Review Summary: Post-apocalyptic, 100% organic deathgrind
Environmental issues concern me since childhood for reasons of elementary common sense, associated with mankind's survival, the species surrounding it, and, ultimately, the planet I have grown to know and love throughout my life. While I'm neither obsessed with the subject nor a supporter of any form of eco-extremism, which hides a dangerous political agenda, turning a blind eye to such a serious and real problem with a profound impact on our lives is not only socially irresponsible but also blatantly idiotic. There is no plan B or alternate world to migrate to if we screw this up. It doesn't take a PhD in biology or sociology nor is it necessary to be a vegan, vegetarian, or staunch advocate of Greta Thunberg to recognize that we have a responsibility to preserve the planet and its resources for future generations. American deathgrind squad Cattle Decapitation have been exploring this topic for almost thirty years in a passionate advocacy for animal rights and environmentalism, warning of the dangers of climate change, pollution, and ecosystem destruction, thus exposing the devastating impact of human activity on the planet. Regardless of my omnivorous diet and non-radical stance on the subject, I'm glad the heavy metal ecosystem has someone championing these causes rather than the usual (pseudo)demonic themes or other odysseys surrounding dragons, fire, and medieval swords. Not for the sake of credibility, as there are clichés on both sides, but for thematic diversity and consequent musical impact. In a hybrid style like that of Cattle Decapitation, which mostly blends grind with death and black metal, this takes on particular relevance for it gives them a distinctive personality while opening up the visual and musical spectrum, pushing their boundaries further into more melodic and unpredictable soundscapes. A journey towards greater sophistication and variety fully embraced since Monolith of Inhumanity
, their pivotal album and one of the most relevant extreme metal releases of the past decade. Despite preferring its successor, The Anthropocene Extinction
, the impact it had on the scene was undeniable, catapulting the Californian collective to the very top of the food chain alongside behemoths like Dying Fetus, while also redesigning the band's style to this day.
With a title spawned from Travis Ryan's eco-mind that brings together 'Terra-' meaning earth and '-site' derived from the Greek word '-sites' meaning 'food', Cattle Decapitation's new chapter, Terrasite (earth-eater)
, is once again a metaphor for humanity's role in the destruction of the planet and its parasitic nature. Following the obliteration of the human species in Death Atlas
, former humans are now reborn as grotesque cockroach-like creatures destined to roam a new post-apocalyptic world. A new stage of evolution (Humanity 2.0) that embodies the concept of rebirth in a familiar narrative, lyrically and musically, following the trajectory of previous albums towards more accessible soundscapes. Death Atlas'
diversity and more melodic character carry over to Terrasite
yet in a slightly less polished mix, giving it a more massive look and feel despite its synth layers and slow passages. Lead single, 'We Eat Our Young', is the pinnacle of the band's new incarnation, featuring an ending section that ranks among the finest moments the lads have ever recorded. This track and the three that follow it, 'Scourge of the Offspring', 'The Insignificants', and 'The Storm Upstairs', are a terrific sequence that mirrors the album's most interesting cluster and the best the collective has to offer in 2023. Interestingly, this four-piece segment ends with two of Terrasite's
slowest songs, showing that the band feels increasingly at home in catchy slow-paced territory. The groovy section that erupts after the opening crescendo and subsequent midway Opeth-esque melodeath moment on 'The Storm Upstairs' are among the album's most engaging textures, along with the catchy 'Solastalgia' and the melodramatic goth(ish) finale of 'Just Another Body' that places the synthesizer center stage, ending the record on a melancholy tone reminiscent of Death Atlas
. The many melodic parts, which feature Travis Ryan's trademark high-pitched Udo Dirkschneider(ish) shrieks, also emphasize this more accessible side while bringing interesting contrasts and dynamics to the music, even if they are overly familiar and predictable. This foreseeability, although stylistically coherent, is Terrasite's
weakest side as it generates some deja-vu and sameness. Ryan's hybrid style, seamlessly switching between various extreme metal vocal techniques, would allow for an even bolder approach to songwriting, which currently lacks freshness and innovation; an element of surprise, if you will; some disruption that could bring newness to the mix. A downside that is nevertheless offset by Terrasite's
consistency and the collective's savoir-faire, which has built a unique identity over the years, operating within a formula that remains thrilling, lethal, and most importantly, distinctive. Frequent changes in tempo and unconventional time signatures, which swing between fast, intense sections and slower, more atmospheric passages, continue to shape soundscapes, creating a sense of complexity and variety while remaining catchy and somewhat accessible. 'Solastalgia', with its dynamics and colorful multi-layered approach, is one of the tracks that best embodies this catchy recipe, mirroring the luminous hues that thrive in Terrasite
Musically consistent and conceptually coherent with its (100% organic) legacy, Terrasite
is yet another successful new chapter in one of the most interesting and distinctive plots in extreme metal today. A post-apocalyptic narrative rooted in an eco-friendly, accessible deathgrind that, while not venturing into uncharted territory nor breaking with the past, remains creatively exciting and thematically relevant, as it encapsulates one of the greatest challenges of our era: that of our survival.