I must admit, it has been a few years since I last came across an album by Cattle Decapitation, and to say I was surprised when I played this is something of an understatement. This is their eighth studio album, their second with the five-piece line-up of Travis Ryan (vocals), Josh Elmore (guitar), Dave McGraw (drums), Belisario Dimuzio (guitar) and Olivier Pinard (bass), and is way more polished than anything I ever expected from them. They may have started in the grindcore movement, but they are now much more in progressive death, never satisfied and always moving. Ryan has been there pretty much since the beginning and has long had a reputation as one of the more varied singers in the scene, but here he seems to reach into deeper lows, truly guttural, while also providing solid black metal stylings while also able to move into the melodic. At the back is McGraw, long regarded as one of the finest blast beat drummers in the business and here he demonstrates he is far more than just vicious speed, providing a real groove and switching styles and tempos to provide an ever-moving platform for those in front of him.
May people view ‘Death Atlas’, their 2019 album, as the pinnacle of their career to date, right up to the release of this one as the consensus is they have pushed ahead and created something that is just more, in every way. Certainly, there is a power and drama within this which is visceral and will appear to those who want their music to be brutal and uncompromising but there is far more going on than just heads down and meet you at the end as there is a huge amount of complexity within this, with styles changing and complicated arrangements which demonstrate there is far more to this band than just playing riffs quickly.
The use of space and different tempos means that when they decide to hit hard there really is an impact as it is not being lost among all the noise but instead there is plenty of contrast to give the dramatic effect it deserves. If you ever felt that Cattle Decapitation were somewhat one-dimensional then this album proves otherwise.