An in depth analysis and review of “The Anthropocene Extinction” by Cattle Decapitation
Three years ago Cattle Decapitation released their genre-defining album “Monolith of Inhumanity”. Then, they were no newbie to the game, however after it’s release, they were elevated to a status much would argue would be their rise into fame. Cattle Decapitation have been notorious for their lyrical content, speaking very strongly about the depravity of humanity, the consumption and slaughter of animals, and environmental degradation caused by humans. Monolith was one powerhouse of an album, focusing on the idea of the devolving of humanity back into apes through our grotesque actions as a species, with the fierce and unrelenting musicality to back it all up. However, with their latest record, Cattle Decapitation takes the album concept to an apocalyptic, horrific level, and turns the songwriting and musical composition up to 11.
Many fans, myself included, thought Monolith of Inhumanity was the pinnacle of the deathgrind genre, the deadliest fusion of relentless death metal and grimy grindcore. Taking elements of unending riffs and blast beats and combining them with monstrous guttural vocals to create a unique sound which opened people’s ears across the global scene. However, I have to say, everyone was wrong. Yes – Monolith of Inhumanity was a career defining release. And yes – the music was composed to a level of near brutal perfection. The Anthropocene Extinction is the older, more refined, destructive brother, an album which seems to show Cattle Decapitation learning from their previous incursions and stepping up their game. (As you can see, with the homage to “The Monolith” in the panoramic artwork of “The Anthropocene Extinction.”)
The Anthropocene Extinction begins with the track “Manufactured Extinct”, opening up slowly into an explosion of instrumentation. Here is when we first take notice of frontman Travis Ryan’s improved vocals as he spouts out “In the beginning of this… the Anthropocene Era…” If you didn’t know already, the Anthropocene Era is defined as the epoch in time in which the actions of humans start to have a profound impact on the planet and thus, destroying ecological biodiversity. As the track rages on, immediately we get familiarized with Ryan’s trademark style of half screaming, half guttural vocals. We hear him rage on, eventually reaching an echoing melodic scream ending the song with “Under the sun and in plain sight, a tragedy has been designed by hands of cultures intertwined in greed and cruel ways of life.”
Immediately the song transitions into “The Prophets of Loss” which begins with blast beat drums by the powerhouse Dave McGraw. “Prophets” begins to delve deeper into the hard-hitting apocalyptic reality that the album presents with the line “You may not know it now, but your children are f****d, and their children’s futures are ruined..the ultimate do in of Earth, resources, the grand undoing..” With a sharp, high pitched scream chorus to end it out, the next track “Plagueborne” picks up with an industrial sounding background rhythm, emanating similarly to the drone of a factory production line. Here, we have a great display of the influences in which Cattle Decapitation takes from. From the death metal classic blast beats, to the type of high noted black metal riffs, to the erratic pacing of technical metal. The meaning of the song speaks of the ‘Plague’ as they call it, a “truth of lust” instead of the “lies of piety”, basically saying that we have an inherent plague inside each and every one of us, take it to be good or bad.
The next face-smashing track “Clandestine Ways (Krokodil Rot)” is one of the most horrific songs on the album, dealing with the drug Krokodil, a base, poorly cooked alternative to heroin, in which extreme addicts knowingly take when they have no other option to a dosage. The side effects include necrosis and the rotting away of body parts. Possibly the most mind crushing breakdown in grindcore in the past couple of years – the track goes into vivid detail as the instruments slow down to showcase Travis Ryan’s extremely low range when he spits out some of the most disgustingly catchy lyrics: “No need for anesthetics, your research for cosmetics landed you here on my gurney: hurting gurgling diuretics. Tube leads into open sores creating sepsis, septic shock sets in, no asepsis in my cold aesthetics…” Finishing out the song with a question that cuts deep into your mind when you hear it, specifically focusing on the horrors of drug addiction, abuse, and overdose: “Why do we do these things? Is this the meaning of “human being?”
Track 5, “Circo Inhumanitas” is one of the most poignant F**k you songs to humanity that I’ve heard in a long time, the title meaning ‘Circus of Inhumanity’. The track rolls on as Ryan growls about the true horrors and corruption of human beings as it is showcased as speaking to unknowing, submissive people. As it ends and track 6, “The Burden of Seven Billion” begins, we are now fully immersed in the apocalyptic wasteland of an atmosphere that Cattle have masterfully crafted for us. An instrumental song with a droning deathly ambiance that transports you into the destroyed world caused by human activity shown on the album cover.
Now that we as listeners are fully engaged in this wastelandish drama, track 7, “Mammals in Babylon” shows us that Cattle Decapitation is here to play, stay, and dominate the metal scene in years to come. Nothing short of a masterpiece of metal composition and production, “Mammals in Babylon” showcases the full range of Travis Ryan’s masterful vocals, cutting from highs to lows and back to highs in the same breath, telling us all that he is indeed one of the most powerful vocalists in the current metal scene. (This song is most likely the song which urged me to learn and practice metal vocals.) The track is a moving, absolutely mind numbing and depressing look on the world that we are given, and what we may eventually be looking back at in the future. Beginning with lyrics such as “We had it all, the whole of Eden in our hands, the privilege of existence, the ubiquitous lay of the land.” As guitarist Josh Elmore and bassist Derek Engemann show their expertise, the song reaches its climax with Ryan giving a performance which puts this album in the top 5 of the year list, nearly singing cleanly: “No reason to suffer… Suffer anymore… Not today! In this day and age! The stench of sulfur, brimstone lined shores… Lake of flames… is this day and age…” As each track ends, we as listeners get more and more upset as we start to realize that maybe there is some truth in the terrible reality being presented to us in the music.
