Oh boy, we have new Cattle Decapitation on our plates, and the cows sure have come home! This is the vegan deathgrind band’s tenth record in their twenty-plus-year career and serves as a follow-up to their previous scorcher Death Atlas. Death Atlas was a very enjoyable record with plenty of memorable riffs and arrangements and was well received by veteran fans and people new to the band and the genre as well. Though it wasn’t a perfect record, it hit plenty of the right notes and you can read my thoughts on that record here. Can they keep up their winning streak with their newest offering, Terrasite?
Cattle Decapitation has gone through a couple of iterations throughout their illustrious career, moving through a few related but slightly different genres before settling into their latest sound. While their early records were more grindcore and goregrind, they started incorporating more death metal elements into their style, morphing into a deathgrind band, which is the subgenre they are most associated with in the scene. With the advent of The Harvest Floor, Cattle Decapitation began to pull in more melodic elements into their songwriting, without giving up too much of their extreme metal roots. Following that, The Monolith of Inhumanity is a record that marked the beginning of this newest era of madness. Personally, they hit their sweet spot with this new sound on the next record The Anthropocene Extinction which shot up in many people’s AOTY lists and was simply an all-around stellar extreme metal record. By this point, they had sharpened their sound into melodic deathgrind and that’s the sound that is now most associated with them.
In that regard, Terrasite continues the legacy perfected with Anthropocene and then iterated upon in Death Atlas. Right from the opener, the semi-titular “Terrasitic Adaptation”, we are reminded of the melodic deathgrind sound. Following the opener is their first single “We Eat Our Young”, a sheer wall of blackened grind, henceforth dubbed the blackwall. On this single, we are reminded once more of Cattle Decapitation’s reliance on mass repetition of a “simple” riff or groove to the point where it becomes irreplaceable and irrefutable as a thesis for the message they wish to deliver. The anthemic chant of the song title in the final third of the song had me yelling “WE EAT OUR YOUNG!” at random passers-by. A sign of a catchy chorus (and perhaps also a sign that I need professional therapy!). The next released single “Scourge of the Offspring” is a perfect metaphor for the entire record and was right on the money to give audiences a balanced taste of what to expect on Terrasite.
Even though Cattle Decapitation has put a renewed emphasis on more grandiosity with their blackwalls and their inclusion of subtle backing synths and trademark chorus vocals, the plant eaters have not compromised on face-smashing brutality, with tracks like “The Insignificants”, “The Storm Upstairs”, “A Photic Doom”, and “Solastalgia” having passages laden with hardened death grooves and crushing drums. “The Storm Upstairs” has a greater emphasis on actual riffs, beyond mere thrashy chugged grooves and the blackwall followed by the melodic chorus. The severe lack of memorable riffs was one of my chief complaints with their previous record Death Atlas. Fortunately, tracks like “The Storm Upstairs” go a long way in alleviating that fear. Also that hardcore dead-stop breakdown on “A Photic Doom” is grin-inducing metal at its finest. Proof that even the simplest of riffs with intelligent arrangements and smart production tricks can be absolutely massive! Toward the end of the record “Solastalgia” plays dangerously close to melodic black metal with the main riff and then a string-skipped riff to absolutely die for (or crowd kill to). Among my favorite riffs on Terrasite nestled away towards the back end of the record. It is also the first track to this reviewer’s memory with a more doom-y approach to clean vocals laid over an almost Gojira (?!)-ish riff. A combination that should not work but absolutely does work with their shared message of ecological preservation, albeit from vastly different mood perspectives!
A key aspect of the new melodeathgrind sound that Cattle Decap has been peddling over the last few records is the presence of the melodic chorus, often with tremolo-picked grandiose chord progressions, high tempo blast beats and/or double kicks with the vocalist’s “scream cleans” or “agony cleans” belted forth. It is these catchy choruses on tracks like “Lifestalker”, “Manufactured Extinction”, and “Bring Back the Plague” on previous records that made these tracks crowd favorites. Terrasite also has a few similar offerings, in the form of “… And The World Will Go On Without You”, “Dead End Residents”, “Solastalgia” and the gargantuan closer “Just Another Body”. These sections show that even the most grotesque of imagery, the most brutal of sonic arrangements, and the most aggressive genre staples can be held together by musically melodic sections proficiently held together by superlative vocals.
