Album Review: Cattle Decapitation – Terrasite
Reviewed by Sam Jones
Where do I even begin? Cattle Decapitation are, perhaps, argued amongst many as the kings of modern extreme metal. Few bands can attest to having a near 20 year run of records that not only deliver on droves, but continuously evolve and improve on the band’s legend time and again. Formed in 1996 out of California, United States, Cattle Decapitation began their career notably as a Grindcore act, releasing their 1997 Demo, Ten Torments Of The Damned, the only Cattle release not to include iconic frontman Travis Ryan on vocals, who made his debut on the band’s first full length work, Human Jerky, in 1999. 2000’s Homovore and 2002’s To Serve Man only continued to see the band evolve as they slowly incorporated additional death metal elements into their sound, influenced doubtlessly with the band’s first credit of Josh Elmore on guitar through that latter release. However, from 2004’s Humanure onwards, it’s an absolute avalanche of material that continuously grows and evolves as more members we now associate with the band are brought onboard. The Harvest Floor, released in 2009, sees Dave McGraw brought into drums; 2012’s Monolith Of Inhumanity becomes a defining work for the band which only echoes into 2015’s The Anthropocene Extinction, and finally, 2019 blesses us with Death Atlas, an absolute marvel of extreme metal and my then album of the year. Now, four years onC Cattle Decapitation prepare to unleash their tenth full length record and, more importantly, cite the need for a different direction as stated by Travis Ryan in an interview regarding this album’s concept; if Death Atlas was the dark, Terrasite brings in the daylight.
The theme regarding this record, I think, is fascinating. Throughout various Cattle records we’ve always had this sense the inhuman, misanthropic actions are committed in darkness, under evil etc. It’s why Terrasite feels so unnvering; the band detail the Terrasite, a creature that has forced to evolve into a new dawn as created by the last cycle of humanity. Humanity has had to change itself physically and anatomically in order to persist on this altered planet, hence Travis Ryan’s piece over “taking it into the daylight” being so appropriately fitting. While the band’s onslaught never wanes, nor did we have any inclination they would do so, there’s something within their soundscape that gives their performance a loftier tone. Listening to this album feels like the doom has lifted yet the uncertainty firmly remains; it furthermore demonstrates how the band have never done the same album twice whilst retaining that core Cattle Decapitation vibe. You don’t see many extreme metal records possess enough gaul to focus sunlight on their songwriting; the mismatch between album intensity and the environment the band are dictating feels wrong. It’s honestly unsettling.
Compared to Death Atlas, Terrasite is much more straightforward. There’s no breaking up of the track structure, nor do the band allude to any overarching journey. It’s a more traditional affair this time round but, their track listing is anything but traditional; I strongly believe the tracks included here are far more memorable than the individual pieces purported by Death Atlas. Having run through this record multiple times, I knew precisely what song was playing, one after the next, without needing to check for myself. Every track here has something genuinely unique and engaging to pull us into this nightmare and then keep us there; whether it’s the chunky riffs of “We Eat Our Young”, the melodic choruses of “Scourge Of The Offspring”, rapid-fire goblin vocals off “A Photic Doom” or the melancholic fate presented by “Just Another Body” through heavy piano keys. If Death Atlas is a record that excelled at developing a singular theme to its crescendo, Terrasite sees the band really branch out to see what they can achieve through different means. This album is the band placed in the spotlight, where they pull out all the stops and demonstrate Terrasite as an album, a career in the making.
The band’s direction may be different this time round, yet the production is just as colossal as we’ve become accustomed to receiving. Dave McGraw’s drums are simply titanic, for his double bass drumming completely encompasses your attention and each kick is firmly mixed into the record’s bass which only heightens the impact they’ve been rendered with. Since the drumming has this particularly outlined focus to its performance, even the smaller, more methodical patterns McGraw gives us feel prominent and deliberate; they go hand in hand with Josh Elmore’s grand uetbunique guitar sound. Elmore’s signature sound has become synonymous with Cattle Decapitation, whereby you can get these riff sequences that fall as landslides and gather speed and power and smaller, more intricate moments that sees songwriting evolve beyond the typically expected Cattle affair.
But Cattle Decapitation are nothing if not open to criticism; following the Death Atlas release, some griped the goblin vocals, a powerful and distinctive aspect of Travis Ryan’s vocal prowess, was being utilised too often. In an incredible display of a band actually acknowledging their fanbase, those goblin vocals are actually incorporated on fewer occasions. As a result, when they’re brought into play, they feel much more significant and their presence helps their respective tracks rise to grander heights. If anything, Terrasite feels like a true fusion between modern Cattle Decapitation and their earlier works such as Humanure or The Harvest Floor; it only furthers the notion that this record truly is decades in the making. Yet, these goblin vocals aren’t employed solely for melodic purposes. They can be glorious, harrowing, sombre, attacking etc. Vocally, Travis Ryan employs the expected twinge on his delivery yet it’s branching out in new and fresh directions. But, rest assured, his guttural lows, almost twenty years on from Humanure, are still as vile as ever.
In conclusion, Terrasite is a hydrogen bomb of a record that’s poised to detonate upon its release date of May 12th. This is not Death Atlas, just as that record wasn’t The Anthropocene Extinction, and that record wasn’t Monolith Of Inhumanity, yet Terrasite retains that quintessential Cattle Decapitation aesthetic, of the coming end and all hopes extinguished to face it. Yet, in their own canon, the apocalypse is done; the end came and passed. But now, the creatures dubbed terrasites, know only anguish and the pursuit of existence solely for its own sake. No art nor culture, no meaning nor purpose; Cattle Decapitation depict life turned perverse, the purpose of life merely to see the next day and, so, the latent evils of birthing are freshly renewed. The album in itself is a triumph yet the entire back half of Terrasite is an utterly blinding performance where every track only builds after the last. The entire record is absolutely peppered with unique and sensational moments that will see fans new and old alike come to Cattle’s knees and bow before their might. Have they topped Death Atlas? I genuinely believe they have; while that record is incredible, I strongly suggest Terrasite has more going for it, especially since it sees the band take their style in a new, daylit direction that they’ll only develop on for their next studio work. The band’s prior work gazed upon the futility of Mankind’s ability to change its nature; Terrasite boldly suggests something else entirely: the Horror of Existence itself. Album Of The Year contender, without a doubt.