(Continuing his string of reviews this week, TheMadIsraeli provides this explosively enthusiastic assessment of the [stupendous] new album by Cattle Decapitation.)
May 8 was an extremely good day. Why?
Because this album and the new Allegaeon come out on May 8.
Cattle Decapitation and I have had a very torrid love affair, full of many ups and downs. While the music has been consistently stellar deathgrind (with the exception of their horrific debut Human Jerky), I’ve found that this band usually killed what were great albums in the making with mixes so horrific it made my ears bleed. If you are a long-time Cattle Decap fan, you might guess that I like To Serve Man and The Harvest Floor best since you can ACTUALLY MAKE OUT WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON.
I’m not being a new-age-all-production-must-be-slick-and-pristine nazi at all, but when you have a band like Cattle Decapitation who play music this fast, this furious, and this fuck-nuts-sanity-shattering, anything less than a stellar, tight mix will lose the music in translation.
Luckily, not only is Monolith of Inhumanity their best-sounding record to date, it’s also their musical pinnacle thus far. By making a little trip back to the drawing board after The Harvest Floor (an album I mostly enjoyed, but felt was a little weak at points), Cattle Decap have done themselves quite a bit of good, as Monolith Of Inhumanity may be one of the top five albums in the death metal/grindcore realm all year.
On the diversity scale, this album is absolutely fucking nutso. It retains a consistent, never-relenting dose of brutal death metal and feral grindcore, but the band also incorporate ideas and feels from both old and new schools of thought within both genres.
“Brutal” and “feral”, however, are not the proper words. I don’t know what this album fucking is. It’s like the audio incarnation of every dismemberment scene found in every single horror movie ever created. It’s gratuitous and sometimes a little cheesy, and it induces an adrenaline rush the size of King Kong’s fist crashing through a sky scraper. It’s like fighting off an entire army of giant gorillas with mad cow disease with a chainsaw. It’s like you’re the only man in a zombie apocalypse who’s immune to becoming one, and you’ve studied a martial art so sacred that only you know it, and it allows you to simply touch the zombies and then watch them explode.
I mean, just take the opener “The Carbon Stampede”. It’s a stampede, alright: A stampede of vehicle-sized hornets with buzz saws for stringers surrounding you and nicking you ’til you bleed out like a stuck pig. Yeah, that intro has got some badass groove working within it, and the blood-gurgling roar of Travis Ryan that ushers in the song is sweet and all, but beyond the intro it’s just… fucking like… I DON’T EVEN KNOW. The blistering verse, full of light-speed riffing and out-of-control, convulsive spasm sweeping pretty much incinerates your eardrums, an experience perpetuated by the contortion of the song’s intro into powerful variations to deliver some balls-to-the-wall groove for the sake of contrast. The way the band introduce this groove for the last time in the song is awesome, with guitarist Josh Elmore busting out a frenzy of cannibalism-inducing sweeps. The song ends with a badass breakdown that is very reminiscent of Dying Fetus.
“Dead Set On Suicide” begins immediately with a slightly punky grindcore assault in classic Napalm Death/Brutal Truth tradition, immediately blending the listener into meat chunks before the song has even gotten fully under way. Bassist Derek Engemann introduces the song’s verse with a nifty bit of bass noodling. Here is where I ought to establish something: The bass tone on this album is insane. It is so distorted, so massive, on such an equal level with the guitars, that when the band is grinding at their fastest, it sounds like the thoom of nuclear fucking fallout happening right in front of you.
The song’s verse alone demonstrates exactly what I’m talking about. Not only is Engemann’s bass tone insane, his playing is also top-notch. The man plays at high speed USING ONLY HIS FINGERS. You can also hear everything he’s doing, which really adds to the intensity of the music. Cattle Decapitation barely detune their instruments (only a half step down), and Engemann’s tone combined with his ferocious attack provides so much beef that the band don’t need detuning to create the sound of massive, swallowing brutality.
The riffs in “Dead Set On Suicide” are so fast that the song is disorienting, a haze of railroad-spike hail assaulting from all directions. The chorus of the song offers another surprise: Melodic vocals. A friend of mine came up with a pretty apt description for these. When he heard them, he asked aloud “Are those… pirate gang vocals?”. Now that he’s said that, I can’t u-hear it. It adds to the chaos of the song, rather than detracting from it, making it a welcome addition instead of feeling like a commercial reach-out of any sort. This song also includes perhaps the heaviest fucking breakdown I’ve ever heard. You’ll have to hear it yourself. It’s unbelievable.
“A Living Breathing Piece of Defecating Meat” wastes no time in deploying its blast-beat laden, meaty fucking palm-muted assault. It’s fast as fuck, like everything else on this album, WHICH IS AS IT SHOULD BE WHEN BRUTAL MUSIC IS BEING PLAYED. Some of the moments in the riffing are just unheard-of speeds of mind-fuckery. The pirate-gang vocals return once again for a rip-roaring good time in a catchy chorus that I can see audiences at shows fist-pumping and chanting along with. The song also includes a nice bit of black-metal refrain, with the always talented and always insane Travis Ryan switching voices like someone with multiple personalities on LSD. I should also note that the gravity blasts in this song are inhuman. Drummer David McGraw is proving that he is one of the best drummers in the biz right now.
