Cattle Decapitation likely need no introduction at this point. They are one of the most consistent bands in the death metal/grind scene, carving out a storied legacy of holding up a mirror to humanity and its hostilities to the earth and its inhabitants. They built a career closing in on three decades by crafting violent fantasies of our cruel rule of the planet and the absolute ignorance that fuels it. I’m happy to report that Terrasite is more of the same.
Not very many bands can get away with ‘more of the same’, but when you’re Cattle Decap, it’s just an inherent, innate trait where, as long as I’ve been a fan of them, you could never expect anything mid out of them. Of course, their relevance only surges as time goes on and we make living on this planet more hellish and legitimately put it into question for future generations. The right-wing culture war has deemed even the most basic environmentalist measures as ‘woke’, so there’s no turning back now. Good job, y’all – I am now even more embarrassed to be alive in this moment.
Anyway, even though vocalist Travis Ryan is the only original member of the band now, they sounds as strong as ever. There’s something so uniquely fierce with Cattle Decap‘s music. Every facet is at a constant 10, not the least of which is Ryan’s vocals. I’ve heard there’s people that aren’t a fan of his two-pronged aural throat terror – I get it, but holy shit I think he’s one of the best and unique vocalists out there. But hey, he seems to take it all in stride, as the album liner notes proclaim: ‘All vocals are 100% organic and plant-based. May contain gluten and have been harvested in a facility that may contain tree nuts‘, referencing both the lack of post-production on the vocals and Ryan’s vegetarian lifestyle.
He’s in top form here on Terrasite, and as a rap fan I really appreciate how metered out and rhythmic his delivery can get. The single “We Eat Our Young” is wickedly good with vocal flows that are catchy and easy to follow even when Ryan digs way deep to produce very raspy, almost hissed trademark vocals. My favorite is the final verse where each syllable lines up with the punch of the kick drum:
‘Brought up to be so inconsiderate
Living in delight of belligerence
Through example they’re taught indifference
Pieces of shit, point blank – deliberate
Full of contempt rife with disinterest
Legitimately fucking ignorant
Litter my seed? Never considered it
Own world we obliterate‘
Cattle Decap is also known for being remarkably snappy with their instrumentation. The drums run shit here; courtesy of David McGraw, he’s stomping out patterns and rhythms that drive songs straight to the apocalypse the band paint lyrically. Guitars – headed by longtime decapitator Josh Elmore and fortified by relative newcomer Belisario Dimuzio – straight up gnash. The tones are rough and cataclysmic, speeds are some of the fastest I’ve heard from the quintet, but there’s always this give-and-take, this ebb-and-flow where each instrument shine independently and everyone else is doing what they can highlight that.
Everyone shines equally on Terrasite, and I of course would be remiss to not mention Olivier Pinard (also of Cryptopsy) and his massive, rattling bass. If you want to see what the bass is capable of, along with showcases from all other members as well, you’d do well to check out “Solastalgia”. They even brought along Dis Pater of Midnight Odyssey to do some keyboards, synths, and drums on “Terrasitic Adaptation”, “Scourge Of The Offspring”, and “Just Another Body”, the latter being the album’s epic closer complete with some of the most ominous lyrics and delivery I’ve heard from the band.
One thing I’ve always appreciated about Cattle Decap is the deliberateness and straightforward attitude with the lyrics. Long has their disdain for humankind’s greater failures, of which there are many, and it helps color their songs in. Take “The Insignificants” for example, which has one of my favorite verses right at the beginning:
A creature completely critiquing
A sucker sucking by
Terroristic errant elitists eliting
This is what we do
And this is what humans are
Adrift in a sea of stars‘
Though I don’t even jokingly subscribe to the nihilistic, edgy tendencies a lot of people seem to have where they wish for a meteor to strike the earth or a plague to wipe people out (that actually did happen and, if you didn’t notice, none of the people worth dying for the sake of a better world died as is usually the case), this type of lyrical approach is cathartic along with the rest of the music. I like to imagine all of the songs written and sung from the perspective of the Locust Horde from the Gears of War series. I wouldn’t expect anyone to take Cattle Decap‘s lyrics as serious sociopolitical doctrine, but there is truth to it! The harbingers of our collective despair can squarely be placed on the shoulders of our rich, politically powerful, capitalist elite. In various ways, metal, punk, hardcore, and other heavy music are proven ways to push against that, speak truth to power, comfort the working class and make them feel heard. Terrasite doesn’t seem very concerned with much of that, yet it still functions in that way, and to a high level. Where Death Atlas, the band’s last album, was about as on-the-nose with the apocalypse as it could be, Terrasite is a look after the smoke clears, but there’s no hope, no about-face, no lesson learned. Things are worse than ever with a new breed of earth eater (what ‘terrasite’ means) to violate the harrowed, scarred husk of the planet.
Cattle Decapitation willingly wallow in the worst offerings of humanity (and whatever follows us). It makes their music sicker, slimier, and weaponized for pushing back against the same injustices and ills we propagate. As such, Terrasite is an brutal exercise in knowing your enemy – it just so happens the enemy is yourself. There’s tons of great music to hear on this album, and I hope you’ll forgive the fact I didn’t cover it in great detail here. The fact of the matter is this is something better heard and felt than described. If you’re a Cattle Decap fan, you know exactly what to expect, and you’re gonna love it. If you’re not, don’t let the cover art fool you – this is some top-notch death metal from veritable legends in the game, a rare instance where ‘more of the same’ is not only adequate, but wholly desired.
Band photo by Nick Van Vidler