Cattle Decapitation – The Anthropocene Extinction – Album Review
Album Title: The Anthropocene Extinction
Label: Metal Blade
Year Of Release: 2015
If you’re looking for a way to make an impact with your music, I suggest you take a listen to Cattle Decapitiation. In a world where extreme music seems intent on getting ever more extreme, many of the protagonists would also do well to take a listen to Cattle Decapitation. Why?
Because here is a band that make brutal and extreme music into something of an art form. Where others may up the complexity in an effort to become more extreme or even add strings to guitars for more bottom-end rumble, Cattle Decapitation just effortlessly blend everything together to create a genuinely unsettling aural experience that’s just about as good as anything I’ve heard for a long time in this particular scene. It’s not extreme for extreme’s sake; it is music that uses it’s extremity as a tool or a potent weapon to make a statement.
You want technicality? You want groove? You want aggression? You want heaviness capable of shaking the very ground you walk on? Then you need ‘The Anthropocene Extinction’ in your life.
On a first listen, I was, I must admit, a little thrown by this, the seventh record from the San Diego-based quartet. I’m not the biggest out-and-out extreme metal fan and my only real exposure to Cattle Decapitation was via their debut ‘Homovore’ and, to a lesser extent, the follow-up ‘To Serve Man’. Both of these were all-out unmitigated grindcore, albums chock full of quick-fire extremity in bite-sized chunks of around one-to-two minutes in length. As a newbie to the grindcore scene, I rather liked the output because within each frenzied assault was a snippet of real groove, something to latch onto. It was enough for me when what I was yearning for was some unmitigated savagery to cleanse my mind and rid me of pent-up frustrations. The fact that I kept coming back to the debut meant that there was definitely something special about it.
Having missed the intervening four albums however, I was initially surprised to discover a slightly different approach on ‘The Anthropocene Extinction’. Cattle Decapitation circa 2015 is undoubtedly a more refined, more structured and, dare I say it, more accessible proposition. They’re still brutal as all hell of course, but with a modicum of added subtlety, which I personally welcome with open arms. Theirs is now best described as an extreme metal hybrid where death metal influences for example, are apparently as much a factor as those of grindcore. It’s also an album that sees the band focusing on the ‘less is more’ principle and, as such, the songs seem to take precedence over the individual performances; another example of the increasing maturity of the band.
Opening track ‘Manufactured Extinct’ begins very quietly and ominously before launching into a slow-paced and measured riff at the hands of Josh Elmore. The vocals of Travis Ryan are almost indistinguishable from Derek Engemann’s bass rumble but, as the track suddenly picks up pace launching the track into a brief tumult of ferocity, so does the voice into a more discernible growl. What I wasn’t necessarily expecting was the ‘clean’ vocal delivery that emerges to compliment the chorus of the song. To call it clean is wrong though; when I first heard the almost demented but contained shriek I wondered what on earth I was listening to. It’s genuinely harsh, disturbing, uncomfortable and I love it.
If the opener was surprisingly melodic and mid-paced at times, follow-up ‘The Prophets of Loss’ goes on all-out attack from the off. Bringing in a Behemoth-esque quasi black metal feel to the track is a master stroke that works to great effect. The pace is significant, as it the utterly ridiculous drumming courtesy of Dave McGraw which absolutely pummels with relentless power and precision.
To pick out all of the good bits on this album would be a futile exercise given that there are so many. Instead I’ll mention the irresistible stomp and majesty of ‘Plagueborne’, the shifting tempos of ‘Clandestine Ways (Krocodil Rot), the out-and-out grindcore-meets-mid-tempo-groove workout that’s ‘Mammals In Babylon’ and the contemptuous snarling within ‘Not Suitable For Life’. The latter is venomous and it has that aura to it – no messing, just genuine revulsion and disgust put to music.
Referring back to the ‘relentless’ adjective I used earlier, that’s the overwhelming feeing I get when listening to this album – it may display a surprising amount of variety given its brutal nature but the content of ‘The Anthropocene Extinction’ is exhausting. But then that’s exactly how it should be. For all the groove, all the melodic flourishes and the brief moments of relative quiet, there’s no possibility at any moment to forget that you’re listening to a properly extreme metal record that is designed to pummel and test the listener’s endurance as much as it is intended to entertain.
The one thing I’ve yet to mention thus far is the lyrical content. Cattle Decapitation are an angry band, that’s for sure. Whether it be animal cruelty, politics, the general state of the world, Cattle Decapitation are open to explore it; they’re not what you could class as an ‘activist’ band but it is refreshing to hear a band that has such strong views, airing them without fear of the repercussions. It all adds yet another layer of authenticity to what is, unquestionably one of the best extreme metal records that I have heard for a long time. It has everything that I could ever ask for and more besides.
The Score Of Much Metal: 9.0
If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others right here:
Between The Buried And Me – Coma Ecliptic
Cradle Of Filth – Hammer Of The Witches
Disarmonia Mundi – Cold Inferno
District 97 – In Vaults
Progoctopus – Transcendence
Big Big Train – Wassail
NightMare World – In The Fullness Of Time
Helloween – My God-Given Right
Triaxis – Zero Hour
Isurus – Logocharya
Arcturus – Arcturian
Kamelot – Haven
Native Construct – Quiet World
Sigh – Graveward
Pantommind – Searching For Eternity
Subterranean Masquerade – The Great Bazaar
Klone – Here Comes The Sun
The Gentle Storm – The Diary
Melechesh – Enki
Enslaved – In Times
Keep Of Kalessin – Epistemology
Lonely Robot – Please Come Home
The Neal Morse Band – The Grand Experiment
Zero Stroke – As The Colours Seep
AudioPlastik – In The Head Of A Maniac
Revolution Saints – Revolution Saints
Mors Principium Est – Dawn of The 5th Era
Arcade Messiah – Arcade Messiah
Triosphere – The Heart Of The Matter
Neonfly – Strangers In Paradise
Knight Area – Hyperdrive
Haken – Restoration
James LaBrie – Impermanent Resonance
Mercenary – Through Our Darkest Days
A.C.T. – Circus Pandemonium
Xerath – III
Big Big Train – English Electric (Part 1)
Thought Chamber – Psykerion
Marcus Jidell – Pictures From A Time Traveller
H.E.A.T – Tearing Down The Walls
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld