Originally written by Matt Longo
We like to compartmentalize — it’s only human. Without it, our brains would just overload, so this is where things like prejudices, stereotypes, assumptions and the like give us advanced primates a chance to do things like hold a conversation or drive a car or create tentacle porn. And we, as a metal community, have tried to pigeonhole Cattle Decapitation over the last 15 years or so — but as what, “vegan grindcore” or some such nonsense?
Evolve — evolve, you damned knuckle-draggers. If anyone has taken that cue, it’s vocalist Travis Ryan, who’s as outspoken as misanthropes get, quite possibly to the point of unconscious self-loathing. But the thing is, vitriol never tasted this sweet… hell, is it supposed to? Feel free to ask yourself that question, but it never entered my mind until now. Maybe because there’s that part of me that always latches to the brutals, but honestly, I bear slight allegiance to grind. That’s probably the main reason I enjoyed the last few Cattle Decapitation releases more and more, with Monolith of Inhumanity etched into the alloyed annals as evidence of another rare breed that improves with age.
The Locust residue is long gone, so hopefully there’s no plague of crybabies in that regard. Every Metal Blade release over the past decade has seen steady, marked improvements on virtually all fronts, as Cattle Decapitation furthers toward melody and away from atonality; neither good nor bad, but a conscious and effective decision. There are still acres of chaos to dance around in, but I now see clearer paths scythed.
Monolith is most digestible. Even though “The Carbon Stampede” will leave you trampled under foot with its career-spanning cast of past-and-present Cephalic Carnage members, the first sweet morsels are dropped toward the end of innovative Christ-bash “Dead Set on Suicide”. But the eponymous chorus in “A Living, Breathing Piece of Defecating Meat” is the prettiest piece of horrific imagery since Ghost’s “Ritual”. Prepare to hum this later, and prepare further for uncomfortable humor. (And I don’t mean black bile.) “Forced Gender Reassignment” makes me cringe every time, and despite its title, “Projectile Ovulation” proves Cattle Decapitation are equal-opportunity haters.
Yet it’s those moments like “Lifestalker” that really take aback, as Travis gets positively playful while hocking lungers and rolling those Rs before dropping back into familiar gurgles and growls. Grooves explode around 1:15, shortly followed by a lovely bass moment by relatively-unknown newcomer Derek Engemann, then a demonstration of Ryan’s expanding vocal breadth, and a remarkable 30-second serving of gorgeous from the likewise-growing palette of guitarist Josh Elmore. But the dude wrangling this madness together is drummer David McGraw, who first made his presence known on The Harvest Floor, expertly unleashing barrages of powerful double-bass one minute, and relaxing the attack when necessary.
Past 2001, past 2010, Monolith of Inhumanity is a devastating survey of the 2012 landscape, with a quality standard even Kubrick would admire (though I doubt he’d dig the music). We may be seen as “evolved feces” in the scornful eyes of these Californian shit-slingers, but now more than ever, Cattle Decapitation has honed to a familiar, deadly edge.