Review: Bronwyn Thorne
Photography: Josh Barrie
With many thanks to Destroy All Lines and Chugg Entertainment, the long awaited moment of Cattle Decapitation’s return to Australian shores has finally arrived. This past Wednesday evening Melbournian fans flocked to Richmond’s The Corner Hotel for a savage celebration of the bands tailor-made musical brutality which undeniably challenges humanity to reflect on its self-destructive ways with a harsh dose of reality served like a backhand to the senses. The band had first paid visit to New Zealand’s fan base across 3 dates between the 8th and 10th of the month. Next on the itinerary would be Canberra, Sydney, Newcastle, Brisbane and Perth over the following days (you won’t want to miss out!)
Opening the nights onslaught of death metal were Melbourne’s melodic outfit Aetherial. They played a selection of tracks from their debut LP The Still Waters Of Oblivion, drawing in punters who were already gathering in numbers nice and early to warm up with a pint or two in preparation for what was to come. Vocalist Shep Sheppard met the audience with might; gesturing emphatically along with the lyrics impactfully with commanding arms, at points crouching, jumping and reaching into the air as if to grasp the almost tangible mood being generated from the stage top. The majority of the crowd remained still though fixated on the performance. Chris Themelco (Orpheus Omega/Eye Of The Enemy) who was filling in on guitar, made effective use of his showman skills; utilizing the stage space in walking between bassist Cassandra George and Jake Sproule (Whoretopsy) who was also filling in on the drums; engaging with both as he did so. George charismatically bobbed, swayed and headbanged in accordance with the grooves. Sheppard addressed the crowd to inform them of an upcoming album and humbly requesting for punters to “check us out on Facebook, give us a like”, as well as hypothesizing that it was “a cool night and it’s only going to get better”.
Renowned locals Hollow World took the stage at 8:30pm, bringing with them sonic power and an infernal attitude to match. Vocalist Ben Roberts promptly beckoned the crowd to “move forward!” and “Melbourne move your f*cking heads!” (they listened). Horn salutes were thrown in the air at points throughout the set, which were promptly reciprocated. A loyal following gathered around the stage front for a solid headbang with a garnish of mosh activity, whilst others opted to stand and observe (seemingly conserving energy for later). Roberts introduced tracks with anecdotes such as ‘Wildfire’ “this one’s for anyone who was a zombie with us for the film clip”, ‘Silence’ “goes out to Silence Of The Lambs fans” (before pouncing into violent miming such as throat slitting), and ‘Misery’ being appointed as “a Valentine’s Day special for all the couples in the audience”. Lightning shreds and thunderous beats swarmed the room in effort to manifest energy within it. There was also a song dedication to Cattle Decapitation by the title ‘Systematic Refinement’ which was also noted as being “fast as f*uck!” (he wasn’t joking).
Tasmanian tech-death devils Psycroptic hit the stage at 9:20pm for a rowdy room filled with eager fans keenly pumped and ready to bring their A-game for the remainder of the nights entertainment. Vocalist Jason Peppiatt opened with ‘let’s see what you got, Melbourne!” Their set included tracks such as ‘Echoes To Come’, ‘The World Discarded’ and ‘Cold’ from the bands 2015 self-titled LP release. There was also a highlight performance of ‘The Colour Of Sleep’; for which the band were joined by Lochlan Watt (Triple J’s The Racket) who was noted for having previously filled in for the band. Watt introduced the track as being “the first Psycroptic song I heard when I was about 16”. Watt and Peppiatt showed clear kinship in the duality of their performance of the song; both via direct interactions as well as respectfully standing aside for one another during their alternating parts so as to share the limelight. Crowd surfing ensued as well as a circle pit that manifested around one of the venues supporting pillars. Bassist Cameron Grant boasted vigorous windmilling throughout; making his skillful playing appear effortless. At one point he turned to face drummer Dave Haley, which saw Peppiatt take opportune moment to serve Grant a swift ass-slapping. This is a band that evidently holds fast to humility; with repeated expressions of gratitude for the fans for having them back, noting that “it’s always a pleasure playing for you, Melbourne!”
