Cattle Decapitation – Terrasite Review

What can be said about Cattle Decapitation that hasn’t already been said about your local ax murderer? They’re disgusting, blood-soaked, and pungent, yet oddly endearing once you get to know them. Following a uniquely Carcassian career trajectory, Cattle Decapitation first plopped on the abattoir floor as a vegan-powered grindcore outfit with their first full-length in 1999. 20+ years and nine albums later, they’ve evolved into a celebrated death metal band with more melodic (yet no less bloody) sensibilities. They’re also well known around these parts, with the review of Monolith of Inhumanity running on this site over a decade ago. Now, the hooded AMG overlords have seen fit to place the blog-branded captive bolt pistol in my trembling hands this go around, all in preparation for CD’s tenth album, Terrasite

When last we left our heroes, Cattle Decapitation had dropped Death Atlas onto an unsuspecting populace, right on the heels of a global pandemic and featuring a lead single entitled “Bring Back the Plague.” The mighty Kronos, not impressed by such morbid irony, doled out a meager 2.5. I always thought folks were a bit too harsh on Death Atlas, and I found myself revisiting it quite often. While I understood the criticism that the group had perhaps veered too heavily into melodeath/meloblack territory, I never agreed myself. Sure, the handful of catchier choruses and more melodic approach on Death Atlas are a far cry from the raw destructive force of albums like Human Jerky or Homovore. Yet even the most br00tal of brutes can’t deny that CD have always possessed an essential groove; one that, when imbued with decades of experience and growth, perfectly explains their current iteration.

It also explains why I thoroughly enjoyed Terrasite. Their tenth outing builds upon the strengths of its predecessor without blatantly copying it, opting to amp up the ominous atmospheres for good measure. Single “We Eat Our Young” is a prime example of what’s in store, featuring the well-trod interplay of blackened snarls and deathened growls that Travis Ryan has perfected, while also boasting an emotive, clean guitar solo alongside pummeling instrumentation. This track, like so many on Terrasite, firmly embraces utter sonic obliteration, while still leaving room for the listener to catch their breath. This approach makes the next dizzying onslaught (often led by David McGraw’s over-caffeinated, shotgun drumming) all the more impactful while mercifully avoiding monotony. The snarling, catchy choruses that Cattle Decapitation have employed in the past also remain a signature here, perhaps most notably on tracks like “The Insignificants” and “…And the World Will Go On Without You.” Not only do I unequivocally love those choruses, but they also feel well-earned and well-placed, surrounded as they are by impressive feats of speed-demon freneticism and a cacophony of vocal assaults. Cattle Decapitation haven’t lost their edge, they’ve just honed it. 

Album opener “Terrasitic Adaptation” sands you faceless with the aural equivalent of a Molotov Cocktail, while 10-minute album closer “Just Another Body” croons you into the grave; the former confronts humanity’s tendency toward self-destruction with righteous anger, while the latter faces it with disgusted resignation. That duality becomes one of Terrasite’s defining features. While Cattle Decapitation made a career out of exploring their disdain for the various ways in which humans have devised their own doom, it’s here where that vitriol shares top billing with another response: hopelessness. “Scourge of the Offspring,” for instance, may impress with tech-death riffs and angry barks, but it’s the soaring, sorrowful chorus that resonates: “what a wonderous life this would have been/but I’m outnumbered/like the stars at night/there’s so many of us/that need to die.” The disillusion rivals the detestation on Terrasite, and the album (not the planet) is all the better for it. 

Terrasite contains much of what we’ve come to expect from Cattle Decapitation: thematic death metal with dollops of melodicism, hints of blackened char, slam, and a remnant of grind, bound together by Travis Ryan’s trademark vocal delivery and incisive social commentary. At the same time, Terrasite chooses a slightly more nuanced approach to their chosen subject matter, delivering the same level of brutality, over-the-top lyricism and keen musicianship while taking their vision one step further. While a few tunes have a tendency to meld together, this is resolved after repeat listens. So the question is: have you come here hoping for the next The Anthropocene Extinction? If so, you’d better leave your carapace at the door. Because Terrasite is something different, and it’s about to skitter up your leg.

Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Metal Blade Records
Releases Worldwide: May 12th, 2023

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