Cattle Decapitation, Auckland NZ, 2018

Cattle Decapitation 
8th February 2018
The Kings Arms, Auckland, New Zealand.

Review & Photography by Sarah Kidd.

Cattle Decapitation perform live in Auckland, New Zealand, 2018. Image by Sarah Kidd.

Ferocity. Savagery. Brutality. All three words above could perfectly sum up the show that was delivered to a solidly packed Kings Arms last night as Californian band Cattle Decapitation took over the stage. Having first formed in 1996, it has taken Cattle Decapitation over twenty years to finally make their way down to Aotearoa, having come excruciatingly close on previous occasions where they played Australia in support slots.

But to the fans last night, it was well worth the wait.

A huge flag bearing the wickedly gruesome cover art from their latest album The Anthropocene Extinction draped itself across the back wall of the stage, an appropriate backdrop against which the blast beat master himself Dave McGraw sat perched behind his impressive drum kit, which was the colour of rich golden syrup. A strange yet exhilarating sense of anticipation hung like fog over the audience members who had pressed themselves up against the stage; waiting, watching, ready to unleash all hell upon a single utterance of lead vocalist Travis Ryan. Undoubtedly the driving force behind this monster of a band, Ryan is as opinionated as he is talented – but just remember, according to his recent interview (which you can read here) you shouldn’t give a fuck about his opinions anyway; clearly illustrating that while he has a bite, there is also an underlying sly smile and tongue firmly wedged inside cheek.

As the crowd hovered in stasis, the scene before them began to take shape; pedals and gaffa taped set lists dotted the floor while to each side loomed large banners adorned with a simple yet powerful design, that of the ‘litter guy’ dropping rubbish into a bin – an icon that is universal – yet this version displays ‘litter guy’ dropping the world into the rubbish bin instead. Indeed this theme has been prevalent throughout much of Cattle Decapitations music over the last twenty years. Concerned with the abuse and constant disregard for the environment and the mistreatment and ultimate consumption of animals (a majority of the band members are vegan/vegetarian) their lyrics and of course their music has never been one for the faint hearted. And as Ryan began with ‘The Carbon Stampede’ the frustration of futility pouring forth from his lips (“Life less meaning, Equals nothingness, Never was”) he grasped the microphone and leaned out into the crowd – who now resembled a pit of writhing snakes – and it was easy to see why Cattle Decapitation are still here and making their mark on the metal scene.

In fact it is over the last few years that they have really come into their own, with albums such as Monolith of Inhumanity and The Anthropocene Extinction setting them apart from other similar acts. Ryan has previously stated that the entire band prefers to play their newer work live rather than the old nowadays, so it is no surprise that tonight’s set draws heavily from the aforementioned records. Dressed simply in black, that became more and more saturated as the night wore on Ryan held nothing back as he tore the room apart with a deadly trio of ‘Dead Set on Suicide’, ‘The Prophets of Loss’ and ‘A Living, Breathing Piece of Defecating Meat…’ the fans matching his energy as they clawed at the empty space above them and bounced off each other in the churning whirlpool of bodies.

Appearing as a five piece tonight – ooo more guitar goodness – it was an honour for many to witness Josh Elmore strut his stuff with the greatest of ease. While slightly more static with his onstage appearance compared to the others, his guitar work conveys all the energetic aggression each track requires. To the right of the stage Belisario Dimuzio is a blur of hair as he powers out the chords, beside him Cattles recently acquired bassist Todd Stern (of Psycroptic fame, who will also be gracing this venue in just a few weeks’ time) who has stepped into the shoes left by Derek Engemann after his recent departure last month from the band to pursue other musical projects. Together they present a wall of both hair and noise, which continues to push the fans with invisible hands that demand that they give as good as they get.

Cattle Decapitation are a band that feeds off their audience like a maniacal vampire, the more that the crowd give, the harder they go. The dedicated, long term fans losing their collective minds as Cattle dropped a track that many would not have expected; ‘Mad Cow Conspiracy’ from their 96 demo album Ten Torments of the Damned a blast from the past. Crowd favourites ‘Forced Gender Reassignment’ and ‘Kingdom of Tyrants’ both off the stunning Monolith of Inhumanity album (let’s all just agree right now, that this album is pure genius from beginning to end, shall we?) elicited guttural roars from the depths of the pit as once again it churned harder and faster in physical celebration; the occasional sacrificial body launched from the lip of the stage to appease the deities that are Cattle Decapitation.

As if taunting the audience, Ryan asked if the fans were “tired yet” and were they “ready to go home” – in reply frantic hands reached out to him, begging to be bestowed with more of this goodness that they had been bathing in all evening. Finishing on ‘Pacific Grim’ from their latest record, Ryan bid the crowd goodnight, the entire band, soaked to the bone trooping out after him. But the fans had waited twenty years for this night and they were not ready to say goodbye yet, raucous demands for an encore met fairly quickly with a return to the stage. It was hard, it was fast and it was glorious, ‘Your Disposal’ taking the night out in style, bodies clamouring against each other to reach out and slap the proffered hand of their hero Travis Ryan, who bore a grin a mile wide, obviously elated at the kiwi reception they had received.

“Let’s hope it doesn’t take another twenty years to come back” Ryan growled into the microphone; a sentiment that all in the room could not have agreed with more.

Were you there at The Kings Arms for this brutal metal onslaught? Or have you seen Cattle Decapitation somewhere else before? Tell us about it in the comments below! 

Setlist:
  1. Intro
  2. The Carbon Stampede
  3. Dead Set On Suicide
  4. The Prophets Of Loss
  5. A Living Breathing Piece Of Defecating Meat
  6. Clandestine Ways (Krokodil Rot)
  7. Circo Inhumanitas
  8. Mad Cow Conspiracy
  9. Apex Blasphemy
  10. Regret & The Grave
  11. Not Suitable For Life
  12. Forced Gender Reassignment
  13. Kingdom Of Tyrants
  14. Manufactured Extinct
  15. Pacific Grim
  16. Your Disposal [encore]

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