Music / Cattle Decapitation
Cattle Decapitation is an American deathgrind/technical death metal/whatever the hell else they feel like
outfit. Characterized by their discordant, unpredictable sound, viciously misanthropic
lyrical content, intense live shows, and staunch animal rights views (while originally entirely vegetarian or vegan, Travis Ryan and Josh Elmore are the only remaining vegetarians in the band), Cattle Decapitation has become a very prominent player in modern death metal.
They were formed in 1996 by Scott Miller (vocals, guitar), Gabe Serbian (drums, later guitar), and Dave Astor (bass, later drums) as a deathgrind
outfit, though Miller swiftly left
and was later replaced by Travis Ryan, a noise composer and frontman of the drone/doom outfit 5/5/2000. Serbian and Astor left sometime after, with Josh Elmore and Michael Laughlin filling their respective spots; this, of course, has been a recurring theme with Cattle Decapitation, as Travis Ryan and Josh Elmore have been the only steady members for some time. After a fairly sizable amount of lineup changes
over the years, they finally settled on Dave McGraw (drums) and Derek Engemann (bass), with Ryan and Elmore continuing to maintain their duties. At some point in 2016, they became a five-piece, as Belisario Dimuzio was added as a second guitarist.
- Ten Torments of the Damned (1996) - first demo
- Human Jerky (1999)
- Homovore (2000)
- ¡Decapitacion! (2000) - EP
- To Serve Man (2002)
- Humanure (2004)
- Cattle Decapitation/Caninus (2005) - 7" split
- Karma.Bloody.Karma (2006)
- The Harvest Floor (2009)
- Monolith of Inhumanity (2012)
- The Anthropocene Extinction (2015)
The band provides examples of the following tropes:
- Asshole Victim: When someone is killed in one of their songs, the victim usually had it coming. Not always, though, as the victim in "Tooth Enamel and Concrete" was more or less in the wrong place at the wrong time.
- Audience Participation Song: "The Gardeners of Eden", "The Carbon Stampede", "A Living, Breathing Piece of Defecating Meat", "Lifestalker", and "Your Disposal" all tend to result in this.
- Badass Beard: Troy Oftedal sported one of these.
- Badass Biker: Derek Engemann.
- Body Horror: Hoo boy, where to begin? Not just their lyrics, either; their video for "The Monolith/Kingdom of Tyrants" is downright traumatic.
- But Not Too Foreign: Dave grew up in Chile but speaks flawless English without a trace of an accent.
- Careful with That Axe: Travis Ryan has made this an artform, though Josh Elmore's guitar work can cross into this territory as well on the more noise-influenced tracks. For that matter, Dino Sommese's guest appearance on "The Product Alive" also qualifies.
- Contemptible Cover: The majority of them, with standouts including The Harvest Floor and The Anthropocene Extinction, but Humanure's attracted enough ire to more or less force the band to change it.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: "Tooth Enamel and Concrete". Literally.
- Early Installment Weirdness: Ten Torments of the Damned was essentially very noisy powerviolence with slight jazz flourishes that is completely unrecognizable compared to the later material. This is because none of the current core members were actually in the band at that time; prior to Travis Ryan joining, the band was essentially just a side project of various members of The Locust.
- The End of the World as We Know It: The main uniting theme of The Anthropocene Extinction: humanity is digging its own collective grave and will soon lay in it.
- G.I.F.T.: "Not Suitable for Life" was inspired by Travis's sheer irritation and disgust at reading a seemingly endless litany of ignorant, asinine, and stupidly hostile social media comments on a particularly bad day.
- Gorn: Extremely frequent, oftentimes as part of ironic fates befalling individuals. The video for "Forced Gender Reassignment" takes this Up to Eleven to the point where Bloody Disgusting was the only site that would host it.
- Green Aesop: A frequent subject of theirs, exclusively in a particularly grim and cynical fashion.
- Grindcore: Started out as this.
- Groin Attack: "Forced Gender Reassignment" and "Testicular Manslaughter". Both are self-explanatory.
- Humans Are Bastards: Their primary lyrical focus.
- Idiosyncratic Album Theming: Every album since The Harvest Floor has closed with a Lighter and Softer dark ambient track, followed by a more typical song for the band, always reprising the ambient track that precedes it.
- Indecipherable Lyrics: Remarkably averted with Travis, whose manages to make his growls quite intelligible.
- I'm a Humanitarian: "Gristle Licker", among others.
- In-Name-Only: They technically have no remaining founders (Dave Astor was the last to leave in 2002), but Travis Ryan joined very shortly after they had formed and has been with the band for so long (he basically joined right after the recording of Ten Torments of the Damned) that he may as well have been a founder.
- Lead Bassist: Troy Oftedal and Derek Engemann, both Type A.
