Published Nov 27, 2019When it comes to death metal bands, few have built a discography as strong as Cattle Decapitation's. Their early records are captivating, but their past three have been near-perfect and set them apart as a truly one-of-a-kind band. Sadly though, every hot streak has to come to an end eventually and Death Atlas is their misstep.
The band have flexed their high proficiency in creating the best death grind of arguably any band before, and even created new sounds through frontman Travis Ryan's experimental sing-scream vocals, developed over their past two albums. Their skills and vast range are still present on Death Atlas, but the record is a case of too much of a good thing. Those odd vocal sounds stood out before by showing up sparingly, but now they act as a crutch for Cattle Decapitation to lean on, and are featured across the entirety of the album.
Even the riffs on the album often feel stale, with dull black metal passages popping up far too often for a band who used to make each moment worthwhile. Songs like "The Geocide" and "Absolute Destitute" drag on through uninspired musicianship, adding bloat to an excessively long album that doesn't have enough payoff. A 55-minute runtime, tossing in useless sound clips throughout to fill an extra seven minutes, also feels pretty lazy, just to claim this is their longest record.
It's not entirely like this though, and even when songs blast through boring riffs, they end up finding some sweet spots. Tracks like "Be Still Our Bleeding Hearts" and "Time's Cruel Curtain" hit the mark with wild grind riffs and nasty breakdowns, but get dragged down by the excessive push for inclusion of melodic material.
They also pull off some of the most captivating tracks of their career with this release. "Bring Back the Plague" and "With All Disrespect" are easily some of their most brutal songs, and the sprawling nine-minute title track is adventurous while staying interesting the entire time, proving they could have hit a longer runtime without the unnecessary sound samples.
Death Atlas comes across as an over-correction on the state of death metal, in that they managed to create an entirely new soundscape through two albums, and decided to bash it into listeners' heads. The push for a new style of melody was one of the most intriguing things to happen to the genre in the past decade, but their overindulgence needs to be reeled in to make those sounds create moments. As a whole, this could be a huge album for any other band, but for Cattle Decapitation, it's a bit disappointing, even if it was an adventurous attempt to push experimentation. (Metal Blade)