Cattle Decapitation has a great reputation in the death metal and grind world as one of the most notable bands in the field. Well, they did at least before the year 2012. But then, they released Monolith of Inhumanity, and it took the community by storm. It spread so far in part due to the controversial video for “Forced Gender Reassignment”, but also just in the album itself. It was praised for it’s virtuosic performance and near-flawless execution. It topped many people’s “Best of 2012” lists, including our user-submitted list for that year. And once the storm settled on Monolith, everybody just wanted more. How is it possible that the band could top, let alone match the mastery of Monolith? The expectation is definitely extremely high for their newest release, The Anthropocene Extinction.
I would highly recommend watching “The Making of The Anthropocene Extinction” before giving this album a listen. It gives you a pretty clear picture of the band’s creative processes since Monolith, as well as their thoughts on their future. In short, they’re all extremely happy with how Monolith turned out, and feel that working with producer Dave Otero again is absolutely paramount to creating another amazing album. But the band’s commentary also helps you to have a better expectation of what’s to come on Anthropocene. Even bass player Derek Engemann describes this album as “Better than Monolith.” Those are some pretty big words, but also pretty promising.
The Anthropocene Extinction, in many ways is not so much a follow-up to a hugely successful album, but more like a continuation. The songwriting is still absolutely brilliant, with every song focusing on mind-melting speed, separate sections of different feels, and even a little bit of melody. And much like Monolith, where we were given so much more to chew than just straight-up death metal, Anthropocene gives us these similar flavors, and even a little more.
Melody seems to make more of an appearance than ever before. Vocalist Travis Ryan’s experimental vocal hybrid of guttural-yet-clean vocals was definitely unexpected but quickly accepted and loved by listeners of Monolith. And we get a lot more of those vocals in Anthropocene. “Manufactured Extinct”, the album’s opener, is actually one of the more melodic songs on the album. But it has that perfect balance of absolute insanity and catchy, memorable melodies. It follows up with “The Prophets of Loss” which begins with more intensity, yet still containing of similar flavors of melody, (including guest vocals from Phil Anselmo.) The envelope is pushed only slightly to notice change, but not to totally reinvent the band. It’s not that they’ve inserted a completely new sound on Anthropocene, but that they’ve taken some ideas explored in Monolith, and just ran with them even farther.
Make no mistake though; Anthropocene is still absolute brutality. Even the most melodic or even slowish song on the album is still full of speeds and musicianship that so many bands only wish they could match. It’s really hard to pick out one individual track to highlight because literally, each and every song has several instances of pure insanity. “Apex Blasphemy” is one of my favorite tracks on the album, and if you just hear the first few seconds, you’ll completely understand why.
But my undisputed favorite song on the album is the closer, “Pacific Grim”. It is arguably the most melodic song on Anthropocene, but also the best example of this signature style of Cattle Decapitation. It’s not often we can hear melodic singing over extreme double-picking and blast beats, and yet it seems so completely commonplace when Cattle Decapitation does them.
So yes, the bulk of this review is based upon how awesome Monolith is, but at the same time, you’re reading this review for the exact same reason. Your expectations are just as high as everyone else’s who had their minds blown back in 2012. The reality is that The Anthropocene Extinction is ARGUABLY better than Monolith of Inhumanity, therefore ARGUABLY making it the best Cattle Decapitation album so far. I’ve spent this entire review singing its praises that I’m sure you’re probably wondering how much they paid me. But trust me, just check it out, and you’re going to know exactly what I mean.