Cattle Decapitation has always existed as an outlier in the extreme metal scene of the last twenty years. Defining exactly what they are is a challenge. From their earlier grindcore releases to their newest albums, which made up the majority of their setlist at Come and Take It Live on November 15th in Austin, they’ve always bucked trends. Cattle Decap will just as adeptly jump around between grind riffs and death metal breakdowns as they do long, winding guitar solos and black metal inspired sections of straight riffage and blast beats. Regardless of who they tour with, Cattle Decap is unique in a scene full of bands trying to sound like one another.
Placing them in a scene might be difficult, but their place in the scene is unquestioned. They filled the room at Come and Take It with an army of soldiers ready to dutifully mosh no matter which direction Cattle Decap decided to take their music. For older fans expecting straight grindcore, this might have been a disappointing show. Every song played was from Cattle Decap’s last two records, 2012’s Monolith of Inhumanity and 2015’s The Anthropocene Extinction. That being said, if anyone was let down, no one showed it. Judging by the energy in the room, those two records could be called Cattle Decap’s most popular and stunning achievements yet.
What never quite comes through on a record is the sheer technicality and brutality of death metal like this. The stellar playing of the musicians is on par with any legendary band you could name, while most singers would blush at trying to hit the high notes vocalist Travis Ryan was hitting. This is incredibly difficult music to perform, but for the uninitiated the chaos can be overwhelming. Not so in a live setting, where a crisp mix at the soundboard allowed every note to shine through and every song to crush the listener in a wave of decimating heaviness.
Credit must also be given to openers Full of Hell. Though they performed early in the night, before the slightly more noted but less powerful Revocation, Full of Hell blew the doors off the building with their own mix of hardcore, grindcore, and death metal. The Ocean City band is likely being exposed to many new listeners on a tour with an older, more established, more traditional band like Cattle Decapitation, and they did not disappoint. Having plugged away for several years making extreme metal records with the likes of the Body and Japanese legend Merzbow, Full of Hell has made their name as one of the most exciting and most violent bands in the scene at the moment. Their sheer volatility will have them headlining a tour like this in no time.
This past week it was announced that Van’s Warped Tour was finally ending after 23 years after next year’s run. That festival has long since bypassed bands of this nature, despite a slight return to form this past summer. With the ending of such a legendary name in the extreme music scene, one might wonder if the scene is dying. Cattle Decapitation showed in Austin that there will always be an audience for this kind of insanity in music, and the ones who carve their own path in this scene are doing just fine.