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Album Review: Cattle Decapitation Create an Extinction-Level Event on Death Atlas

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Kudos to whoever decided to release notoriously vegan, anti-capitalist death metal unit Cattle Decapitation’s latest album on the most consumption-centric week of the year. Death Atlas documents humanity’s lemming-like march off the cliff of extinction — and between Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Record Store Day, we stamp a carbon footprint on Mother Earth’s throat. Their seventh album is undoubtedly the San Diego-based outfit’s most ambitious effort. Does it live up to the high level of quality set by their preceding releases, though?

Cattle Decapitation have come a long way from their gore-grind roots. Not that they don’t still have those elements — they use every part of the animal, after all — but this shows that they’ve set their sights higher. Honestly, I got a Cradle of Filth vibe while listening to this. While their core sound differs almost entirely from the gothic black metal act, there are structural similarities. Travis Ryan grunts, squeals, and King Diamonds, giving the vocals an almost operatic quality as the different styles play off each other — similar to how Dani Filth approaches his performances. The songs have an operatic quality to their storytelling. And the band knows how to put hooks into a chaotic musical style.

Considering the occasional nods to Gojira and Devin Townsend, this feels almost progressive. “Bring Back the Plague” may be one of the most divisive examples of that — although it contains plenty of blasting and growling, it has a big vocal hook and a post-metal section in the middle. Even more likely to cause controversy, however, is the ten-minute-long title track, which bounces from lawnmower shredding to gothic intonations to post-rock melancholy. It’s cohesive and executed well, but not exactly what one listens to a Cattle Decapitation record for. Of course, “The Geocide” and “Be Still Our Bleeding Hearts” proves they can still blast with the best of them.

At 55 minutes, Death Atlas covers quite a bit of ground — too much, considering the intensity of the experience. Nonetheless, it’s an impressive achievement. While it could be tighter, it certainly never gets boring — especially not since the subject matter will make you realize just how fucked we all are.

Death Atlas comes out Friday on Metal Blade. Listen to the title track here. You can preorder it here. Get tickets to their tour here.

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