In track 8, “Mutual Assured Destruction”, we’ve reached a point where Travis is pissed off at our species, so much so, that he wants to end it all with nuclear bombs and be done with it: “Turn loose the missiles, hear the sirens – since all our species knows is violence.” The track is the shortest on the album, coming in at 2:42 in true grindcore fashion. The majority of the time is played in a quick succession of rhyming and clever pairs of two words, sure to amp up anyone’s vocabulary.
Coming into “Not Suitable for Life” we now are accustomed to the dark content the album has to offer and we are enthralled with it. Wanting more, track 9 which is my personal favorite, delivers the power, aggression, and eye-opening lyrics that we as metalheads ache for. “Not Suitable for Life” is an F you and a sermon to the people of the world who are the cause of the Anthropocene Extinction, which in the eyes of Cattle, is most of humanity. Here we get the first part of a conclusion as we touch on all that Cattle Decapitation has written about for years. The devolution of our globe as we advance in technology- the truth behind the traditions, religions, economic systems and cultures of the world. From the deplorable actions of the nearly un-protested and widely beloved cattle/food industry, upon which the band gets it’s name and it’s musicians show their vegan colors. To the way in which we as human’s knowingly corrupt and deceive our own species and natural landscapes in order to progress further in our various worldly societies. We hear all of this come out as Ryan rolls off his tongue in an agonizing fashion: “I stand here guilty, with sadness and humility, self circling vultures, damning garbage cultures. F**k your traditions, f**k your religions, f**k your systems and f**k your decisions.” And ending with the most truthful and resonating statement of the song, and possibly album, which brings the entire musical work of The Anthropocene Extinction into focus: “Your footprint can’t dematerialize, and when you die, look where you’ve left your children behind… a world not suitable for life.”
The next track, “Apex Blasphemy” is a personal favorite of mine, as it ramps up immediately into an aggressive statement on the way in which we as humans consume animals, and the disgusting way in which we supply the gross demand of meat, meat and more meat. “Packaged in plastic from the factory to your table, food chains molested now industrialized.” Focusing on the molestation of the food chain and the absolutely soul-crushing and horrific practices in which the global food industry engages in and capitalizes on. The way in which we as humans unknowingly, (or perhaps knowingly) contribute to the cruelty of mass growth, mistreatment and slaughter of animals. The absolute disaster that has been caused by the “blasphemy” of the food industry in which there is mass deforestation and unprecedented levels of water consumption and methane released into the atmosphere. Telling us as listeners that we are the cause of the world’s ailments: “This world, where we are at in our so-called “civilization”, the great diminishing of life-giving land and seas. We are captains of our own ruination… ”
And then the ruination sets in. Track 11, “Ave Exitium” Latin for “Hail Destruction”, is another instrumental, ambient track, with Josh Elmore playing a brooding guitar riff behind Travis Ryan’s spoken poem. In the background we hear waves crashing against a dead shore, rolling into a beach with irradiated green sands. We imagine mountains of rubble and piles of debris from the remains of civilization. Under darkened skies, the whole of humanity lies dead, killed by their own doing, while the Earth is now a lake of sulfur and brimstone, corrupted and destroyed by the seven billion humans that once lived. Here Ryan speaks his poem with a hint of ethereality, a ghostly being looking back without emotion at the fall of humanity: “And then it came to pass. We cracked the hourglass… Left paradise behind… out of sight, out of mind. Death comes with the tide.”
As the final track opens, “Pacific Grim”, we are told now how the previous track’s setting came to be created. “A nuclear accident, vomits into the ocean, an island of garbage…Biodiversity, now mono-culture of deceased inhabitants.” The song chugs on with a bone-crushing pace that sets the standard for deathgrind and shows that yes, Cattle Decapitation are the reigning kings of the genre. Later into the song we get into the subject again of the food industry, this time, Ryan taking a stab at the fish industry, in which he speaks about by-catch and “the destroyed habitats wiped off the map.” We get into another breakdown, similar to the one we received in “Clandestine Ways”, again we get the catchy type of grindcore gutturals that rhyme together, cleverly in pace with the ultra low and deep guitar, bass, and bass drums. As we get to the end of the breakdown, we are returned to the dead shores of “Ave Exitium” once again. Here again with Travis’ poem, however instead of speaking it aloud, he is shouting it in angry melodic high pitched tone that sets this band apart from all other deathgrind groups. As the album closes out with the final whisper of “Death comes with the tide…” we hear the waves once again, crashing into the beach which is the album artwork, and the landscape of the human caused Anthropocene Extinction.