Apocalyptic provocateurs Cattle Decapitation’s eighth studio album Death Atlasis their darkest and most ambitious to date. Frontman Travis Ryan described it as an “emotional love letter to Death,” which it delivers on, as well as so much more. The album encompasses all sides of death metal: progressive, technical, atmospheric, melodic, and grinding with elements of doom and symphonic black metal thrown in for good measures.
Ryan leans heavy into the nasally goblin singing voice he introduced in 2012’s Monolith of Inhumanity, occasional layered with operatic vocals or low growls for an extra evil sound. At first, I thought it would be ignorant of me to compare the style to Cradle of Filth, but MetalSucks also brought up Filth in their review, so I’m not the only one who had the thought. Of course, there’s enough menacing guttural growling segments peppered throughout to appease the average death metal fan. But I pity any metalhead purist who is turned off by the amount of melody on this album because they’re missing out on its beauty, and aren’t fully appreciating Cattle Decap’s evolution to new heights of creativity (Yes, I know I’ve been a frequent critic of the clean/aggressive vocal style, but, take note, this is how it’s done right). We also hear a new vocal style near the end; a deep, mournful sort-of crooning, similar to Cult Leader’s Anthony Lucero.
With the addition of second guitarist Belisario Dimuzio and new bassist Olivier Pinard (of Montreal bands Cryptopsy and Vengeful), the band brings their sound in new directions previously unexplored. The first couple tracks, “The Geocide” and “Be Still Our Bleeding Hearts” consist of long-held notes while drummer David McGraw blast beats at inhuman speed and Ryan lets out a drawn-out high-pitched scream in true kvlt black metal fashion. Beyond the doomy moments that will wash over your soul with a wave of dread, there are groovy riffs that immediately change the mood, like in “Time’s Cruel Curtain;” you’ll find yourself furiously banging your head, then suddenly staring off into the void, contemplating the future of humanity.
The theme of the Death
Atlas continues where The
off, though the global climate crisis has become much direr since 2015. Case
and point, the insert artwork of Death
Atlas is similar to the the decomposing corpses filled with plastic on the
cover of Anthropocene, however the
bodies are charred like the remains of the former residents of Pompeii. It’s as
if to say that not only will every living human and creature die as a result of
climate change, but the very earth we walk upon will be burned to the point
that no life can ever survive on this planet. To quote the thesis repeatedly
stated in “The Geocide:” fuck the future!
The album is divided up by these ambient interludes, in which we hear distorted environmental reports over dramatic pianos. The last vignette leading into the final track features spoken word by Jon Fishman, the drummer of Phish (weird, but okay). The nine-minute long title track is a harrowing experience. It’s worth watching the music video directed by long-time artistic collaborator Wes Benscoter. The gravity of the situation will sink in deeper with every passing minute, until the haunting operatic voice of Laure Le Prunenec signals the end.
Written by Chris
*edited by Danielle Kenedy