The evolution over the years of San Diego, California’s Cattle Decapitation has been one to behold. The long and winding path from 2000’s slamming grindcore debut Homovore to today’s melodic extreme death metal magnum opus Death Atlas (Metal Blade Records) has been one fraught with changes in lineup, convictions about ideology, and overall sound; but even despite the difficulties and the dilemmas, the controversies and the conflicts, Cattle Decapitation’s global clout is greater today than it has ever been.
Ever since the Golden State act suddenly changed from grindcore to a more progressive death metal approach between 2002’s To Serve Man and 2004’s Humanure, Cattle Decapitation have shown that they’ve never been afraid to experiment with different methods and sounds to convey their graphic and gruesome views on humanity’s more unsightly habits towards animals and livestock – and humanity’s awful treatment of each other, for that matter. But this courage to abruptly change sound comes with a price in the form of many lineup changes over the years.
Let’s face it, creative differences are a regrettable fact of the business and are one of the leading causes of band breakups everywhere, not just in metal. But through all of the people coming and going, Cattle Decapitation have managed to keep the core members and aspects of their sound together; and with new blood comes new ideas, and the result has been their string of better and better melodic/extreme death albums starting from 2009’s The Harvest Floor – the first to display Cattle Decapitation’s version of “clean” vocals on the final track “Regret & The Grave” – and running all the way through to today’s Death Atlas.
Consequently, to say that Cattle Decapitation have finally honed their sound to a razor-sharp edge would be a monumental understatement. Since 2012’s Monolith of Inhumanity, the band has used the melodic, dual “clean” screams and growls ever increasingly, and on Death Atlas, anyone who loved the songs “The Prophets of Loss” or “Not Suitable for Life” on 2015’s massively popular The Anthropocene Extinction will have their jaws left hanging, for Cattle Decapitation has unequivocally brought the fire on 2019’s Death Atlas.
Right from the get-go, Death Atlas is a melodic/extreme death metal masterpiece. Following a brief and grim introductory track, “The Geocide” kicks you right in the teeth, and if you’re hoping for more of the trademarked Cattle Decapitation “clean” vocals, then you will not be disappointed, as they are used more on this album than any other before it – and thus it is, without any whisper of a doubt, the finest album the band has ever released.
Every single song is fantastic, but if you’re looking for recommendations, don’t miss the aforementioned “The Geocide”, “One Day Closer to the End of the World”, “Bring Back the Plague”, and “Time’s Cruel Curtain”.
Crushing, punishing, and completely enthralling, Cattle Decapitation’s Death Atlas is practically perfect in every way. Go buy it. Now. Seriously, what are you still doing sitting there? Go!
Rating: 10 / 10
Release Date: November 29th, 2019 (Metal Blade Records)
Influences & Contemporaries: Suffocation, Cannibal Corpse, Dying Fetus, Cephalic Carnage, Cryptopsy, Abnormality, Aborted, Animals Killing People, Man Must Die