Cattle Decapitation – Death Atlas (Metal Blade)

Friday, 22nd November 2019
Rating: 9.5/10

Watching Cattle Decapitation’s evolution over the past decade has been one that has been ripe with promise. The Harvest Floor hinted at what the band could do more than previous releases, and Monolith of Inhumanity and The Anthropocene Extinction both did their job to raise the bar for the extreme metal genre as a whole. Unsurprisingly, Death Atlas sees the band continue to further polish their decidedly unique take on melody and brutality, resulting in a record that breaks new ground while giving fans plenty of what they came for to begin with.

Everything just seems like it’s a part of a larger scale when listening to Death Atlas. Some of it may not be immediately noticeable in listening to the few pre-release tracks, but when you put it altogether on the album it makes for an almost cinematic sound in scope. The biggest difference to be found, sonically, is the increase in an almost melancholic/sorrow tone to a number of the tracks, as well as some increased pull from other parts of the extreme metal spectrum (notably black and doom). It makes for a riveting contrast when they go all in with the more venomous moments the band has long been known for. “Bring Back the Plague” delves into some black-ish riffing and gloomy melodies at points within the song, only to explode into frenzied speed and pounding riffs the next moment. “Be Still Our Bleeding Hearts” works along in the same fashion, with some desperately melancholic moments offering a spine-tingling chill as the band switches on the fly towards something decidedly more aggressive while keeping the process natural and genuine in tone.

Perhaps the best example of the band’s continued evolution is that of the closing title track though. Despite the barrage of exhilarating drumming and frantic riffs, the tone is a somber one – keeping an ominous yet epic feel as clusters of brutality perfectly align with some of the most melodic and sad sounding stuff the band has put out to date. Along those lines, Travis Ryan has continued to expand his vocal repertoire to even more impressive heights, giving a range that’s practically unparalleled in terms of its savagery and emotion. Each member of Cattle Decapitation gives a standout performance, but Ryan’s vocals on the title track and “One Day Closer to the End of the World” are bound to make even non-extreme fans take notice. Add that to a thought-provoking lyrical stance (as has been the case for years), and it’s a formula that truly feels unique.

Cattle Decapitation has worked hard over the years to develop a sound that stands apart from others in the death metal realm. Death Atlas sits at the pinnacle of this journey to date, allowing the listener to go through a range of emotions from rage and anger to introspection and sorrow in ways that few other bands can achieve. Easily one of the most rewarding musical experiences of the year as one dissects the combination of assaulting fury and melodic undertones and how the band twists them together.

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