Every record in their newest cycle has ended with a cinematic-length juggernaut album closer. Terrasite does this with “Just Another Body”, opening with morose keys and a doomy chug riff, before slamming us right back into the filth of human consumption. Normally, bloated album closers tend to be filled with unnecessary fluff, but Cattle Decapitation knows how to toe the line of hamming it for the big sendoff while still having enough meat (plant-based of course!) to tickle the tastebuds! The final third of “Just Another Body” goes right into melodic doom territory with large mournful string arrangements reminding us of bands like Woods of Ypress and daresay even BellWitch, which coupled with the baleful clean vocal arrangements exploring yet another texture and range really drives home a severe sense of pain and despondency. If a deathgrind record can evoke thoughtful reflection, they are sure as hell doing something right, and here we are!
Listen, nobody needs to sit here and harp on about how amazing each of the musicians are in this band. But I will do so in as few words as possible without sounding like a gushing schoolgirl. Drummer David McGraw has among the hardest hits in the genre and maintains insane intensity and brutality with his relentless blast beats and high BPM double bass to provide a firm foundation for the rest of the madness to be piled upon. It pleases me greatly that bassist Olivier Pinard (basically from every techdeath band right now) is used much more in the songwriting process (a HUGE complaint in my review of Death Atlas). His bass lines are more pronounced and are given plenty of room even in the busier sections to breathe and provide girth to the riffs. Sadly, it pains me that I cannot say the same about the second guitarist Belisario Dimuzio. This is his second record with Cattle Decap, debuting with Death Atlas where I felt he was sorely underused. The issue is that with CD’s writing style, it is nearly impossible to decipher when the guitar parts are layered or are separately written sections. Cattle Decapitation has reached its height as a one-guitar band, and the hope was the inclusion of a second guitarist, the band would broaden their songwriting repertoire in more lateral ways from previous records, yet very little of that can be seen on Terrasite! The backbone of the Cattle Decapitation sound has been the masterwork of longtime guitarist Josh Elmore. His unique approach to writing wall-of-sound frenetic tremolo-picked sections results in the blackwall. His chugs and grooves are expertly crafted and proves that even Standard Eb tuning can be used to devastating results. The trademark Cattle sound is in no small part due to his efforts.
If Elmore is one part that makes Cattle Decapitation who they are, then the other chunk of their identity falls squarely on vocalist Travis Ryan’s shoulders. Truly among the most unique voices in extreme metal, he does things with his vocal cords that are simultaneously terrifying and awe-inspiring! His grunts and squeals are animalistic in ways that modern death metal and deathcore vocalists can only dream of attaining. His “agony cleans” (for lack of a better word) have yet to be replicated by another band in any other genre and sets his vocals and Cattle Decapitation apart from the other bands in their space. We simply cannot praise this man’s craft enough! We should merely be happy that he is still putting out music that we can enjoy. Truly among the best at his chosen art form. His lyrics and message are thoughtfully woven together in intelligent and witty ways and have always been very close to their hearts. Their message has never been more pertinent than to the present era of hyper-consumption and dwindling resources we live in.
Terrasite improves upon Death Atlas in a multitude of ways giving us aggressively emotional melodeathgrind forcing upon us their message of anti-consumption and anti-violence in the most violently cathartic of ways! The best record since The Anthropocene Extinction, maybe their best yet!
Overall Sound9/10 Amazing'Terrasite' improves upon 'Death Atlas' in a multitude of ways giving us aggressively emotional melodeathgrind forcing upon us their message of anti-consumption and anti-violence in the most violently cathartic of ways!
Songwriting & Lyrics9/10 AmazingThe lyrics and message are thoughtfully woven together in intelligent and witty ways and have always been very close to their hearts. The best record since The Anthropocene Extinction, maybe their best yet!
Awesome review! I cannot WAIT to experience it myself
Thanks a lot. It was a pleasure to sink my teeth into this package for days before penning my thoughts. Come back to this space after the record is out and compare your own thoughts with mine.
Check out my other reviews too!