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Cattle Decapitation is an American deathgrind/technical death metal/whatever the hell else they feel like band. 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 (Eukaryst) was added as a second guitarist.

As of early 2018, Derek Engemann has departed, citing a desire to strike off on his own and focus on his other projects, namely Scour and a newly-revived Cast the Stone. After a set of fill-ins, the band finally announced Olivier Pinard as their new bassist in August of 2018.

The band's 10th studio albumnote  Terrasite was released on May 12, 2023.


  • 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)
  • Medium Rarities (2018) - Compilation
  • Death Atlas (2019)
  • Terrasite (2023)

There's no fear for tomorrow! When there's no trust for today! There's no ever-after, tropes have to be paid!:

  • One-Woman Wail: The outro to "Death Atlas", courtesy of Laure Le Prunenec of Öxxö Xööx.
  • Ascended Extra: Belisario Dimuzio and Olivier Pinard both started off as live members before being inducted in full-time, and Pinard in particular was their go-to guy whenever they played in Canada, as Derek Engemann had a DUI on his record that made getting into the country a gamble that they were not willing to take.
  • Ascended Meme: In late 2019, a Soundcloud rapper wholesale lifted the cover art for Death Atlas for his mixtape without even removing the band's logo, then responded in a flippant and dismissive manner when the band found out. The band found the entire saga to be too amusing to not immortalize, and so they put up a presale on Indiemerch for 24 hours to print a very limited run of shirts with the mixtape cover and the initial Instagram post on the front, along with his response on the back of the shirt.
    "I love the hate Fuck all y'all and that Wack ass band😂 Tellem get at me they owe me anyway 🔥🔥"
  • 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: A lot:
    • "The Carbon Stampede": "HERE! THEY COME!"
    • "Pacific Grim": "DEATH COMES WITH THE TIDE!"
  • Black Metal: Elements of this started to creep in circa Monolith of Inhumanity (primarily on "Projectile Ovulation", "Your Disposal", and "Kingdom of Tyrants") before becoming an extremely major part of their sound on The Anthropocene Extinction.
  • Body Horror: Hoo boy, where to begin? Not just their lyrics, either; their video for "The Monolith/Kingdom of Tyrants" is downright traumatic.
    • The music video for “Forced Gender Reassignment” takes it up to eleven, to the point it was banned from YouTube.
  • 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.
    • Another example is on "The Carbon Stampede" and “Forced Gender Reassignment”. We go from Travis' low bellows and slow instrumentation to machine-gun blast beats and a furious shriek in a snap.
  • Continuity Nod: Between the artwork for Monolith of Inhumanity, The Anthropocene Extinction, Death Atlas and Terrasite.
    • The cover artwork that comprises both the front and the back of The Anthropocene Extinction takes place not too far away from the wasteland seen in Monolith of Inhumanity, down to the tall stone still being present.
    • The individual portraits for the band members in Death Atlas's inner artwork are identical to those of The Anthropocene Extinction, seemingly being a continuation of the decay of their "corpses" by petrifying into Pompeii-esque statues.
    • And then the illustrations for Terrasite depict insect-like humanoids being created and emerged from the statues.
  • 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 and Death Atlas: humanity is digging its own collective grave and will soon lay in it.
  • Epic Rocking: "Just Another Body" (10:15), "Men Before Swine" (9:41), "Death Atlas" (9:14), and "Alone at the Landfill" (7:37).
  • Fading into the Next Song:
    • On Monolith of Inhumanity, "Your Disposal" ends with the fire crackling that starts "The Monolith".
    • On The Anthropocene Extinction, "Apex Blashemy" closes with a coastal ambience that continues into the beginning of "Ave Exitium".
    • On Death Atlas, the outro of "Time's Cruel Curtain" blends into the beginning of "The Unerasable Past".
  • Gaia's Lament: A recurring theme in their music is how humanity is making the Earth more and more unlivable.
  • 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, a website devoted to horror movie news, was the only site that would host it.
  • Gothic Metal: Shades of this on Death Atlas, with prominent gothic rock and darkwave influences, up to the point of including a Dead Can Dance cover as a bonus track.
  • Green Aesop: In a dark and twisted take on this trope, a frequent subject of their lyrics is the horrors of pollution and anthropogenic climate change, usually in the form of "we've fucked up the Earth so badly that there's nothing we can do but wait for our species' inevitable demise."
  • Grindcore: Started out as this.
  • Groin Attack:
    • "Testicular Manslaughter" has a rapist being punished by having his gonads smashed with a hammer and blasted with a shotgun.
    • "Forced Gender Reassignment" has a couple of anti-LGBT activists being subjected to a sex change surgery... without any anesthesia.
  • Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow: Derek Engemann.
  • Hell Is That Noise:
    • The final track on Humanure, "Men Before Swine," is nine minutes of pig squeals recorded in a slaughterhouse.
    • The ending of "Alone at the Landfill": a Lonely Piano Piece with Travis screaming like a disembodied ghost in the background.
  • Humans Are Bastards: Their primary lyrical focus is how awful humanity is. This especially applies to their Green Aesop songs like "Death Atlas", which present the message that humanity completely deserves to be wiped out in the impending climate apocalypse, since our greed is its primary cause.