- Lead Drummer: David McGraw is known for his extreme technical ability, incredible speed, near-unparalleled gravity blast, bomb blast, and double kick speed and control, herculean power, knack for creative grooves, and subtle infusions of Latin beats into his playing. Josh Elmore even joked in an interview that Dave was just innately gifted with incredible skill while the rest of them had to practice their asses off.
- Man of a Thousand Voices: Travis pulls off mid-ranged roars, low gurgles, pig squeals, an ear-piercing shriek, a weird nasally snarl, sharp, rapid-fire spitting (hard to describe in any other way), sickly, phlegm-laced spoken portions, and his trademark raspy, squawk-like cleans. As of The Anthropocene Extinction, he has started using conventional post-punk-tinged cleans.
- Mean Character, Nice Actor: Travis Ryan's unhinged vocal style and onstage behavior belie his calm and down-to-earth nature offstage.
- Metal Scream: Travis Ryan is generally a mix of a Type 2 and a Type 3, though he (accidentally) managed to pull off a Type 4 during a failed take for "The Product Alive".
- Miniscule Rocking: "The Decapitation of Cattle", 2 seconds long.
- Its sequel, "The Recapitation of Cattle", lasts for less than a second.
- Misanthrope Supreme: Most of the murderers in their songs are this.
- Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: Solid 10 and frequently 11, though their more experimental tracks, namely "The Harvest Floor" and "The Monolith", can dip as low as 1 or 2 due to their nature (dark ambient).
- Motor Mouth: Travis Ryan occasionally does this, namely on "The Ripe Beneath the Rind".
- Murder Ballad: No shit.
- Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly: Gradually gained a reputation for this over the years; as of now, they've utilized grindcore, noise, technical death metal, slam, black metal, mathcore, post-rock, dark ambient, neofolk, sludge metal, free jazz, and whatever else they feel like putting in. It can be chalked up as the natural result of taking people who are into noise, power electronics, and industrial (Travis), jazz, grindcore, and black metal (Josh), brutal death metal and powerviolence (Derek), and prog and fusion (Dave) and throwing them together into the same band.
- New Sound Album: Many:
- Homovore was where they started to infuse death metal into what was otherwise pure grind with noise influences, but it was still a grind album at heart.
- To Serve Man was where they started writing full-length songs, in addition to switching to a goregrind sound reminiscent of early Carcass or their friends in Impaled.
- Humanure was where they started to focus more on technicality and atmosphere, as well as being the debut for new drummer Michael Laughlin.
- Karma.Bloody.Karma greatly increased the technicality that was hinted at on Humanure, in addition to being the start of their later Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly tendencies.
- The Harvest Floor was the debut of Dave McGraw on drums, who brought with him prominent brutal death influences; this was also where Ryan started experimenting with "clean" vocals.
- Monolith of Inhumanity dialed up the brutal death and brought down the technicality a bit, in addition to experimenting with Black Metal. Ryan's cleans also gained increased prominence, particularly on the more atmospheric tracks.
- Progressive Metal: Started flirting with this on Karma.Bloody.Karma and fully jumped into progressive death metal with The Harvest Floor.
- Religion Rant Song: "Unintelligent Design" and "Dead Set on Suicide."
- Shout-Out: The cover and title of Monolith of Inhumanity, as well as the video for "The Monolith/Kingdom of Tyrants", is one big homage to/twisted parody of the intro of 2001: A Space Odyssey.
- Soprano and Gravel: Travis started using his extremely distinctive brand of raspy, squawk-like cleans on The Harvest Floor with "Regret & the Grave" and later expanded them on Monolith of Inhumanity. As of The Anthropocene Extinction, he has started using more conventionally melodic post-punk-styled cleans as well.
- Special Guest: Many over the years; some of the more notable ones include Jarboe, Mike Majewski, the entire Cephalic Carnage crew, Phil Anselmo, Author & Punisher, and Jurgen Bartsch (Bethlehem). Travis Ryan himself has done this, most notably on Soulfly's latest album.
- Start My Own: Dave Astor and Pathology; The Locust, however, does not qualify, as they actually predated Cattle by two years. Cattle itself was this for Astor, Gabe Serbian, and Scott Miller, all of whom started it as a side project of The Locust.
- Taught by Experience: More or less how Travis Ryan developed his cleans. Over the years, he found himself adjusting his voice during soundchecks and performances to cope with shitty house sound setups, and he developed his cleans essentially by accident as a side effect of having to compensate for bad equipment and incompetent sound guys.
- Technical Death Metal: Starting with Karma.Bloody.Karma.
- Voice of the Legion: Travis frequently layers his vocals in the studio, particularly in the first two albums.
- You Bastard: "Circo Inhumanitas" has this as its core message: if you willingly associate with circuses in any way, you are an awful person.