In the world of Extreme Metal, few can match the power of Californians Cattle Decapitation. Over 25 years in the business, they are a force of nature with an underlying message that is neither preachy nor dictatorial. Instead, the band, who are led by founder member and vocalist Travis Ryan, use their intense Death Metal to articulate their views on the way in which humanity is imploding on itself. Nowhere was this more vividly than in 2019’s Death Atlas, an album that might possibly be referred to as a breakthrough album in the loosest terms possible.
Cattle Decapitation – Terrasite (Metal Blade Records)
Release Date: 12 May 2023
Words: Paul Hutchings
Although it may be incomprehensible to many, Cattle Decapitation have taken a change of direction on Terrasite. “The only way to move forward is rebirth,” Ryan said. “In approaching the newest record, it was not only necessary to keep the musical trajectory the band has been aiming towards since the beginning, but also to further explore the ambient/textural elements that were part of Death Atlas.”
Not that you’ll notice any reduction in the sheer intensity or relentless barrages of technical Death Metal that assault the senses from the moment you hit play. Cattle Decapitation’s sound is unforgiving, Ryan’s vocal range astonishing and at times scary, whilst Dave McGraw’s blistering double-kicking blast beat assault is enough to destabilise building foundations.
But what is a Terrasite? Combining two words from Greek, ‘Terra’ meaning earth and ‘Sitos’ which is food, Ryan has cleverly created a word that is not only a play on parasite but also translates roughly to ‘earth-eater’, which he explains is a “metaphor for humanity’s role in the destruction of the planet.”
So, onto Terrasite. Well, it’s as ferocious as anything the band have ever written. There’s the typical abrasiveness that this band bring, the onslaught of brutality, but beneath the surface, there are some subtle switches and changes. Olivier Pinard’s bass is more prominent than previous records, the guitar work has more depth, and Ryan’s vocals are controlled, even when he sounds like he is losing it.
The songs are sharp, focused, and deliberate. Opener Terrasitic Adaptation rips the album apart, the onslaught of such intensity almost overwhelming. This segues into the unrelenting We Eat Our Young, one of the most bruising and unforgiving songs here.
Throughout the album, there’s more progression and more experimentation whilst never one eye is always focused on retaining the band’s passion and power. There’s depth to Ryan’s emotions throughout, nowhere more evident than in the penultimate song Solastalgia.
And then there’s the epic ten-minute closing track. It begins with an intro from Midnight Odyssey’s Tony Parker, who guests on keys and synths throughout the album, building slowly, dramatically, in an almost cinematic context, before easing into the higher tempo and driving pace. It’s an expansive, impressive finale to an album that is once more a career peak.
It’s also a track tinged with sadness. As the band were completing the album, and even before Ryan had finished the lyrics, the awful news that founder member Gabe Serbian had taken his own life was received. This, combined with the death of close friend Trevor Strnad a couple of weeks later, made the final touches to Terrasite a dark place.
Just A Body draws its themes from these untimely events. Listening to it is poignant, allowing reflection, and for the band, hugely difficult. “All these months later, after many listens, it still has a shroud around it that will never disappear,” Ryan adds. “It was written during some of the hardest moments in this band’s career.”
With the terrifying piece of album art created by long-time collaborator Wes Benscoter to search and explore, this is another impressive addition to the band’s discography. They may not be for all, but for those that want some depth to their music, alongside some of the most explosive and punishing songs you’ll encounter in 2023, then Cattle Decapitation have once again hit the mark.