Random Records with Steve O
Cattle Decapitation - The Anthropocene ExtinctionSteve O - August 23, 2015
The Anthropocene. As a geological epoch, I’m rather hesitant and skeptical. As a method to explain the damage humans are doing to the environment on such an extreme and planetary scale, I think it’s a useful tool. Anthropocene Extinction sounds much more menacing than the Holocene Extinction (many will recognize the prefix anthro-, few can tell you what holo- means) and the Sixth Extinction doesn’t have the same vibe because, well, five other ones came first. And if you know one, it’s the K-T (or K-PG), the one that wiped out the non-avian dinosaurs. (Side note, that one was nothing compared to the Permian Extinction, the one which led the way to the dinosaurs, and proceeded to wipe out over 90% of the species on the planet in the process).
The Anthropocene Extinction, the newest record by death metal/grindcore, pro-animal rights band Cattle Decapitation is the very menacing soundtrack to the dire situation with the planetary ecosystem. Opening track “Manufactured Extinct” spends about a minute building up, like the slow process of Homo sapiens diverging from their chimp-like ancestors. When Travis Ryan’s vocals kick in, it’s at a steady death metal pace, perhaps comparable to the slow but steady expansion of Homo erectus like peoples across the Old World, their technology moving at the slow rate of taking a million years to strike both sides of a stone to create a sharpened edge. When Ryan grunts out “Technology defines the ages,” we’ve reached the emergence of our own species. (Phil, can I have a column about paleontology/geology/evolutionary biology?) The lull after that is Homo sapiens going through a bottleneck, the one that reduced our genetic diversity and nearly led to our extinction. Then the blast of an exceedingly fast shift, from agriculture, to the Industrial Revolution, to today; the merest of fractions of a second in the grand sense of geologic time.
There are many things I like about a band such as Cattle Decapitation. Add a point for the fact members are veg and their strong stance of animal rights and environmentalism. Add a point for their music, which fits in that spot between death metal and grindcore, rocking along at a steady pace between chaotic blasts and impressive guitar work. Add a point for Ryan’s versatile vocals, ranging from a guttural grunt, a harsh growl, to a raspy version of something akin to clean singing, though with a darkness layered over them; the pall of a darkening era of humanity. And you believe it too, as when Ryan sings “Turn us to ashes / Reduce us to dust / We cannot perish / Fast enough,” in “Plagueborne.”
And add a point for Ryan’s lyrical brilliance as well. No longer relying as strongly on gore-trumped metaphors to symbolize their disgust with humanity’s treatment of the environment, Cattle Decapitation can instead paint totally believable pictures of humanity’s demise. Such as the album cover, rotting human corpses that bear a resemblance to a piñata, with what appears to be candy spilling out in place of entrails. Ultimately, it’s the lyrical content that can bring Cattle Decapitation over into the realm of music we usually discuss. There is no hiding in the fact that they see out planet is in dire straits, and they hold no punches back in holding humans accountable. From “Manufactured Extinction”: “Under the sun and in the light of day we throw this all away / Instinctual devotion to annihilation / Eradication, mass predation - manufactured extinction / The powers that be are you and me.” From the “Prophets of Loss”: “No immediate gain nothing to lose, no one to blame / seven billion other idiots thinking the same / exponential is the loss, the future's not a game.” And from “Not Suitable for Life”, the ultimate clarion call: “So this is what you want? / A world not suitable for life? / Fuck your traditions, fuck your religions / Fuck your systems and fuck your decisions.”
Listen to The Anthropocene Extinction here, while reading what Travis Ryan has to say about each song and seeing when they’ll be coming to your town.