Terrasite: Cattle Decapitation’s Extreme Metal Manifesto – Honoring the Planet and Paying Tribute to the Fallen Pioneer, Gabe Serbian
There are bands that have clear principles and precepts about their musical style and the message they want to convey. Since their emergence, Cattle Decapitation has stood out for their extreme and brutal sound and image, as well as their defense of the planet and the living beings that inhabit it, except for Homo sapiens due to their mistreatment. With their new album, “Terrasite,” the band once again offers this ideal, with few changes but with the same strength and vigor in all aspects. It’s a solid and honest offering that warns about the dire and deplorable consequences if we don’t take care of the environment.
Gabriel “Gabe” Serbian was an outstanding American drummer, guitarist, and vocalist who gained much fame in bands like The Locust, Cattle Decapitation, Holy Molar, and Zu. He passed away a year ago, and the cause of his death was not revealed. The band dedicates this album to Gabe Serbian for being one of the pioneers of their sound. Just before joining his bandmates, Travis Ryan, the vocalist, received tragic news: his friend and co-founder of the band, Gabe Serbian, had taken his own life. The news and the pressure of the album deeply affected him, and his mind sank into a dark place. A few days later, they learned that their friend Trevor Strnad from The Black Dahlia Murder had also died by suicide. It seemed like everything was falling apart for many of their friends, whom they considered family, after struggling for two years to overcome the pandemic. All of this influenced the lyrics of the epic track “Just Another Body.” Despite the months that have passed and the numerous listens, this song remains enveloped in an aura of mourning that will never fade away. It was written during one of the band’s toughest moments, as stated by the vocalist.
The current members of the band are Travis Ryan on vocals, Josh Elmore on lead guitar, Belisario Dimuzio on the other guitar, Olivier Pinard on bass, and David McGraw on drums. Mr. Elmore made statements about the new album: “After an album like ‘Death Atlas’ three years ago, it was necessary to take a turn. Everything in that album, from the concept to the artwork and the music, was a final statement. The only way to move forward is to be reborn. Approaching this album, it was not only important to maintain the musical direction that the band has been following from the beginning but also to further explore the ambient and textural elements that were part of ‘Death Atlas.’ Therefore, ‘Terrasite’ pushes our sound into more epic and varied territories, thanks to our vocalist Travis. The main concept takes a new and unsettling direction. We wanted to make a complete 180° change compared to ‘Death Atlas.’ We had this concept idea in mind for years, and this album is darker and more melancholic. We wanted to achieve a completely opposite effect: for this to happen in broad daylight. We have always found daytime terror to be really unsettling, so I wanted to make sure that what happens on the album cover takes place under the sunlight, which is also reflected in the lyrics.”
“Terrasite” takes Cattle Decapitation’s sound into more epic and varied territories, with the standout contribution of our vocalist Travis. The main concept takes a new and unsettling direction. We wanted to make a complete 180° change compared to “Death Atlas.” This conceptual idea has been on our minds for years. This album is darker and more melancholic, seeking a completely opposite effect to the previous one: we wanted this to happen in broad daylight. We have always found daytime terror to be really unsettling, so I wanted to make sure that what was happening on the album cover took place under the sunlight, and this is also reflected in the lyrics.
Cattle Decapitation has grown to fill the musical void that has given them their personality, and they have learned to bring out the best in each other, maximizing the work they have done to date. “Terrasite” is their tenth production and constantly shifts dynamics, demanding a variety of emotional responses.
Mr. Elmore continues: “All the hallmarks of Cattle Decapitation are captured on the album: ripping explosions, abrasive and aggressive guitar and bass riffs, and Travis’ diverse vocal approach, but this album just feels different. I don’t know how else to explain it. There is a deep richness in the guitar tones and a more prominent bass presence. The drum parts are aggressive but tasteful, and Travis’ vocals are as varied as ever but with added emotional depth. The whole album sounds like a somber panic attack, like mourning the loss of a loved one. Cattle’s characteristic intensity is present throughout the album, but this time it comes in rhythms ranging from frantic to controlled and immersive, with an emphasis on menacing heaviness. The ambient guitar loaded with effects also takes on a much more significant role throughout the experience.” We couldn’t have expected a better explanation.
