From goregrind beginnings in the late 90s, and over a career spanning almost three decades, Cattle Decapitation have evolved from release to release, from the raw and gore-caked to the ferocious and technical. 2004’s Humanure was somewhat of a follow-through (surely “breakthrough”? – Ed.) album for the band, and garnered some controversy for its infamous cover art, which, to note, is not in fact a gruesome homage to Pink Floyd’s Atom Heart Mother, just a delightful coincidence (many were convinced though, especially considering the album’s first track was called ‘Scatology Domine’, a clear reference to Pink Floyd’s track ‘Astronomy Domine’ from Piper at the Gates of Dawn). Since Humanure, the band’s output has been nothing but strong, every subsequent release seeing critical acclaim and a growth in their fanbase. At this time, they stand as one of the biggest forces in the worlds of tech death and grindcore. The band are all vegan or vegetarian and adjacent themes have always been a large part of their lyricism and presentation; the way in which the band have used extreme music to bring awareness to topics like animal welfare and environmental preservation is tantamount to Gojira, albeit with a somewhat more misanthropic bent.
The record opens dramatically with ‘Terrasitic Adaptation’: huge power chords that eventually explode into breakneck tremolo riffing and blastbeasts. Rhythm guitarist Belisario Dimuzio—studio member since 2018, touring since 2015—has really added some extra meat to their sound since Death Atlas, and lead guitarist Josh Elmore displays his talents later in the track here with a short, tastefully virtuosic solo. The lead single, ‘We Eat Our Young’ is a powerhouse deathgrind track, the titular lyrics of the chorus making for something utterly anthemic and animalistic.
Vocalist Travis Ryan is really showcasing his range, with his guttural vocals, blackened shrieks and howls, and his signature “clean” almost alien vocal style that he’s employed since 2012’s Monolith of Inhumanity. Elmore and Dimuzio’s guitar work throughout is stunning, and with bassist Olivier Pinard’s rumbling tone, producer Dave Otero has again magnified the band’s sound into something grander than the sum of its parts. Death metal can too often suffer from weak uncomplimentary production, but Otero’s has weight and roundness and of course leaves plenty of room in the mix to let David McGraw’s relentless drumming shine through; onslaughts of technical blastbeats, robotically tight fills and stomping foundations for the more mid-pace sections. Cattle Decapitation have really developed in this area; slower, vaster moments the band execute with doom-laden viciousness and at other times with more cosmic grandeur, when Ryan’s extraterrestrial vocals are put to best use.
Closer ‘Just Another Body’ is a ten-minute compositional epic; an album highlight, and fitting coda, bringing all the sounds and stylistic idiosyncrasies of the record together for its final movement. The track pulls to an end with huge melodic guitar passages, some genuinely clean vocals from Ryan and floating synths. As Death Atlas did, Terrasite has some real thrash punch to it. Tracks like ‘Dead End Residents’, ‘The Storm Upstairs’, and ‘A Photic Doom’ which includes some of Elmore’s most impressive lead work to date. There’s an especially discordant technical thrash edge to ‘Scourge of the Offspring’.
Blackened, deathened, thrashened, grindened(?), whatever you want to call them, labels seem to elude Cattle Decapitation more and more with every release. Extreme metal is a very general term, but this is a band that achieves extremity through vision, passion and razor-sharp musicianship. It’s not common for a band to be at their peak 27 years into their career, but that’s exactly where they are, and may well be for years to come.
Terrasite is out now via Metal Blade Records and can be purchased here.
Words: Rory Hughes