album less of a chore to listen to and more of a time to appreciate the technical proficiency being utilised.
These guttural segments of the album also help to create the apocalyptic tone and atmosphere that is to be continued throughout. Thematically, The Anthropocene Extinction deals with the effects of climate change on the Earth to the point in which life can no longer be sustained. Certainly this is a pretty bleak issue to be dealing with, most metal bands are content to focusing on the stereotypical worship of Satan and other subjects to make middle class parents get upset about what their kids are doing. But for Cattle Decapitation, their lyrical theme fits perfectly with the characteristics of Death Metal and Grindcore music. Satanic vocals and thunderously discordant guitar riffs are an undisputedly excellent way of portraying pure hell on Earth, while droning interludes such as ‘The Burden of Seven Billion’ and the penultimate ‘Ave Exitium’ create haunting atmosphere’s that portray Cattle Decapitations wasteland perfectly.
With all this in mind, how can The Anthropocene Extinction ever be considered a beautiful record? The soaring guitar sections during the opening song certainly help to portray that as far into the apocalyptic wasteland as Cattle Decapitation venture, there is always a sense of hope, this is of course helped along by vocalist Travis Ryan’s high end vocals that contrast perfectly against the deep, dark sounds heard prior to their soaring arrival into a song. What better way to portray the manmade apocalypse than through whirlwinds of heavy instruments? Or to portray the hope of our current situation than through impassioned lighting fast high end guitars and infectious vocal hooks? The contrast of the two is what makes The Anthropocene Extinction such a beautiful album to listen to and both aspects of the album are so well done that the album fits together like cookies and milk, or some kind of apocalyptic death metal equivalent.
With so much going right for The Anthropocene Extinction it’s disappointing that occasionally things can go wrong. Structurally speaking, the listener is likely to get quickly worn out of Cattle Decapitations constant blast beats, fast tempos and anthemic choruses. By the time ‘Mammals of Babylon’ comes about the listener is either begging for mercy from the sheer force of the record or begging for a change from constant blast beats depending on what kind of listener you are. It is also unfortunate that while the higher vocals on the record are often infectiously catchy, they can also border on being trashy, sustained guitar chords, crashing symbols and vocals that rise above this chaos can only go on for so long before eyes begin to roll, the track ‘Not Suitable For Life’ is a particular offender as the lyrics ‘how can you look me in the eye?’ are performed so dramatically it borders on metal parody.
Despite issues, The Anthropocene Extinction is one of the most enjoyable Death Metal albums released this year, artistically ambitious, infectiously catchy and unrelentingly brutal, The Anthropocene Extinction explores where few metal albums tread and does it superbly.
The Anthropocene Extinction is out now on Metal Blade Records.