Both the album title and artwork carry meaning. The title is a word coined by Mr. Ryan, combining “terra,” which comes from Latin and means “earth,” with “site-sitos” in Greek, meaning “food.” Therefore, it has the following meanings: “devourer or destroyer of lands or territories” or “post-Anthropocene humanity.” All of this is a metaphor for humanity’s role in the destruction of the planet, and it plays on the word “parasite.” This comes to life in the artwork by longtime collaborator Wes Benscoter, a renowned American artist known for his extreme metal album covers for bands like Vader, Kreator, Autopsy, and Broken Hope. He has also created covers for magazines, books, and t-shirt designs, and his art is exhibited in galleries worldwide. On the cover of “Terrasite,” you can see the nymph of this human/cockroach hybrid, a fully developed being newly emerged from its ootheca stage, which is a hardened and cracked mass of eggs. The creature’s appearance is startled, confused, scared but also angry and ready to join the rest of its brood in ending humanity.
“We have all heard the old saying about how the cockroach is so pervasive, invasive, and insidious that it could survive a nuclear war. Our previous album, ‘Death Atlas,’ left the world blackened and lifeless, or so we thought. It turns out the embedded carbonized bodies that adorned the album cover and music video, resembling the victims of Pompeii frozen in time due to the Mount Vesuvius disaster in 79 AD, were actually the stage for something much more ruthless that was yet to come: Humanity 2.0. On the cover, we see the ‘Terrasite,’ also known as the ‘earth-eater,’ emerging from its shell. After experiencing a torturous existence as a human being, they have now been reborn in a new world, saddened, confused, and angry. They have resurfaced as a new variant of the human disease, adapted to continue and finish ravaging their home planet, Earth.” This is how the vocalist explained the artwork, which is very interesting.
This concept of art is also explained by Mr. Ryan as follows: “‘Terrasite’ starts from a place of anguish, alongside anger, rage, resentment, depression, anxiety, with a bleak outlook on our species both on a daily, more mundane level and on a philosophical level. For example, the lyrics of the track ‘A Photic Doom’ are more of a metaphor for being alone in your head and retreating from life that is exposed to daylight. Shaking your fist at the sun for exposing us to this place. For uncovering the depravity of our species and shedding light on subjects rather than letting them rest in darkness. Or like in the concept of the first song ‘Terrasitic Adaptation,’ which, along with the cover, sets the stage to dive into the concept we desire. In the first song, we discover what is happening on the cover, and this song is more about what our children will end up being: adult humans, shat out and left to make sense of this world only to end up being part of the problem, simply by existing, and without solutions like us currently.”
The Americans once again worked on production with Dave Otero, who has worked with bands like CEPHALIC CARNAGE or ALLEGAEON and knows in some way the individual styles of the members and how to bring out the best in them. They also enlisted Tony Parker, not the French basketball player, but the member of MIDNIGHT ODYSSEY, to take care of the synthesizers and keyboards in general. This tenth full-length album is supported by their previous record label, METAL BLADE RECORDS.
The harsh reality that we are all experiencing in the era of the Anthropocene still persists and is reflected in this latest release, serving as the primary driving force for the California quintet to continue their warnings about planetary devastation. Specifically, the band’s narrative about the end of the Earth carries on in the scathingly critical album “Terrasite,” which, with its ten tracks, compels us to reflect on our choices and reproductive impacts on planet Earth. It is no easy feat for Extreme Music to outpace the decline of Western civilization, but CATTLE DECAPITATION informs us of what will happen if we do not take action.
The rest of the album follows a similar pattern to what we have come to expect from them, with each song addressing a different environmental or social issue. There are songs about livestock farming, deforestation, and worker exploitation. The lyrics are often graphic and disturbing, yet incredibly powerful and thought-provoking, as should be expected from an album that proposes change to its listeners.
