Compromise is not a concept Cattle Decapitation are willing to entertain. Ever. Over the course of nineteen years and six full-lengths the San Diego quartet have more than proven this, defining themselves as one of the most vital, brutal, and relentless forces in extreme music, and with The Anthropocene Extinction they have delivered a volatile, apocalyptic beast that is as hideous as it is compelling. "I feel that something rare happens with our band in that we get better and better with each release rather than going in the opposite direction, which happens to a lot of bands," states vocalist Travis Ryan. "As we get older we feel we have less and less to lose, which is freeing, and we really want to go as far out on a limb as we can without losing the extremity that has always driven us."
With 2012's Monolith Of Inhumanity Ryan, guitarist Josh Elmore, bassist Derek Engemann and drummer Dave McGraw delivered a sledgehammer blow, maintaining their position at the most violent end of the death metal spectrum yet expanding their sound, allowing a little more melody in without losing any of their intensity. As always tied together by a central concept, Ryan's bleak lyrics bluntly illustrated the fate of the human race if allowed to continue pillaging and destroying the planet. With The Anthropocene Extinction he extrapolates on this subject, looking back at the world in the aftermath of such ecological and environmental devastation, with its focus largely centered on the Pacific Ocean. "The Anthropocene Era is the era that humankind has inhabited, and it encompasses all of the ages that have come and gone during that period, and the record focuses on how we have managed to bring that era to an end. As our technology has advanced we have degraded the Earth. When you look to the oceans the footprint we have left comes in the form of all the junk and plastic that has made it out there because we let that happen, and the effect that has, because when you start breaking down eco-systems it's a domino effect and will one day end up doing us in. The Anthropocene Extinction is set in the world that we destroyed, and it's certainly the most depressing record I've written."
Of course, rather than taking such themes and applying them to introspective, navel-gazing music they weld them onto a soundtrack of all out savagery. Dominated by their blistering death-grind attack, shades of caustic black metal seep in across the record, and they further expand on the more epic and melodic aspects of its predecessor, at the same time making for a far more cohesive listening experience. "We've never actively said "let's do a black metal part" or "let's do a brutal blastbeat part!" We base everything on feeling, but we definitely focused much more on fluidity within the songs and making the record flow much more than on some of our earlier releases." With doom drenched opener "Manufactured Extinct" they set the scene, the monstrous "Clandestine Ways (Krokodil Rot)" - which turns the tables on the vivisectionists working in the cosmetic industry - and "Not Suitable For Life" perhaps the most intense and violent music the band have yet put their name to. Alongside these sit brooding instrumental "The Burden Of Seven
Billion" and the melancholic "Ave Exitium", and across the record Ryan's mutated, high pitched melodic shriek - which could never be mistaken for 'clean' vocals - gets more space to breathe. This provides The Anthropocene Extinction with its catchiest parts, though dispensed sparingly and never forced, taking "Mammals In Babylon", "Apex Blasphemy" and closer "Pacific Grim" into somewhat tragic, desperate territory. "I think we came out with something pretty damn catchy, which I know isn't a common trait of this kind of music, but then again we're not trying to be like everybody else, or anybody else. When you have four drastically different opinions in a band that's where I think actual magic happens. We're all into very different things, and sometimes that can lead to conflicts, sometimes that can lead to greatness."
Reenlisting Monolith Of Inhumanity producer Dave Otero (Allegaeon, Cephalic Carnage), the band returned to Flatline Audio in Denver, CO, eager to revisit the close collaboration that helped bring that record to life. "Dave is a bonafide producer, he's got a lot of great ideas and this time we heard him out pretty religiously because making Monolith had worked out so well. We've always kind of co-produced our records with whoever we brought in, but these last two we did a lot more listening to what he had to say rather than just sticking with what we were saying. Sometimes we shot down his ideas and vice versa, but that discussion was always beneficial. He basically becomes the fifth member of the band at that point, and I think that kind of relationship is the best way to get anything out of anybody." The Anthropocene Extinction also features contributions from some notable guests, with Tristan Shone (AKA Author & Punisher) contributing to "Plagueborne", Bethlehem's Jürgen Bartsch providing a spoken word part - in his native German tongue - for "Pacific Grim", and Phil Anselmo lends his sandblasted larynx to "The Prophets Of Loss". "We originally didn't plan on having any guest appearances, but when the opportunities presented themselves while we were in the studio, they just seemed to fit perfectly and it was great we were able to actually get them involved. We had played the Housecore Horror Film Fest in Austin and we shot the shit with Phil,who is a very cool guy, but it was our friend John Jarvis (Pig Destroyer, Fulgora) who reached out to him - without telling us - and then told us he wanted to be on the record!" Ryan laughs. "The part you hear him do on that song is exactly what popped into my head as soon as we learned he was going to do something with us, and really all of those guys contributed something so cool to the finished product."
