You don’t name your band Cattle Decapitation if you’re looking to subtly insinuate your way into the consciousness of the masses. Equally, unleashing some of the most intense, horrifying, and extreme metal known to mankind will not ingratiate you with those of a sensitive nature, for the San Diegan’s boundary-pushing music is designed to turn heads and snap necks, and not necessarily in that order.
Returning with their seventh full-length, the devastating Monolith Of Inhumanity, the band have never sounded more focused, more aggressive, or more determined to get in the faces of those who erroneously believe they have already experienced the band at their extreme best. “One of the main things this band has done since the very beginning was to try to break tradition and break the mold of what’s acceptable, in any given genre we’re working in,” states vocalist Travis Ryan. “I’m really happy that with this record we’ve been able to successfully push those boundaries further than we ever have, and without going into the ‘suck’ realm or sounding contrived. We’ve gone so far out on a limb on this one, and I’m just ecstatic that we’ve pulled off what we were trying to achieve.”
This achievement stands as one of the most volatile, ambitious, and impossible to aptly categorize records you will hear in 2012. Dragging their ever-evolving deathgrind sound kicking and screaming into the epic territory inhabited by the likes of Dimmu Borgir and Anaal Nathrakh, the quartet redefine all perceptions of what Cattle Decapitation is. “The mindset of this band has always been abrasive and balls to the wall, and like a car accident where there’s no fucking stopping it. Throwing melodic vocals or guitar work – or dare we say catchy elements – into that is tantalizing,” says Ryan. That such elements have been woven sparingly into their turbulent racket does not mean the band have in any way diminished the sheer visceral impact they are known for. “There can be hooks and catchiness without compromising what the band – or any individual in the band – is all about,” asserts guitarist Josh Elmore. “Having these elements at our disposal is just another tool with which we can build the best songs that we can. It was great also having input from Derek (Engemann, bass, who makes his writing and recording debut with this album), who added some new dynamics to some of the songs. We also spent a lot of time thinking about structure on this record, wanting every moment to count, no matter what the tone of it was.” After one exposure to Monolith Of Inhumanity it’s evident that these more melodic elements truly enhance the power of the tracks, and make for a more diverse and involving collection. On “A Living, Breathing Piece Of Defecating Meat” the band unleash a chorus
that manages to be hideous and infectious at the same time, while the towering “Your Disposal” and “Lifestalker” wield sweeping, dramatic sections tinged with apocalyptic fury, which are all the more gripping for the inclusion of Ryan’s melodic shrieking. “I was waiting for the guys to write parts I could use that kind of melody on, and as soon as they played me “Your Disposal” I dropped the song I was working on and just went for it,” enthuses Ryan. “This is the first record where I really listened to what the fans were saying they wanted, and many of them wanted a lot more of those weird, epic, melodic parts that crept into The Harvest Floor (2009), and I’m like okay, done, because luckily I agree with you this time!”
As with all of the band’s releases, Monolith Of Inhumanity revolves around a central concept, building upon Ryan’s potent distaste for contemporary civilization and the damage wrought in the name of progress. “Whereas The Harvest Floor focused on sort of rounding up the populace and getting rid of them, this record is about what would happen had we let them go. It’s about where humanity will end up if it continues the course it’s on,” the vocalist explains. This concept, inspired in part by 2001: A Space Odyssey, is once again captured in the cover art by longtime collaborator Wes Benscoter, depicting a bleak apocalyptic future and the regression of mankind into apes. “The monolith really represents technology, and the cover’s this trash heap with the monolith atop it and humans scavenging all around it, because that’s all they’re able to do any more. It’s where we’re headed on the course we’re on, and yeah, a lot of kids will say that’s a really negative, shitty attitude to have, but is it not correct?”
In realizing the record, the quartet – rounded out by drummer Dave McGraw – travelled to Denver, Colorado to collaborate with producer Dave Otero (Allegaeon, Cephalic Carnage). “Dave brought really good performances out of everybody, and he gave the record a lot of clarity while the heaviness is still there,” states Elmore, though it was the producer’s suggestions on how to better flesh out the songs that made the most profound difference in the guitarist’s eyes. “The guy really knows what he’s doing. I do a lot of layering after the basic rhythm track, and if I came to a point where I wasn’t sure about something someone would always pipe up and say you realize everything Dave has suggested so far has worked? Try it!” he laughs. That the record is as accomplished as it is also belies the fact that the schedules of the members made it difficult for them to focus on writing it over the year they had allotted. “As it turns out we work really well under pressure,” Ryan says with a wry smile. “But we were all so busy it’s literally a wonder that we got it done at all in that year, let alone what we came out with. It makes me feel like we’re capable of anything, and that’s really a new development.”
Bio by Dan Slessor