Cattle Decapitation, Silent Torture, Scorn Of Creation & Organectomy – Kings Arms February 8, 2018

Cattle Decapitation took a heaving King’s Arms crowd on a ride of violence and insanity last night.

The San Diego death metal band have been playing for over 20 years, and in that time have been through many lineup changes and several distinct shifts in style. Their latest album The Anthropicene Extinction continues their current trajectory of producing the strange, frenetically shifting deathgrind that has created an explosion in their popularity in the last decade. It also continues the themes of animal rights and environmentalism that, along with vocalist Travis Ryan, have been some of the only constants in such a varied career.

The night’s opening act Silent Torture are a band I’ve seen several times already, and indeed they’d be a hard one to avoid for any Auckland metalhead, with how quickly they’ve become a constant of the local scene. Not that I’d wish to avoid them, as every time I see them they deliver. They play solid, straightforward death metal that doesn’t re-invent the wheel but also never fails to entertain. It’s a testament to the band’s grasp on their genre that these songs not only bang heads but hold up to repeated listens. Silent Torture have only been around for a few years, and with such a solid foundation in their songwriting and performance already, I’d love to see them go on to build something even bigger and better.

Scorn of Creation are even younger than Silent Torture as a band, but considerably older in years and experience. Having been impressed with their debut album, I was excited to see what they brought to the live stage. They came out the gate very strong, the first couple of songs sounding crushing and energetic. I have particular affection for a virtuosic guitar solo, and Seth Jackson was in fine form. Sadly fate dealt him a cruel blow in an irreparably broken string, with the band being forced to swap guitars and re-tune. They dealt with the delay professionally as you could ask, and they played the rest of their set impeccably. Unfortunately you could tell that this wasn’t how these songs were meant the be heard, the higher register robbing something of the impact from the catchy old-school riffs. No fault of the band though, and I hope to see them again on a day when the fates are kinder.

Last of the opening acts was Christchurch’s Organectomy. Theirs was an interesting set for me. About two thirds of their total set I very much enjoyed. Tightly executed brutal death metal with relentless riffs, and an appropriately gross guttural from frontman Alex Paul. Almost every song had a large section that lost me completely though, and it’s more my fault than theirs. I just can’t get into the Slam style breakdowns. Slow, triplet-patterned stomps that are heavy and….honestly I’m not sure what the rest of the appeal is. The differences between them from song to song also tend to elude me. It’s a style that’s beloved by some though, and it’s not Organectomy’s responsibility to cater to my personal tastes. The pit loved it and I have no specific bone to pick with their performance, so this is a case of the band simply getting the wrong reviewer. If you don’t share my specific hangup about slams, you should absolutely check Organectomy out, because the rest of their act is great fun.

Finally the main event, as Cattle Decapitation took to a New Zealand stage for the first time. In as simple language as I can put it, the show went off. The experience of a long career paid off as the band made maintaining an absolutely punishing level of aggression and energy look easy.

 There was very little variation in pace or intensity as the songs moved through, for as varied in style as Cattle Decapitation can be, they rarely compromise on extremity. Drummer David McGraw quickly stood out as one of the stars of the show. Good goddamn he was fast. His double kick and snare drove into your head like a pickaxe.

Speed wasn’t all there was to the experience, though, in fact my favourite parts were the (just a little) slower grind riffs, which brought some groove to the aural assault. Outside of those sections, the guitars tended to lose distinction a bit, blurring into a wall of speed and distortion that was hellfire in the pit, but lost a bit of musical clarity compared to the studio.

Of course I have to mention Travis Ryan, who is an absolute vocal chameleon, standing out in a genre where it’s too often acceptable to be one-note. He switched frantically between what seemed half a dozen pitches and styles, all of which he inhabited completely. He had a deep guttural, a mid range roar and a high shriek, but what really arrested was the vocal trademark he developed in his latter career. Somewhere between a sung clean and a rasped shriek, it sounded truly otherworldly.

 The set stuck pretty much entirely to Cattle Decapitation’s later albums, with songs from 2012’s acclaimed Monolith of Inhumanity getting the warmest crowd reception. Forced Gender Reassignment got a huge cheer and a pit that ramped up even further from the fever pitch it was at all show. Meanwhile the bizarrely catchy chorus to A Living, Breathing Piece of Defecating Meat got a singalong, an unheard of thing at a deathgrind show.

 Overall Cattle Decapitation served sustained extremity and strangeness. Not only are there few who do it as well as them, there are few who do exactly what they do at all.

Cameron Miller

Click on any image to view a photo gallery by Veronica McLaughlin:


Cattle Decapitation