The band’s musical mastery is undeniable as they skillfully combine Death Metal, Grindcore, and even melodic elements, creating a cohesive and exhilarating sound. The opening track, “Terrasitic Adaptation,” immerses us in a collection of intense sounds, with screams and dissonance welcoming us to this new work from the Californian band. As the album progresses, the pace may slow down, but the impact remains, and the vocal range of Mr. Ryan is particularly impressive, ranging from piercing screams to deep growls reminiscent of Mr. Benton from DEICIDE or Mr. Vincent from MORBID ANGEL. The song concludes with substantial hints of Black Metal. The track passionately addresses climate change, with its lyrics serving as a call to action for people to become aware and take steps against the damage we are causing to our planet. It is a highly significant theme, especially in the current context.
Continuing with the album, we encounter “We Eat Our Young” (https://youtu.be/9nSo_H92Zmc), where the band demonstrates their drive and quality in Death Metal, with Mr. McGraw’s drums setting the rhythm and sinister guitar riffs that leave us breathless. In my opinion, “Scourge Of The Offspring” (https://youtu.be/ksCKFkioYL8) is my favorite track from the album. It features rhythms that remind me of the recent transformation experienced by the French band GOJIRA, adding a captivating intensity to their compositions. It is evident that the musicians of CATTLE DECAPITATION have taken their music a step further compared to their previous album. Additionally, I must highlight Mr. Ryan’s vocal versatility and the dynamic scales that give way to Mr. Pinard’s solid bass lines. This track sounds technical without losing its characteristic essence.
In “The Insignificants,” there is no respite, and the skill of Mr. Dimuzio and Mr. Elmore on the six strings becomes evident. The solos are instructive for this type of intense Extreme Metal, and the innovative fluctuations showcase Mr. McGraw’s cymbal play. The song culminates magnificently with a vocal tone change by Mr. Ryan. On the other hand, “The Storm Upstairs” showcases the immense ability of the American musicians. They execute with fluidity and power at different tempos, creating melodies that reflect the idiosyncrasy of Death Metal. Mr. McGraw’s double bass work is impeccable, adapting throughout the song, infusing passion with swift tuning and standing out in the relentless riffs.
In “…And The World Will Go On Without You,” we encounter a catchy riff supported by percussion that not only maintains the decibels but also propels the tones in a constant impact. The modulated vocals add to this intensity, creating a resolute result. “A Photic Doom” (https://youtu.be/HfeZniCvaXs) intensifies the journey with Mr. McGraw’s double bass from the first second. The pauses in the melody, enhanced by the interplay of cymbals, as well as Mr. Ryan’s ferocious high-pitched vocals, stand out. Furthermore, Mr. Elmore’s solo fits superbly into the track, adding an extreme touch of quality. “Dead End Residents” confirms the band’s loyalty to their characteristic style and form. They go from zero to a hundred kilometers per hour in a matter of seconds without losing coherence in melody and lyrics. The balance and complexity allow the members’ creativity to flourish, presenting a primitive Thrash Metal on this occasion that highlights their vocal versatility and enriches their sound.
In “Solastalgia,” they continue without slowing down, offering a guitar arpeggio that intertwines with speed. Despite the swiftness, Mr. Pinard’s bass is clearly audible in its rightful place, allowing us to fully enjoy its presence. Doom Metal elements are added, where Mr. Ryan, almost solemnly in his lyrical delivery, accesses deeper tones. At this point in the album, the altered time changes and intensity levels are fascinating. CATTLE DECAPITATION provides us with their Progressive Death Metal along with their unique technical Grindcore, enriching our delight.
“Just Another Body” begins with keyboard notes, signaling that we are reaching the tenth and final song of this album. The keyboard sounds intensify in volume and intensity, accompanying an identifiable and manageable riff that does not neglect the band’s characteristic speed. The sense of urgency and pressure it conveys is indescribable, in perfect harmony with the Extreme Metal they have accustomed us to. Each instrument has its prominence and contributes to the feeling of satisfaction. The ending, with looser notes and scattered pauses, allows Mr. Ryan to sing in various tones, conveying an anguish that does not accumulate anything they have created. It is inevitable to feel drawn to and experience the pain that emanates from the depths of their souls. The altered tempo changes and intensity levels are captivating. CATTLE DECAPITATION has succeeded in doing what they love most: delivering quality Progressive Death Metal and technical Grindcore for our enjoyment.
Review by Pepe Cortez