  • 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.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: The band's members are vegetarians, and the mistreatment of livestock is a frequent topic of theirs; one of their preferred ways of getting the message across is by writing songs where humans are slaughtered just like cattle. This can be seen in tracks such as "Human Jerky" and "Gristle Licker".
  • 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.
  • Indecipherable Lyrics: Remarkably averted with Travis, who's able to make his growls quite intelligible.
  • Internet Jerk: "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.
  • Lead Bassist: Olivier Pinard is a major Type A, as he was famous for his extreme technical prowess well before he joined the band.
  • 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.
  • Lighter and Softer: Though still death metal at its core, Death Atlas doesn't keep the same brutality as many of their old albums do, including more clean vocals and focusing on environmental destruction over gore and other grotesque topics.
  • Light Is Not Good: "A Photic Doom". "Photic" means "related to light", and the lyrics appear to describe a future where greenhouse gases and ozone layer depletion have led to sunlight becoming deadly, with the few survivors living their lives in shadows.
  • Longest Song Goes First: The Harvest Floor opens with the 5:39 "The Gardeners of Eden".
  • Longest Song Goes Last:
    • Humanure closes with the 9:40 outro "Men Before Swine".
    • The Anthropocene Extinction ends with "Pacific Grim", which has a length of 5:25.
    • Death Atlas closes with the 9:14 Title Track.
    • Terrasite closes with the 10:15 "Just Another Body".
  • 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 Death Atlas, he has added a gravelly, sparse baritone to his repertoire.
  • Metal Scream: Travis Ryan is generally a mix of a Type 2 and a Type 3, though he managed to pull off a Type 4 during a failed take for "The Product Alive", with his distinctive melodic vocals being a combination of Type 3 and Type 4.
  • 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.
  • Motor Mouth: Travis Ryan occasionally does this, namely on "The Ripe Beneath the Rind".
  • Murder Ballad: No shit.
  • 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 eclectic 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.
  • Perishing Alt-Rock Voice: Travis Ryan's more conventional cleans (heard on "Ave Exitium", "Absolute Destitute", and "Death Atlas") are a sparse baritone heavily reminiscent of Nick Cave or Michael Gira (as per Travis, Andrew Eldritch was what he was shooting for).
  • Pintsized Powerhouse: Olivier Pinard.
  • 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.
  • The Sixth Ranger: Rostam "Ross" Zafar, their longtime merch guy, tour hand, and moral support, not to mention Travis's fellow Throbbing Gristle and Genesis P-Orridge fanatic.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Derek Engemann. While he left of his own accord, his generally arrogant, rude, selfish, and duplicitous personality made the band react to his decision with a sense of relief, and he had been a toxic presence in the band (and out, as he was notorious for being a dick to fans and supporting acts on tour, and the band found themselves apologizing for something he did more than once) for some time before that and was just barely tolerated on a good day.
  • Soprano and Gravel: Travis started using his extremely distinctive brand of raspy, goblin squawk-like semi-cleans on The Harvest Floor with "Regret & the Grave" and later expanded them on Monolith of Inhumanity. As of Death Atlas, he has started using more conventional singing techniques 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, Ross Sewage, Author & Punisher, and Jurgen Bartsch (Bethlehem). In the live realm, Kevin Talley briefly filled in on drums before Dave McGraw joined, while Rahsaan Davis, Oli Pinard, Todd Stern, Jim Parker, and Diego Soria have all been fill-in bassists; of these, Pinard won the "Derek's replacement" lottery.
  • Spoken Word in Music: The various transition tracks from Death Atlas ("Anthropogenic: End Transmission", "The Great Dying, Pt. 1", "The Great Dying, Pt. 2" and "The Unerasable Past") feature spoken dialogue styled like the scripts of news reporters on television. The dialogue is about the worries of what's to come for the end of the world as caused by humanity.
  • 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.
  • Surprisingly Gentle Song: The title track of The Harvest Floor, "The Monolith" from Monolith of Inhumanity, "Ave Exitium" from The Anthropocene Extinction and "The Unerasable Past" from Death Atlas are rather calming acoustic pieces, with the latter two featuring normal singing from Travis Ryan. The gentleness doesn't last long for these songs, however, since they all serve as introductory pieces to the closing tracks of their respective albums.
  • 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: From Karma.Bloody.Karma to Monolith of Inhumanity, though they had downplayed it a fair bit by Monolith.
  • To Serve Man: They have an album titled after this trope, with its title track being about aliens abducting humans to use as a food source.
    We have arrived
    to infest and thrive
    upon billions of lives
    with forks, spoons and knives
  • Trilling Rs: Travis regularly trills his R's live, typically when announcing songs and sometimes to accentuate certain passages.
  • Voice of the Legion: Travis frequently layers his vocals in the studio, particularly on the first two albums.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: The narrator of "Forced Gender Reassignment" is attempting to fight against transphobia. Unfortunately, they decide the best means of doing so is by abducting and brutally forcing a sex change operation on a transphobe couple so they'll feel the same way transgender people do. Not to mention raping another transphobe to death with a drill.
  • You Bastard!: "Circo Inhumanitas" has this as its core message: if you willingly associate with animal circuses in any way, you are an awful person.