As the clock ticked closer to 10:25pm fans gathered toward the stage front in search of a place to buckle down amidst a jam-packed room, in eager anticipation of the long awaited appearance of the blunt awakening that is Cattle Decapitation. Chanted repetitions of the word “CATTLE!” erupted merely moments before curtain call. The set opened ferociously with ‘The Carbon Stampede’ which saw climactic shouting of the lyric “HERE! THEY COME! THE ONES!” followed by ‘Dead Set On Suicide’; fittingly the same as they appear on 2015’s Monolith Of Inhumanity LP. Vocalist Travis Ryan greeted the crowd with “What the f*ck, Melbourne?! It’s only been 5 years!” and further informing them that it’s hard to get a tour out here. The crowd could hardly contain their excitement or love as they cheered and whistled in response. But there was little time for chit-chat as the band pressed on through their carnage filled set; serving up their food-for-thought lyrical themes on a silver platter of master sonic craftsmanship. Ryan captivated the crowd from beginning to end, with a demeanor bearing somewhat likeness to that of a circus ringmaster during points where he did address the crowd. His unique and impressive vocal tones shifted between ghoulish growls and menacing melodies which did not falter as he spoke to his following. The melodic sections of Ryan’s vocal performance are particularly standout given their distinct nature proving difficult to even draw comparison against his peers. However I couldn’t help noting that one other individual comes to mind for having similar tone(less the growling); being that of Robert Helpmann in his role of The Child Catcher in the classic children’s film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (though contextually different, equally chilling in delivery).
Ryan’s voice rippled through the room, which upon observation had seemingly transformed into an ocean of bodies headbanging like steady waves back and forth toward the stage; with the heart of the pit further resembling the final crashing of waves on a shoreline. At another point the crowd were also informed of the bands excitement to finally be back in Australia; noting that they were wrapping up the tour cycle for The Anthropocene Extinction album (2015) which was based around the Pacific, and so it was only fitting that they cross it to play here first. Furthermore it was noted that a new album was in the works, much to the obvious delight of fans. Ryan also dramatically spat into the air at a couple of points in the set; once catching it in his mouth and once catching it with his hand, followed by smearing it down the side of his face. Guitarist Josh Elmore wielded his instrument as if it were an assault rifle, shredding out riffs like a rain of bullet fire toward the crowd; his stage presence matching the intensity of Ryan’s with antics such as standing rigidly and moving only his arms to work the guitar as he confronted the crowd with a stare down. David McGraw blasted the faces clean off of fans throughout the room with each swift strike and stomp of his drum kit. Psycroptic’s Cameron Grant had the honour of filling in on bass, and though big shoes to fill he proved to be a worthy suitor; smashing each note with fluidity.
The crowd frenzied tirelessly through each impactful track; including “The Prophets Of Loss’, ‘Clandestine Ways (Krokodil Rot)’, ‘Circo Inhumanitus’, ‘Mutual Assured Destruction’, ‘Not Suitable For Life’, and of course the favoured ‘Forced Gender Reassignment’. Fans were also briefly taken back to 2009’s The Harvest Floor with the track ‘Regret & The Grave’. There were consistent climactic bursts of crowd scream-alongs (particularly during lyrical hook sections) as well as some repeat stage diving and surfing of the unrelenting pit wave. After a performance of ‘Pacific Grim’ the band made an exit, but not for long as the crowd promptly piped up with requests of an encore. Of course they delivered, leaving the room full of satisfied grins with the bittersweet departure “we are Cattle Decapitation at ‘Your Disposal’”. Safe to say fans walked away with hopes of a quick return and sentimental gratitude for the momentous occasion that will surely remain etched within their minds for years to come (myself included).
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