Cattle Decapitation like to give mixed signals: on the one hand, there are the songs beloved by animal rights activists that decry factory farm conditions and lab testing; on the other hand, there are the Cannibal Corpse-worshiping, unapologetic gore tracks. These are not mutually exclusive traits, mind you, it's just that the increasing number of context-free horror tales make one wonder just how much this band desires to be taken seriously.
The truth is that Cattle Decapitation's primary appeal is the same as that of the relatively apolitical Cannibal Corpse, or even Cephalic Carnage (Carnage producer Dave Otero actually manned the boards for Monolith of Inhumanity): that appeal being a blend of technical prowess with an old school focus on memorable riffs. Carcass had already exhausted the gore-as-polemic shtick and moved on well before Cattle Decapitation ever even got to the demo stage, so there's no point in the band putting all their eggs in that basket to begin with.
These guys are getting a little long in the tooth to mess with a good thing – especially when they're afforded three years of mouth watering buildup between albums – and so Monolith of Inhumanity follows in the footsteps of its predecessors, but does so without feeling like a retread. Part of that is due to "new" bassist Derek Engemann (he joined in 2010, the year after the last CD CD). Engemann contributes to the songwriting for the first time, which means the rhythm section is contributing to the balls-to-the-wall technicality more than ever, bolstering the bottom end dexterously without digging themselves into a rut.
It's useless to call Monolith of Inhumanity the band's best album: long time fans will doubtless have ingrained personal biases favoring one of its predecessors for the time being, but get over that hump in familiarity and the diversity present here will stand the test of time as well as anything the Cali quartet have ever done. As icing on the cake, Otero gives the album a virtually flawless production: everything sounds fantastic, from Travis Ryan's pliable vocals to the tight snap of the drums.
"Kingdom of Tyrants" is arguably the most immediate song Cattle Decapitation have ever written, but if you're not into the clean vocals on the chorus fret not: they're not typical of the rest of the album. In fact, the only thing typical on these 11 tracks is a dedication to balancing songcraft with virtuosity.
Monolith of Inhumanity is out now on Metal Blade.