Death metal enjoys an incredibly unique lexicon and reviewing it is certainly no exception. It’s infinitely tempting to utilize the obvious descriptors to transcribe the genre’s density. One common metaphor that often fits the violent aesthetic is slaughter. The opportunities to wield synonyms for slicing and dicing, no to mention the anatomical possibilities, are rife. The French/Québecois compound Disowning know a little something about said extremity as evidenced on debut album Human Cattle. But this is no mere splatter-platter. Instead, the record treats us to the careful consideration of butchery. Lean, tastefully marbled cuts that would challenge the chastity of any self-respecting charcutier. But flavor, even in its opulence, is fleeting. When that moment on the lips refuses to linger even a second longer, it all boils down to nutritional value.
Disowning trade in a sumptuous death metal that shares a riff-centric spice-pallet with Depravity, although tastefully tempered with the same Scandinavian immediacy that primed Carnation last year. The resultant soupçon of melody ensures the guitar lines hit the stomach smoothly. Human Cattle opens for business with “Ghost Area,” arguably the album’s most moody track. It’s an interesting starter, but one that demonstrates the band’s potential early on. By contrast, “Another Piece in My Collection” is propelled along with an abominable buoyancy, which emphasises Maxime Pironnet’s fluid double-bass work. This is Disowning‘s stock-in-trade; adroit songwriting and an effortless delivery. It’s an impressively ravenous repast for a debut dish.
Memorability is something Disowning balance well. The pseudo-technicality of “Suffocated by My Walls” never fails to pummel and even offers some blackened seasoning for depth of flavor. But the most prized delicacy is, without doubt, “Battle of Neverness.” The song is a masterclass in modern orthodox death metal. Guitarists Jérôme Tourinan and Peb indulge in a heady blend of bold tremolos and bludgeoning riffing to cement the album’s finest course. However, the song’s quality is so overt that it also represents a particularly vorpal double-edged sword. “Battle of Neverness” sits so early in the album that it invites some slightly unkind comparisons with the rest of the record. Despite the remaining material’s pervasive quality, it also sheds some unfortunate light on Human Cattles‘s issue with front-loading. As if an early peak wasn’t enough to contend with, “Intoxicated by This Illusion,” causes a similar reflux. It grinds along with a killer riff, but the theme begins to repeat on the ears come the album’s end. Although the record’s second half is home to Disowning‘s most bluntly brutal offerings, the creative juices noticeably begin to ebb.
Despite my criticisms, it’s important to express just how well-presented Human Cattle is. The modern production is rich, while the guitar tone offers a whisper of HM2 but without basking in enough sunlit scratch to diminish the chunky rhythms. The precariously named vocalist Jesus “The Butcher” is an album highlight. He fuels each song with an effortless resonance but his lines do want for clarity. The real champion in the mix is bassist Adrien Dieu. His agile lines rumble throughout the album and provide some of the more typical fare a real sense of individualism. These minor intricacies couple with the refined songwriting to elevate Human Cattle‘s traditionalism as high as it’s well-defined boundaries allow.
Human Cattle is in no way a unique record. But these mad bouchers know that innovation isn’t the only way to skin a cat. The album works with only the most tried and tested ingredients and the method is a certified recipe for success. A fusion of Floridian and Swedish components, manipulated and wrought until it beckons with the promise of relish. If Disowning move to more fully embrace their obvious ability and maybe even push their able writing further outside the box, then perhaps a future favorite is on the menu. Until then, Human Cattle embodies what all good death metal records strive to be: a veritable Delicatessen of well-presented flesh. Alluring, but irrevocably dead.