Review by Jeff Maki
The Anthropocene Extinction is a proposed term for the present geological epoch (from the time of the Industrial Revolution onward), during which humanity has begun to have a significant impact on the environment. Given the band’s strong stance on the environment and animal cruelty, the album title and concept should come as no surprise to existing fans, and for newcomers, the name Cattle Decapitation is not what it seems.
Since 1996, vocalist Travis Ryan, guitarist Josh Elmore, drummer Dave McGraw and bassist Derek Engemann have been laying waste with their environmentally aware unforgiving brand of grindcore. What began with the track “Regret and the Grave” from 2009’s The Harvest Floor (review) and was expanded on with 2012’s Monolith of Inhumanity (review), the band’s seventh album, The Anthropocene Extinction, is Cattle Decapitation’s own grindcore version of Roots, a turning point for the band and possibly one for the entire subgenre. This is grind like you’ve never heard it before. The thing that sets it apart is Ryan’s range of vocal styles, the most memorable being his newest—a quasi-clean singing screech, which when used over Elmore’s monumental riffs creates unique, memorable songs (listen to “Manufactured Extinct” or “Not Suitable for Life). And this wasn’t by accident. When I recently talked with Elmore (interview coming soon), he said the band was going for something with more staying power, songs that still were undeniably extreme, but which existed for more than the purpose of being a novelty act.
Among the blastbeats, the rhythm section divvies out multiple tempo changes, making for surprises around each and every bend. This is where it reminds me of Roots, in a way. Songs flawlessly can go from grind to thrash to black metal to even a hardcore tempo. Adding to the variety and depth are a range of guest musicians, including Philip H. Anselmo doing an intro on “The Prophets of Loss,” while recent Housecore Records signee Author & Punisher provides a ’90s-style industrial intro on“Plagueborne.” Jurgen Bartsch of Bethlehem lends a spoken-word piece in his native German tongue on “Pacific Grim.” There’s even a short acoustic piece, “Ave Exitium.”
With a name like Cattle Decapitation, this is a band that’s never going to top the charts—and the band isn’t stupid. They know this. Your average Slipknot fan isn’t going to pick up The Anthropocene Extinction. But what it does is state the case for underground metal album of the year, showing there are still risks and endless ideas to pull up from the drying well of extreme metal. This is the soundtrack for our dying earth; this is the countdown to extinction.
(Metal Blade Records, August 7, 2015)