Review: Cattle Decapitation “Monolith of Inhumanity” [Metal Blade Records]

Review: Cattle Decapitation “Monolith of Inhumanity” [Metal Blade Records]

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Wonderfoul music (yes, “wonder-foul”)

Great albums often have an ability to use fairly ordinary sounding patterns which instead of coming across as stereotypical feel utterly familiar and at home for the listener. The material here is so contagious it’ll feel ‘right’ on the first listen rather than having to settle into it, almost like knowing the songs without having listened to them. The heavy parts (just listen to the opening riff) as well as the instrumental foundations for the melodic sections are hardly innovative in and of themselves, and yet the band always manages to give those parts their own original twist and make them sound fresh and consistently compelling as the songs unravel. That’s the mark of skillful composition: almost a feeling of ease in writing memorable parts, like it comes so easy to the band to be instantaneously relevant and addictive. The technical sections are definitely wild and unpredictable, but those aren’t the area that will provoke an infatuation from the audience as there have been plenty of good technical metal bands over the years that didn’t have the odd and unique allure of ‘Monolith’.

The album mixes for the most obvious part grindcore with slam and modern technical death – but also comprises black metal elements as heard on the rapid guitar strumming and the shrieks on top as well as a general ear-splitting sonic violence reminiscent of the style. Most of the time there’s highly intense dissonance at play but it’s distributed well enough throughout the tracks to be a strength rather than a potential concern in redundancy. The dissonant sections can get really crazy and will straight away send the listener into a state of fight or flight alert mode, but the band are clever enough craftsmen and know when to quickly switch it up to the next tool from their belt and maintain a similar level of intensity without drops.

Of course no review of this album should take too long to address the elephant in the room: the, ahem, melodic scream singing. At this point in time, twenty years plus after the inception of full-on extreme metal, not many bands managed to come up with a sound that was really all that original, that strayed away from the paradigm, while still being compelling. A few bands tried a bunch of wacky shit but it never really took as their sound was just another musical gimmick each time. Along comes this band and their outrageous, even silly concept of using grindcorish screams as a melodic lead track in the songs. It’s simply a delight, how it’s so tongue-in-cheek yet effective at the same time. Now fans around the globe can be seen humming Cattle Decapitation choruses to themselves while ironing or taking out the trash by deliberately choking their vocal chords.

Music fans just want memorable material. Whether they’re underground metal fanatics or radio-pop enthusiasts, they definitely will want their music in their playlists to be catchy on some level. Why not be full-on brutal technical deathgrind, with catchy choruses? It doesn’t compromise the music. In fact it only makes it better here as it allows the more technical discordant parts and the heavier/chunkier breakdowns to breathe (and they are heavy as hell) while the melodic hooks take the attention away from the brutal stuff and introduces more harmonic complexity to the whole. It allows for much better pacing, more efficient riff distribution and naturally it gives the songs a much stronger sense of identity. If the choruses were trash, this simple structural tactic wouldn’t work, so the listener knows for sure they were written with ripe inspiration and real thought poured into them. Listening to the record for half a week only is enough to drive a fan insane from their brain automatically playing a part or two in a loop.

A mention deserves to be made about the solos. The soloing is actually tasteful, with a consistent odd use of pentatonic phrasing over monstrous heaviness among its other many tricks. These types of albums will usually bust out crazy solos just because they’re metal and solos need to be there, but here they’re generally written with real intent and provide an added value to the songs even for listeners not necessarily focused on leads.

The production is of course fantastic and really helps the album reach the awe-inspiring level of sheer intensity and impact the songs deserved. It sounds so positively huge it’s possible even the band were surprised with the result. It’s simply clear all over and meticulously EQ-sculpted to get the most out of each instrument, while not giving them a particular color. From an audio-engineering standpoint the album doesn’t sound dark, or bright, or too mid heavy. It’s just complete clarity. The guitars are humungous, the bass is totally audible and brings that bit more crisp and extra excitement, the drums are hard-hitting and the vocals sound excellent in all of Travis Ryan’s alter-ego styles.

Thinking about it now, he should probably look for a job voicing characters for children’s cartoons. Although no. No wait, that would not be a good idea. The compelling philosophical and oddly poetic lyrics give the album that extra depth and unique touch as well as propel it towards its desired conceptual absurdity. Its song format alone; not to mention the imagery seen on the album cover or in the video clips; screams of absurdity. This album really is an aberration made from a particularly clever and talented group of people. Like, there’s a song called ‘A Living, Breathing Piece of Defecating Meat’. That just summarizes the album as a concept really.

Release date: May 7th, 2012

www.cattledecapitation.com

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