Cattle Decapitation

by Janelle Jul 14, 2004

Add equal parts harrowing gore-grind/death metal madness; truly disgusting and obscene, yet impeccably intelligent lyrics inundated in anatomical/physiological terminology that may warrant keeping a medical dictionary handy; and gore galore, and what do we have? San Diego’s Cattle Decapitation, of course.

The four-headed monster returns in the year of the lord 2004 with a harrowing new album on Metal Blade, chicly-titled ‘Humanure’. Just from the LP’s moniker, the general outlook of Cattle Decapitation should be apparent. If not, vocalist/growler Travis Ryan (the brains behind the lyrics – he divulges their academic quality is due both to taking a bevy of physiology/terminology courses and an unwavering adoration for Carcass) revealed the day before the record was to be unleashed on the poor, unwitting masses, that, following 2002’s LP ‘To Serve Man’ (also on Metal Blade), the concept of its follow-up was a no-brainer. “It’s the next logical step after our last album; after you serve food and eat it, it gets digested and then you shit it out,” he explains nonchalantly. He makes certain to mention it’s not a Waco Jesus-type concept – as in eating one’s own excrement. Rather, it’s a long dissertation on the theme of “humanity as shit.” To wit, take this line from the title track, the first “real” track (following the intro “Scatology Domine” – scatology means the study of excrement, for those woefully unaware…), in which the frontman gurgles forth, “Playing king of the hill on a mountain of manure,” basically meaning that man isn’t as important as he thinks he is. (Yeah, for all you who think you’re hot shit - pardon the pun - this record’ll rightfully put you in your place…) “If anything,” declares Travis on the subject, “we’re like a blemish on the face of the earth.” The veracity of this statement is a non-issue, folks. And the way he’s decided to disgorge this message is “through clever usage of metaphors and examples of how we treat animals and the earth in general,” he adds. As a person who TOTALLY agrees with the ideas (well, mostly) transmitted on ‘Humanure’, it’s quite a powerful record – lyrically AND musically.

And herein lies the beauty (!) of Cattle Decapitation: you don’t even have to be a card-carrying misanthrope to get into this stuff. Truly, even if you love the human race and the path we are headed (ha!), but just adore bludgeoning, hellish death metal, go ahead and – ahem – feast on ‘Humanure’. The sheer brutality that ensues on this 47-minute disc will surely sate your most basic of needs. Like Travis says, this is their best record to date. In theme, as aforementioned, it’s a continuation of ‘To Serve Man’, but production-wise and musically, “it’s far superior” and “WAY different from our first two”, referring to 1999’s ‘Human Jerky’ and 2000’s ‘Homovore’ (both available now on ThreeOneG), which, in his opinion, “were kinda real grind-y, like real short, fast songs.” This album, however, has some black metal and power metal influences, and is much more melodic, he expounds, concluding that at the juicy, bloody, slimy, chewy (huh?) heart of it, ‘Humanure’ is “very listenable for a gore-y metal band.” And because of this assessment, a wide array of people will enjoy it.

Well, one thing IS for sure, tracks like the insane “Polyps”, “Bukkake Tsunami”, and “Lips and Assholes” (if this last VERY detailed track doesn’t make you contemplate becoming a vegetarian, I don’t know what will…) will have you reeling either from ecstasy or utter dismay/repulsion. Another notable aspect about the record is that they got three-fourths of The Locust to contribute vocals on the record (Gabe Serbian was formerly a member of Cattle Decapitation, as was ex-Locust David Astor, for that matter), in Gabe, Justin Pearson, and Robert Bray, but to Travis’ displeasure, no Joseph Karam.

Cattle Decapitation have undergone some member changes throughout the years, the latest being the inclusion of drummer Michael Laughlin. With Michael, Travis believes the band were able to do certain things that perhaps would have not been feasible had the old drummer still been in the band, namely ending the album with a 10-minute-long experimental noise track or having the guys in The Locust add their voices to the mix. Likewise, the previous drummer wasn’t too into the touring side of the band, so now, with this rejuvenated line-up – and, in turn, a newfound sense of freedom – Travis affirms, “I’m glad we’re finally at the point where we have a bunch of people who really wanna tour ‘cause all the label wants you to do is sell your record, and that’s the only way to really do it,” quickly adding, “Also it’s the best way to go out and see the country and the world.” They would love to get over to Europe (and Japan, for that matter), but fear it will be tough, as ‘Humanure’ has been banned in Germany because of the (expected) revolting cover art (hey! They’re just trying to make a statement!).

In any case, the band have much hype to live up to, according to the vocalist, mentioning that ‘To Serve Man’ sold admirably well.  “With hype,” cautions Travis, “comes possible backlash.” Therefore, he wants the band to get out on the road and tour as much as possible in order to prove themselves, basically to “show them we may be white and pasty, but we’ll kill ‘em.” (However, this threat loses a bit of its meanness considering he was chuckling while saying it…)

And they’ll be proving themselves nonstop this year, as they have tour after tour coming up, one of which includes Deicide as headliners, beginning mid-September. Before that, though, they’re heading out on a tour that kicks off July 16th in San Diego. For exact details, please visit the band’s site www.cattledecapitation.com. Travis also hinted at some upcoming dates with NAPALM DEATH! On a side note, he proclaims that already, from just playing the songs live and audiences never having heard ‘Humanure’ before, they’re getting better responses than they’ve ever gotten from any material they’ve ever done previously.

Finally, in closing, I feel it’s my duty to mention some things Travis wishes for people to know about the band: 1. They are NOT vegan or straight-edge (not by a LONG shot, well, at least the way he sounded), but are vegetarian; and 2. THERE ARE NO LONGER ANY MEMBERS OF THE LOCUST IN CATTLE DECAPITATION! Though he loves those dudes, it must get tiresome when the odd person comes along and asks, “Who’s in The Locust?” After all, as Travis notes, “I don’t expect everyone to read every single tidbit of information about us, but most people know we really haven’t had anybody from that band in our band for a long time.” Ooh, and one more piece of advice from Mr. Travis Ryan: “Don’t believe the hype. Don’t be an idiot.” Touché.

Interview date: Jul 11, 2004

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