Death Atlas Album Review

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The album cover for "Death Atlas"

Ethan Greene, Staff Writer

To characterize Cattle Decapitation’s success as unexpected would be an understatement. The vegetarian, pro-environmental black metal group has soared to fame in a music scene which may have rejected it in years past; managing to satisfy the tastes of metal elitists and deathcore progressives alike. Now, with the release of their eighth album, “Death Atlas,” Cattle Decapitation finds themselves at a musical crossroads between ambitious experimentation and continuing the grindcore sound that brought them success in the first place. Luckily, it seems, this new record has found a happy medium. “Death Atlas” boasts a more polished and articulate sound than any of Cattle Decapitation’s previous works, and is another step forward in the band’s path of success. 

 

Instrumental Aspect

While previous releases, (notably, “Homovore”), have consisted of an atonic sludge of guitar noise mixed with crackly, Korn-like bass,  “Death Atlas” contains a plethora of heavy, yet melodic riffs which give the album a more sophisticated touch. Tracks such as “The Genocide” boast remarkable melodic discernability without compromising Cattle Decapitation’s signerature brutality; in turn allowing the band to expand their musical horizons beyond the limits of the grindcore genre. 

Rhythm has always taken a thorough precedence in Cattle Decap’s music, and “Death Atlas” is no exception. Belisario Dimuzio milks impeccable syncopation out of his guitar to create intricate, crushing riffs such as those in “Vulturous” and “Be Still Our Bleeding Hearts.” Meanwhile, bassist Olivier Pinard’s basslines add depth to the perfectly chaotic flurries which shroud “Death Atlas”. And while the bass itself does not take center stage, it is largely responsible for the audible purity of this record by laying a tonal foundation off which the guitar’s screaming falsettos can blossom. 

Finally, it wouldn’t be a Cattle Decapitation album without the inhumanly-rapid nature of David McGraw’s drumming. McGraw continues to amaze us with his dexterity on tracks such as “One Day Closer to the End of the World;” using double-bass sixtuplets to steer and empower songs and their listeners. 

 

Lyrics

Travis Ryan has never shied away from expressing his pro-environmental opinions, and the lyrics to this new record are no exception. “The Universe, it always finds a way to purge, the sustainibly inappropriate numbers that once surged,” exclaims Ryan in “The Genocide,” attesting to the detrimental effect of humanity on other life. Perhaps the most noticeable difference in “Death Atlas” is the hauntingly endearing method Ryan uses to express mankind’s extinction. “Death is a part of life” cooes the frontman in “Be Still Our Bleeding Hearts,” as if he were a gentle father comforting a terminally ill child. And though the singer continues to protest the unsustainability of human existence, he does so in the way of someone who has made peace with our demise, contrasting the obscene lyrical brutality present in Cattle Decapitation’s past releases. Travis Ryan also uses “Death Atlas’ as an opportunity to showcase his impressive vocal range, often shifting his usual grunting croaks to a more fragile, yet equally violent falsetto. Songs such as “The Genocide” pay tribute to Ryan’s vocal abilitities while continuing the relentless musical rampaging that Cattle Decapitation fans have come to expect. 

 

Recording

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of Cattle Decapitation’s new album is its studio-quality clarity. While previous records such as “Homovore” and “Humanure” exude a molten sludge-esque aura, “Death Atlas” was mixed as if it were a progressive metal record; sensitive to dynamic changes and allowing each instrument a moment on center-stage. This is not to say that the album lacks grit, (because Cattle Decapitation fans would never allow that to happen), but it certainly places more emphasis on melody and instrumental discernment than any of the band’s previous works. Even Travis Ryan’s guttural vocals are enhanced near the point of lyrical comprehension, (that is, until he melts them into a deep, indistinguishable demonic slur). 

 

Overall Impression: 3.5/5 Stars

“Death Atlas” is a polished work of controlled chaos; an album heavy enough to be accepted by Cattle Decapitation’s original fanbase, yet articulate enough to receive critical and mainstream metal acclaim. This record exemplifies everything that Cattle Decapitation has become synonymous with: unharnessed brutality, lightening-fast drums, and a certain disdain towards the more inhumane behaviors of humanity. And while this release is worlds away from the band’s 2000 debut, their philosophy and intensity have remained unabated. 

With that being said, “Death Atlas” is more than just a record for Cattle Decapitation; it is a sign that the band has embarked on a new musical flight path towards experimentation and melodic articulation.