The Anthropocene Extinction
(Metal Blade Records)
With a name like Cattle Decapitation, you aren’t going into things with a neutral mind. The San Diegan-based group have always been at the forefront of vegan-friendly gore-splattered deathgrind, even if that sounds somewhat backhand. Cattle Decapitation have had a very unique band trajectory. Up until 2009’s The Harvest Floor, the band’s brand of deathgrind was more focused on perfecting a certain brand of Carcass worship coupled with horrifying visuals than elevating the game. However, with that album, Cattle Decapitation showed signs of progression, a sense of grandeur that was magnified a hundred-fold with 2012’s Monolith of Inhumanity. The band ascended a few floors (instead of just taking a step up) and became, arguably, the best American deathgrind band, showcasing a keener sense of songwriting ability. The songs were more progressive, yet the riffs and speed were just as savage as ever. So the question was if the band could take another big step up and build on their rapid ascension?
In a couple words: Uh, Hell yes. I’m a man of many words, but after listening to The Anthropocene Extinction, all I could think of was “Wow!” If Monolith of Inhumanity was a coming-out party, then this is a blood-soaked parade of riffs. Seriously, we all knew Travis Ryan is one of the best metal vocalists out there, so his continued mastery of his craft is not surprising. David McGraw can put the Muppets’ Animal to shame on the drums, and, hey, you can actually hear the bass (and that’s a good thing). However, one of the most notable improvements over the last few records has been the guitar work. Josh Elmore was never a slouch, but here, he showcases his best work. I’ve always viewed Aborted as being the premiere in deathgrind riffery, but one listen to The Anthropocene Extinction puts that notion to the test. Josh’s riffs, solos, and little progressive flourishes are all wonderfully done and help keep the whole album interesting. Just pick any song from here and you’ll find a riff more tasty than a medium rare Brazilian steak (yes, I went there).
Most of the focus on this album is on how humanity has ushered in our own environmental extinction. The arresting cover art is even a reference to a famous photograph of a washed up animal on the shore (1,000 bonus points for catching the reference). I don’t think God himself could compose a better and more horrifyingly delightful opera of our apocalypse. Regardless of your politics, the potent subject matter is the terrifying icing on this blood-red cake (Red vegan Velvet?), as it makes these harbingers of doom that much more enjoyable. Take it from someone who was merely a casual listener of Cattle Decapitation before this record: this is going down as the best death metal album of 2015. That is unless we end up with two classic in one year, which is perfectly welcome. Cattle Decapitation are only improving with age and have crafted their best yet. (Nicholas Senior)