Cattle Decapitation: 'Monolith of Inhumanity' – CD Review

The notorious gore-grind quartet from San Diego has returned with another onslaught of bile-spewing, humanity-despising, face-smashing metal, and I decided I just might be tough enough to slap on the headphones and spike their seventh full-length studio record straight into my cerebral cortex. Where the band's previous release The Harvest Floor played out like a mammoth horror film with a genocide-level body count, Monolith of Inhumanity takes that same darkness into sci-fi territory, projecting a dystopian future world where humankind has devolved into mindless chaos, completely subservient to technology and consumption. I know a lot of you out there probably think that's not too far from the world we're living in right now... and after listening to these eleven blood-spewing cuts, I'm thinking the Cattle Decap gang probably share your point of view, at least from an artistic perspective. So stop posting those cute puppy pictures for a moment, turn the page over and I'll tell you more about it – plus we'll show you a pretty kick-ass short film to go with the single "Kingdom of Tyrants."

Musically, the first thing regular Decap fans will notice about Monolith is the wider range of vocals from frontman Travis Ryan – even a few instances of clean, multi-tracked melodic style. Also at the forefront is even more aggressive technical finger-work from guitarist Josh Elmore, who goes absolutely apeshit – in the best possible way, of course – on tracks like "Forced Gender Reassignment" (one of their cutest song titles, by the way). The more diverse mix of doom, grind, death and sludge that the band summoned on Harvest Floor – arguably one of their most creatively ambitious releases in their career – is still in play, but the mood here is even darker and more menacing, which is quite a feat in itself. There's also a wider range of styles – which plays well into the more epic concept, but can sometimes become exhausting to the uninitiated. Bassist Derek Engelmann, who joined the band in 2010, has more diverse technique than his predecessor Troy Oftedal, adding a wider, more chaotic range of rhythmic possibilities – check out his whiplash rolls on tracks like "Dead Set on Suicide" – and together the band has come up with more memorable hooks than I've heard from them since... well, ever.

The hate burns hot in the insanely brutal opener "The Carbon Stampede," which features a wide spectrum of enraged, urgent vocals (including those of several guest performers), furious blastbeats from Dave McGraw, and Elmore's absolutely manic riffs & leads. While the band forges deeper into pure death metal territory with "A Living, Breathing Piece of Defecating Meat" – which aside from having one of the most metal titles ever, is also one of the band's heaviest hitters in their career – they still maintain their grind rep, mixing it up with elements of groove in tracks like "Gristle Licker." There's even a fair share of hooks to be found among the hailstorm of horror riffs and scare tactics, most memorably in cuts like "Dead Set On Suicide" (which features a banshee-like anthem chorus) and the terrifyingly powerful "Lifestalker." Another strong repeater is "Your Disposal," which manages to be completely chaotic and catchy all at once, and the charmingly-named "Projectile Ovulation" features tremolo riffs and blastbeats so incredibly fast it almost goes backwards in time. The album wraps with the unique piece "Kingdom of Tyrants," probably the closest to a mainstream metal release I've heard from the band (not that you'll be seeing it on the pop charts anytime soon), with Ryan's clean vocals taking center-stage most often, which I found surprisingly powerful.

Monolith of Inhumanity is a challenging album, and not just to those unfamiliar with the Decap catalog. But the band is also pushing themselves to expand their horizons, which is always a smart move, and they manage to maintain a tricky balancing act with the more diverse songwriting, rapidly changing structures and mixed vocal and rhythmic styles. The concoction may be a bit hard to swallow for fans of their traditional death grind, but even the old-schoolers will probably get some of these hooks deep in their heads, and at this level of brutality I doubt we'll be hearing cries of "sellout" anytime soon. The most distinctive example of their new approach can be heard in the clip below: a bizarre, experimental long-form video for "Kingdom of Tyrants" that really plays up the album's sci-fi/horror themes.