The fifth full-length release from San Diego’s Cattle Decapitation, Monolith of Inhumanity continues the band’s ideological focus on animal cruelty, environmental destruction, and the stupidity of humanity for willingly digging its own (probably made of plastic) grave. The misanthropic lyrical content is matched by band’s willingness to toss unexpected sonic curveballs at the listener, with the album offering just over 40-minutes of progressive death metal/grindcore that demonstrates several stylistic tweaks. Many of these experiments are effective and welcome, though the downside is that they often come off as tangential one-off moments rather than consistent threads. To offer an example up front, second-to-last track “The Monolith” is an eerie and atmospheric mood-setter of a track, quite different from the rest of the album. It should serve as an effective signpost that on this outing Cattle Decapitation are going to move in unexpected directions. However, its strength is diminished by being hidden in the back end of the record. It’s one of the more frustrating aspects of what is, ultimately, a pretty good album.
The record starts off with “The Carbon Stampede,” which is to-the-point and grind-heavy enough to meet basic expectations. However, its fake-out shift in the track’s final seconds (which always sounds like a new track is beginning) is its highlight. However, by the time its groove has set in time the band is already moving on to “Dead Set On Suicide,” a fairly forgettable song that includes an obligatory-sounding audio clip of someone dying via self-managed hanging. “A Living Breathing Piece of Defecating Meat” is definitely the catchiest songs on the album, its hook being Travis Ryan‘s use of a pseudo-clean but still distorted singing style throughout the chorus. That vocal twist appears again most notably on “Lifestalker.” Middle tracks like “Gristle Licker,” “Forced Gender Reassignment,” and “Project Ovulation” come off as more like the “standard” Cattle Decapitation fare; they’re the bread-and-butter moments, and they don’t stand out as well in comparison to the more progressive moments. “Your Disposal” is suggestive of final track material in both name and music, and it acts that way despite things still to come (it even has a gratuitously long fade-out). As mentioned above, “The Monolith” is unique in its emotional punch and smouldering aggression. It paves the way for “Kingdom of Tyrants,” a song that as far as I’m concerned ensures that Cattle Decapitation won’t get lost in the broader family of bands into which they are often lumped. It would have been a gutsy track to pair with “The Monolith” as a kick-starter combo for the beginning of the album, but with things in the order that they are it’s still a helluva closing track.
Monolith of Inhumanity is the most notable of Cattle Decapitation’s releases so far, and its more progressive passages suggest possible future additions to the band’s traditional approach to things. They’re additions that I would be happy to see the band build on as they continue their climb up to broader recognizability and an increasingly unique ensemble sound.