Cattle Decapitation are a unique band in more than one way. There aren’t many death metal bands in the world who can honestly say their new album comes packing melodic vocals, a veritable buffet of extreme metal influences and a socio-political message to boot. And I’m fairly certain Cattle Decapitation are the only band in the world doing any of this almost 10 years into their musical careers. Isn’t it the rule that after 5 albums virtually every band ever become senile and alienate their core fanbase to the point of despair? Thankfully, not with these guys.
The melody is always going to be a talking point for Cattle Decapitation. It’s far from odd to have melody in death metal, At The Gates and pretty much every band from Sweden have been playing with catchy death metal since Cattle Decapitation were still busy gurgling on their mother’s lactating teat. The thing with ‘The Anthropocene Extinction’ isn’t just that they have melody, it’s how they use melody. The classic pitch-gargling borderline operatic cleans play a big role in this album’s song-writing. ‘Not Suitable For Life’ and ‘The Prophet of Loss’ are definitely some of the stickiest extreme metal tracks you’ll hear this year. Not only are they catchy, the scratchy melo-drama they provide makes the record feel almost, dare I say it, fun. It’s hardly giggles, hugs and hot chocolate all round, for the most part it’s misanthropia and bleak nihilism through and through, but you can’t help but get the sense the band have their tongue in their cheek at times.
What’s even more impressive is the more subtly incorporated, instrumental melody that shows up even when the band are being as methodically brutal as possible. The mammoth sized ‘Manfactured Extinct’ opener is effortlessly crushing, but the real clincher is the dauntingly apocalyptic atmosphere it generates with each chugging guitar chord. In a similar vein, ‘Circo Inhumanitas’ brings all the standard Cattle Decapitation abrasiveness, but with a strain of black metal styled tremolo-plus-blastbeat anguish to mix things off. This isn’t the genre mashing clusterfuck you’d expect to hear from a gimmicky prog band, but simply the result of a mixed array of influences manifesting themselves in the band’s writing.
This shines through even on the album’s more brutish moments also. Of course a sturdy base of death metal roots the whole thing as a cohesive piece but bits of grindcore, black metal and slam death metal litter the album throughout. The particularly buzz-saw blur of carnage that is ‘Clandestine Ways (Krokodil Rot)’ sees the band flit between this myriad of inspirations with a fluidity that very few bands could even consider competing with. However, at times the heavier moments focused on complete sonic battery begin to blur together. An admirable amount of it manages to be genuinely catchy, but towards the albums second half the band seem to experiment less and less. This is also where over-produced and generally sterile production style really begins to feel like a wet blanket on the album’s momentum. It fits the bands extremely fast/ occasionally technical playing but dampens the essential low-end, which is especially frustrating with earlier records like The Harvest Floor keeping things more organic. It’s like Adam D snuck in briefly and fooled the band into thinking they were a deathcore band for 45 minutes.
With all my whinging and nit-picking aside however, this is evidently a killer album on almost every front. If you didn’t like Cattle Decapitation to begin with it probably won’t change your mind, but for everyone else The Anthropocene Extinction is the sound of one of the best extreme metal bands in the world absolutely mastering their craft.
Highlights: ‘Manufactured Extinct’, ‘Circo Inhumanitas’, ‘Not Suitable For Life’
Similar to: Aborted, Dying Fetus, Abysmal Dawn