The Anthropocene Extinction also sees the band extending their collaboration with Wes Benscoter, who has handled the artwork for every release since 2002's To Serve Man. "As with the case of Dave Otero, when we work with Wes he becomes a member of the band, and this also applies to Mitch Massie [who directed the notoriously NSFW video clip for Monolith Of Inhumanity's "Forced Gender Reassignment"]. I care about their opinions just as much as my own, and it's about putting the ball in the court of these guys as much as possible without sacrificing our artistic integrity." As usual, Benscoter formulated striking imagery that conveyed the record's themes in unflinching style, the cover featuring a bloated and distorted corpse washed up on a beach, its torn abdomen disgorging a mass of waste plastic. "It harkens back to what's going on with the albatrosses they have been finding on Midway Island for years. They're mistaking plastic for krill, ingesting this and dropping dead on the island, and as they decay the plastic inside them spills out. It paints a vivid picture of what's going on out there, and we're taking that and putting that within a human context, because, as I said before, it's a domino effect that ultimately leads back to our own downfall."
Bio written by Dan Slessor
Having delivered five killer albums boasting some of the most potent, technical and abrasive metal unleashed over the last decade, it would be easy for Revocation to sit back and rest upon their laurels. However, with their constant drive to push their sound ever forward and refusal to compromise their integrity, this could never be the case – and Great Is Our Sin is their most dynamic, boundary-pushing and weighty release to date. For vocalist/guitarist Dave Davidson, the goal has never been about trying to please others. “Thinking critically about my own style and being self-motivated has had a very strong impact on me as a musician and songwriter. We try not to think too much about extraneous forces when we’re writing so we can focus on creating music for ourselves first and foremost.“
Hitting the road with 2014′s Deathless, the band shared stages with the likes of Crowbar and the mighty Cannibal Corpse, drawing in legions of new fans. When it came time to follow it up, the quartet – rounded out by guitarist Dan Gargiulio, bassist Brett Bamberger, and recently recruited drummer Ash Pearson – had their work cut out for them, and their response to the challenge is a record that grabs you by the throat and refuses to let go. Never forcing anything, the songs that would comprise Great Is Our Sin came together organically, and while the members being spread all around North America would have been an impediment to some, Revocation drew strength from it. “Writing comes pretty naturally for us, but logistics are more of an issue since everyone lives in different places. Ash would fly in from Vancouver, and he and I would jam together at our practice space in Boston. We didn’t have the luxury of getting together to jam whenever we felt like it, but in a way I think it actually made us more focused, since we had to make the most of our time together and not procrastinate. Added to that, Ash is an incredible player and he has a really diverse style which we’ve utilized a lot on the album. He can really go off behind the kit, playing some very intense technical stuff, as well as bringing in some more diverse elements drawn from his influences outside the metal realm.” Reuniting with producer Zeuss (Hatebreed, Bleeding Through), who also helmed Deathless and 2012′s Teratogenesis EP, the record packs the requisite punch, yet retains the organic feel with which it was conceived. Known for their technical prowess, the band remained dedicated to upping the ante without ever losing sight of the importance of good songwriting. Opener “Arbiters Of The Apocalypse” makes this abundantly clear, blending together breakneck thrash, crunching death metal flavors, plenty of visceral fret abuse as well as compelling yet unforced melodies. While they rarely hold back the aggression, it is very much pushed to the fore on the likes of “Communion” and “Copernican Heresy”, which are as savage as the band have ever sounded. However, they also retain and build upon the proggier aspects of their sound, as well as embracing triumphant “fist-in-the-air” moments, most notably on the chorus of “Arbiters” and the blistering solo that slashes through “Crumbling Imperium”. “We’ve always had a bit of a prog element to our sound, I think we’ve all just gotten better as musicians so we feel more comfortable pushing the envelope even more than before,” Davidson states. “Likewise, I try to write melodies and solos that aesthetically fit the mood of the part, and for me both those sections needed something really epic sounding, especially on the ‘Arbiters’ chorus. I was initially planning on screaming for that part, but the riff felt very anthemic to me, so I came up with a melody that was more in line with the triumphant nature of it.” That legendary shredder Marty Friedman unleashes a solo on “The Exaltation” was a dream come true for Davidson, and certainly gives the track an extra kick in the pants. “Marty has always been a huge influence on me and is someone I really respect. His solo on ‘The Exaltation’ has all the elements that I love in his playing, especially the element of surprise.“
While the songs come together to make for a cohesive record that is engaging from front to back, they are further united by the lyrical concept penned by Davidson. The title itself appropriated from Charles Darwin’s quote: “If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin“, Davidson went about building a theme that was not only fittingly expansive, but also had real resonance with regard to contemporary society. “The concept revolves around the folly of man throughout the ages. Some themes come from historical references that are hundreds of years old, yet sadly these themes are still very relevant today due to mankind’s refusal to learn from the lessons history has taught us, time and time again.” To this end, the vocalist tackles issues such as political corruption and the buying and selling of lawmakers on “Only The Spineless Survive”, while on “Theatre Of Horror” he reflects on the place of public execution in Medieval times, and the manner in which it was supposed to shock and entertain the populace. Furthermore, he vents his anger and frustrations over the very real problems presented by climate change on epic closer “Cleaving The Ice Giants”, and the aptly titled “Monolithic Ignorance”.
Regardless of the state of the world, nothing is going to slow Revocation down any time soon. Whilst the lineup has changed over the ten years the band has been in existence, Davidson’s passion has never waned, and they are arguably sounding better than ever as they look toward the future. “We can’t wait to bring these songs out on the road and perform them for different audiences all over the world. ‘Great Is Our Sin’ is a new chapter for the band, and collectively we feel that it is our defining record to date.”