Saturday, September 15, 2012

Cattle Decapitation - Monolith of Inhumanity (2012)

Ye gods, what a whirlwind of filth! It’s a pleasingly rare happenstance to find a death metal album that feels intrinsically unique, a beacon of individuality in a storm of sameness that also does nothing to betray the established archetypes of genre. Indeed, Cattle Decapitation are planted firmly within the established bounds of their constituent influences, those being technical death metal and grindcore, respectively. However, the way they utilize these building blocks is unlike anything we’ve yet seen, blurring the boundaries and sculpting their own filthy icon, brick by brick. The end result is a mentally unhinged, brutal, and dare I say progressive take on their chosen stylistic marriage, eliciting reactions of fear, excitement, and pure disgust at the resplendent decrepitude of this malevolent monument.

The only new addition to the Californians ranks since 2009’s The Harvest Floor is bassist Derek Engremann, whose muddy, quivering tone is appreciably even in the mix, and the man has the skill and fortitude to match the decrepit heroics surrounding him, his flippant, filthy, finger-fucking gymnastics finding their place and then some in this roiling morass of sound. The riffing is absolutely insane, but we’ll get to that in a minute. What truly needs focusing on here is vocalist Travis Ryan, who has without compare developed the most interesting vocal style I’ve heard in years. Yes, his gurgling lows and shrieking highs have continued to grow stronger, as they have in every album prior, but now he bellows out this unsettling, inhuman… I hesitate to call it ‘clean’ vocal style, but he really is singing, powerfully and on-key, sounding like some disheveled apocalyptic mutant bellowing to the sky on top of some corpse-strewn altar of damnation. It’s so weird, so different, and so unbelievably fucking filthy, it adds a seriously strange weight to the generally whirling, slamming, grinding predilection of Monolith of Inhumanity. That’s perhaps the most fitting title imaginable, I must say. In every aspect, this is a fucking Monolith of Inhumanity.

The Carbon Stampede begins the proceedings by crashing the gates to all the worlds’ sewers with a heavy, crushing doom-inspired riff, and then rides the resulting tuberculosis tidal wave onto the unsuspecting dregs of humanity, crashing down and brutally grinding them with interminable percussive force. Dead Set on Suicide channels pure Napalm Death at inception, then morphs into its own compellingly strange hurricane, splattering your life in beautiful, diseased filth. A Living, Breathing Piece of Defecating Meat is a smelly, poignant, fist-pounding anti-human manifesto, full of grinding bravado and an unforgettable vocal melody in its chorus. Forced Gender Reassignment is as unrepentantly psychotic as it sounds, musically and lyrically crafting a tale of riveting horror. This is the sound of sociopathic insanity, beyond anything else I’ve yet listened to, barring perhaps the dementia of Anaal Nathrakh. I simply cannot do justice to just how involving, how utterly fucking sick, this is.

Gristle Licker is a cannibalistic nightmare fraught with wild leads, taking turns between slamming you with nihilistic, hammering riffs and grinding you into powder with sections of mechanistic intensity. Projectile Ovulation is as insane as it sounds, simultaneously hilarious and despicable in its attention to rancid detail, pointing out the filth that humanity brings to this world, while including some chuckle-worthy levity.

“The uterus as a weapon
A gross underestimation of vaginal deception
Human reproduction: a massive stimulation of biological
Environmental abolition
Grounds for accusation and total annihilation
Bleeding and breeding in need of some terminating”

Lifestalker is like an epic sci-fi masterwork, featuring melodies that wouldn’t be alien to an Obscura album, slowing down to a crawl as it floats through unknown, indescribably strange galaxies. Perhaps the best of all is the closer, Kingdom of Tyrants, a looming compositional tower draped in skulls and internal organs, the character that Ryan’s vocals evokes standing on the peak, dealing out scalding death to the scarred, wasted landscape. I could go on, I really could, endlessly bestowing each track with adjective raimants, but I think the point is beyond proven. Monolith of Inhumanity is incomparably sick, completely insane, simultaneously grinding your soul into oblivion and managing to be spirit-blazingly epic in its quest for humanity’s collective torn throat. Every sequence of genre-blending notation builds fantastic images for the vocals/lyrics to roam free in, like some psychotic musical blood ape roaming fields of gore, mountains of desecrated human remains to feed upon and create unholy, unthinkable garb, the sky a sickly eternal orange, the devastation complete as far the eye can see.

Monolith of Inhumanity is amazing, a commendable work of skill and imagination, a veritable starship of incomprehensibly alien, yet wholly involving, sound. These musicians should be commended for what they’ve done here, deconstructing the archetypes and boundaries of genre and using these exact same pieces to build something new, strange, furious, and abominably memorable. The outer shell of Monolith is familiar, as it utilizes these aspects we know so well, but its interior is completely innovative, and I dare say this is the death metal album to beat this year. The misery, the majesty, the purulent sickness, the unbridled hatred of humanity… all of them warm my shriveled, angry, black little heart immensely. Truly, Monolith is a new benchmark for spirit and creativity in the realm of death metal. If you are in any way brutally inclined, and think humanity an incorrigible sickness that would be better off cleansed, it’s time to buy this record. Deny its power, and the gimp shall get to know you motherfucking biblically.

*note: I originally had this scored at 10/10, and while indeed the album is a flawless new pinnacle of death/grind, a perfect score should be reserved for those albums that you know are going to stay with you for your entire fucking life, with no measure of doubt. Simply, I'm not sure Monolith fits that description. Not yet. I do not want to be one of the so many reviewers who make the claim of 100% so lightly as to diminish its impact. However, this should by no means dissuade you from reveling in its immaculate filth. Make no mistake, this deserves your money.

9.5 / 10 - Aghast, I Stand in Your Ignorance... Unclean