It’s hardly an original observation, but genre labels can be something of a two-edged sword, especially when the band in question fall outside of such strict definitions. I came to The Anthropocene Extinction (Metal Blade) without having a heard a note of Cattle Decapitation’s music, but their reputation as a brutal Death/Grind band gave me strong expectations – expectations which utterly failed to capture the reality.
The grind influences which the band are largely known for are present here, but combined with a number of other reference points and styles in a way that transforms them quite beyond the ordinary. The base-line style throughout is a crunchy, Grind-touched Death Metal that’s as comfortable with punishing grooves and sinister melodies as it is with blasting, but they expand their palette further with quasi-“industrial” effects, atmospheric passages and creepily-effective clean vocal sections. The vocals are probably the key touch-stone for the genuine fluidity of the music on The Anthropocene Extinction, switching from cavernous DM growls, pig-squeals and high-end shrieks to near-operatic, oddly paralysed singing which is hard to describe positively on paper but fits with the music perfectly. This breadth of styles throws up some genuinely surprising reference-points, calling to mind Anaal Nathrakh or unsigned Bandcamp heroes Slugdge as often as Carcass.
Drawing on such a broad range of Metal influences runs the risk of collapsing into a formless mess, but Cattle Decapitation have the strength of song-writing and sense of individuality to hold it together. The album is structured well throughout, with a sense of progression that maintains interest across a collection of songs which could easily have outstayed its welcome. The production does them a number of favours too, giving a sense not only of power and genuine heaviness but also of professionalism and authority – this is a “serious” album, not some arm-flailing Grindcore tantrum.
The Anthropocene Extinction is not likely to break any boundaries or transform the way you think about music, but it is likely to be one of the standout albums of big production values, genre-blind Heavy Metal in 2015.