At first, “Forced Gender Reassignment” may make you think the album’s dominant style is gonna take a back seat for the introduction of a groove-centered song, and the riff is pretty sweet to boot.
But fucking please.
The song almost immediately switches gears back to the feeding frenzy of speed, returning to the intro groove and bringing in a meaty slam moment until the black metal influence kicks right back in again. A torrential firestorm of ice shards flays the skin as Josh Elmore delivers more of that badass shreddin’ shit. This is probably the most unrelenting song on the album. It just keeps going and going and going, producing the sensation of being strapped inside a car that’s going to continue accelerating without end. The inevitable crash comes in the form of a slam breakdown that sounds like a human being crushed in a trash compactor and popping like a ripe cherry.
“Gristle Licker”. This fucking song. It’s got some of the coolest moments on the album, drum-wise, especially the beat behind the completely alien sweep-based theme that Josh Elmore revisits multiple times throughout the track. I suppose this song could be considered a more groovy number, but its groove is established more by the feel of the riffs — because the drums are still drenching everything in pig guts and vats of weaponized bile.
I dunno man. It’s like this album is the sound of a slaughterhouse that employs the most unethical practices imaginable, where business is booming and productivity is at an all-time high. I mean, the next song “Projectile Ovulation” is more of the same shit. Just utter fucking brutal frantic feral insanity that makes me want to rip out my own intestines and consume them in the middle of a crowded city street.
The next two songs, “Do Not Resuscitate” and “Lifestalker”, don’t help alleviate that gut-ripping compulsion either. It isn’t until “Your Disposal” that the band change things up a bit, providing a mostly melodic track for the first time on the album. The chorus of this song is its highpoint: a blistering black metal victory anthem with more of those pirate gang vocals providing a triumphant melody over it.
The finale of “The Monolith/Kingdom of Sorrow” is a chilling and icy cold affair. “The Monolith” is a staggeringly eerie intro to “Kingdom Of Sorrow”, a sort of industrial number with droning synths and creepy-as-fuck spoken vocals that steadily increases in volume. At the point when the buildup finally slams into “Kingdom Of Sorrow”, fucking up everything around you is pretty much mandatory. That final song is just blazing, face-raping good stuff until the latter half when it deliverts a neat, brutal reprise of “The Monolith” to end things.
I had heard from somewhere that the album’s lyrics were supposed to represent the perspective of a cow going through a slaughterhouse, but I can’t really say I agree. Rather, it seems to be about . . . a cow leading the overthrow of its human masters? Am I the only one who thinks this sounds totally badass? I won’t go into detail and prefer that you find out for yourselves; it’s quite awesome.
The CD booklet for Monolith Of Inhumanity is quite powerful. The cover art alone is striking (although I don’t see how it relates at all to the album’s concept), depicting a bunch of highly intelligent ape men eating humans. The inside of the album’s booklet makes room for the lyrics and isn’t really art-heavy. However, it includes a few well-done shots of the band members being dismembered, and those are pretty cool.
It’s obvious though that this is an album more intended to speak for itself musically on all fronts. The performances, as you may have guessed from my frantic praise, are fucking top-notch. Josh Elmore busts out waves of gut-slicing riffs, one after the other, like storming the beach at Normandy with bassist Derek Engemann providing the artillery fire. Drummer David McGraw I’m convinced is the equivalent of a living necromicon. He attacks his drum kit with such un-fucking-heard-of ferocity that I’m pretty sure he has at his command an army of undead, upright-walking super-cows ready to butcher the human race.
The icing on the cake is Travis Ryan, of course. This man, bar none, is at the top of the heap of death metal vocalists right now, or even extreme metal vocalists, period. He can deliver gutturals that go as low as the sewers of hell itself, black metal rasps that send chills up your spine like as you feel the ice solidifying around it, hoarse brutal barks that sound like a zombified mastiff that’s been given an experimental growth agent and is the size of a car, and to top it off, gang vocals that sound like FUCKING PIRATES (maybe super-cow pirates).
Monolith Of Inhumanity wins on all fronts. This is #3 on my Top 10 list for 2012. Grab this immediately before the cows come for you.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Monolith Of Inhumanity features a host of guests, including Mike Majewski of Devourment (guest vocals on “Projectile Ovulation”), Lenard Leal of Cephalic Carnage (backing vocals on “A Living, Breathing Piece of Defecating Meat”), The Cephalic Carnage Community Men’s Choir, consisting of all current Cephalic members and alumni Jawsh Mullen and Zac Joe (gang choir vocals on “The Carbon Stampede”), and ambient and noise interludes by LA’s John Wiese.