Let’s take some time to focus on this album cover for a minute. First, let’s go to the uncharacteristically understated title presentation and its somnambulant sound, The Anthropocene Extinction. Basically the extinction of humans. Which is such fertile ground for metal bands to mine. In the 80’s it was (mostly) nuclear war with some environmental issues thrown in. Now it’s primarily environmental issues, which, I guess you can look at as a glass-half-full thing…we got better on the immediate annihilation, despite not developing a long-term concern for our species’ survival.
Anyway, after that we’ve got factories, trash, pollution (that oddly seems to keep flowing even after we’re extinct), and, my favorite, corpses that are rotting from the insides out due to being filled with drugs and sundry other pollutants. Gee, what do you think they’re trying to say here? To be fair, though, it’s nice of a practitioner of grindcore, one of metal’s many genres to feature growly vocals, to clearly say something somewhere.
And in fact, lead vocalist Travis Ryan is relatively easy to understand, both in the growled verses and the shrill-ly-sung choruses. Furthermore, that clarity makes Cattle Decapitation even more intense, because these lyrics don’t screw around. As you can imagine, they’re basically about how horrible everything is and how we’re marching ourselves towards extinction. What you might not guess, unless you really puzzled over the band’s name, is that the band was initially a hard-core vegetarian band and only recently seems to have veered into other social issues. (I encourage you to click through and take a look at some of their other wonderful album covers.)
So growled but sometimes sung vocals, but what else is there in this music? Well I had to look some of this up myself, but apparently grindcore’s most defining characteristic is its blast beats, which I learned basically means 16th-note rhythms on percussion. And, although the band lists a drummer, I find it impossible to believe that much of this was played by a human. I’d even be surprised if they hide the fact that much of this drumming was done with a sequenced drum machine. Which is generally not a big deal, but it’s definitely an aesthetic that you have these machine-gun fires that just feel light, automated, and electronic. Beyond that you’ve also got really crunchy guitar and bass interspersed with guitar solos that are so ridiculously fast you really have to pay attention to realize that, oh my god, Josh Elmore has written some really cool leads in there.
It’s a pretty intense onslaught, but it’s also crafted carefully enough that if you have the ability and willingness to give it a chance, you can warm up to it. This collection of 12 tracks works really well as an album. It’s thematic, it’s sequenced well. The production, however, is mixed. It sounds pretty good on over-ear ‘phones and middling earbuds, but if your earbuds are too good then this is a victim to the loudness wars and there’s too much cracking and popping.
I remember when I first saw the name Cattle Decapitation and their logo a few years ago, it seemed like such a ridiculous joke. And, let’s be honest, there’s still a lot that’s ridiculous here, but we’re living in an era where media (every definition of that word) and current events are positively ridiculous. When viewed through that lens, the events that cause so much of America to just shake their heads disbelievingly, it makes just as much sense to react to it with a sound, look, message, and even name like the one provided here (though I can’t quite understand how people from San Diego can be this angry). I don’t know if I can say I’m into grindcore, or deathgrind, or grindgore, or whatever, but I can say I’m a Cattle Decapitation fan.
Really Like: “Plagueborne,” “Circo Inhumanitas,” “Not Suitable For Life”
Like: “Manufactured Extinct,” “The Prophets Of Loss,” “Clandestine Ways (Krokodil Rot),” “Mammals In Babylon,” “Apex Blasphemy,” “Pacific Grim”
Meh: “The Burden Of Seven Billion,” “Mutual Assured Destruction,” “Ave Exitium”
Song Notes: After the jump
- Manufactured Extinct – One thing I hope I always remember about this song is that I played it on my phone while L was in bed with us in the morning and the way it goes from that rainy sound effect into the first giant chord caused him to bolt upright in bed so perfectly. meh verses, good chorus, and great solo. moves right into next track
- The Prophets Of Loss – I’m guessing this is about companies that profit off of war? or doomsayers?
- Plagueborne – “Alone a plague, together a curse”. At 4:30 this reminds of some great song. Is it Tool’s “Opiate”?
- Clandestine Ways (Krokodil Rot) –
- Circo Inhumanitas –
- The Burden Of Seven Billion – just 1:24 and a few big chords. a mood setter
- Mammals In Babylon –
- Mutual Assured Destruction –
- Not Suitable For Life – it’s like “Circo Inhumanitas” in that after about 90 seconds it gets a lot better, and actually it gets awesome. “Fuck your systems and fuck your decisions”
- Apex Blasphemy –
- Ave Exitium –
- Pacific Grim –