Gig Review: Cattle Decapitation + Revocation @ Max Watts - Melbourne
Headliner: Cattle Decapitation
Support: Revocation + Remains
Venue: Max Watts, Melbourne
Date: Wednesday, February 19th 2020
Review by Timothy 'Mothlord' Richmond
Photos by Spud Robertson
For a Wednesday night show to be sold out it is no easy feat. But when you are a band of such wide repute and frenzied adoration like Cattle Decapitation, it is no surprise. I had the pleasure of seeing the band on their first trip to Australia back in 2013, 17 years deep into their gore soaked career. It still feels like yesterday but it is indeed 7 years since they last graced our shores which compared to many other bands is an age. But for a band with such a ravenous fanbase it only makes their performances that much more thoroughly savoured and anticipated. And it is certainly not a common occurrence in the Melbourne metal scene, to witness long queues prior to doors and certainly not in the current times. So it was very fortunate for relative scene newcomers but veterans in their past careers, Remains to walk on to a nearly third full venue. The grindcore supergroup slashed and smashed their way through their set packed full of stench ridden riffs and manic blasting fury. This was headed by the gnarled vocals of Tony Forde frontman of now defunct true blue Australian grindcore legends Blood Duster, and of groove driven goregrind purveyors, The Day Everything Became Nothing.
It was great to see the back forth in vocal violence between Tony and drummer Jay Jones who also drums for other Melbourne underground grind killers, The Kill and is frontman of another legendary act, Fuck... I'm Dead. I'm clearly name dropping the pedigree of these performers but when you've been paying attention to the local scene for a long time it is always exciting to see the veterans coming together to do something new. Or in this case, old... As Remains play a very European style of grindcore, that has clearly taken notes (not the medical kind) from the earlier days of British innovators Carcass's career and also of highly influential and simultaneous leaders of the early days of grind, Terrorizer. There is definitely a nod to groovy gorefiends and American pioneers Exhumed in their sound also.
I'm unsure as to whether the majority of the crowd had any context for who this new band coming out of the blue is, and where they've come from. But they quickly warmed to their vintage sickness and I look forward to being able to listen to some recorded material soon. It felt a significant change in pace to go from the sounds of a grime coated torture dungeon to wild and alien sounding technical death thrash, but it was quite clear that Revocation command utter respect with both their insanely proficient technical abilities, and infectious and inventive songwriting. I have seen Revocation once before on tour with Thy Art Is Murder and Disentomb back in 2014. I really respect a band who might appear as potential underdogs on a line-up alongside bands known for their crushing heaviness or insane blast beat speeds. But every time they perform I am certain they astound many more people than just myself.
And this time around in particular my opinion has shifted greatly. The material they played this time was much more extreme and darker in nature than the fretboard blazing technical death thrash I knew them for back in 2014. It is clear that guitarist and backing vocalist, Dan Gargiulio has brought some of his atmospheric, discordant and angular fretboard weaving across from his other band, warping jazz influence technical death metal act, Artificial Brain. It is quite clear upon inspection with the release of their two year old album, The Outer Ones (certainly a Lovecraftian reference) the band has evolved into a much more hideous and kaleidoscopic beast. They have certainly transcended the realm of blistering riffs and furious percussion and stepped into a fresh otherworldly dimension. I even for a moment had a thought that this must be what it would be like to see legendary avante-garde black metal alchemists, Deathspell Omega live. There were also moments that I even thought to myself that Revocation have certainly filled the void of alien tech death that The Faceless in my opinion, have left Vacant.
I am so thrilled to have had the chance to see them perform on this tour, and my feelings of apprehension due to my lack of interest in thrash metal to be washed away. And I am certain the rest of the crowd felt the same way as it was clear the audience was hung on every riff and every note they spewed forth with proud articulation. I'll be frank, I have really grown to love Cattle Decapitation. Around the time I last saw them, Monolith of Humanity was as fresh as the corpse depicted on the cover of soon to arrive album, The Anthropocene Extinction. In my review of Death Atlas, I was open about losing interest in the band, perhaps due to hype or something not quite clicking with me the way I wanted.
I am so thankful that due to magnificence of Death Atlas in all its tragic beauty and sincere vehemence bore out of a frustration with contemporary worldly issues related to climate change, I was able to truly fall in love with the band. It is not to say I could not have enjoyed their performance, as last I saw them I was truly blown away. But this time, I felt as if I was able to hang onto each moment in anticipation of "that part" of the song, that insane vocal hook, or meat grinding slam.
The use of cinematic interludes from Death Atlas was used to tension inducing effect for their performance, as it prevented the feelings of dead air and a drop in the atmosphere the band is working to create. And the glowing magma-esque version of their logo projected onto the screen behind drummer Dave McGraw glowed ominously through the darkness of the stage.
Sweeping through mostly a collection of hits from their latest album, it was amazing to see them executed near flawlessly and experience the harrowing banshee cry of Travis Ryan pierce through swells of blackened guitars and be immersed in the experience fully.
Highlights of the set were certainly the first two singles from Death Atlas, "Bring Back the Plague" and "One Day Closer to the End of the World", Monolith belter that had the crowd wailing in chorus "Your Disposal" and a fan favourite dedicated to resident bogan riff dealers King Parrot, "Forced Gender Reassignment"
I think the moment though that many people and certainly myself were hanging for was to see the title track, Death Atlas performed in full. The 9:15 epic is the climactic and dramatic conclusion to the album, and for many an unexpected turn for the band whose repertoire has been littered (for lack of a better term, and if only to ironically make reference to the bands eco positive leanings) with shorter and bitter-sweeter rampaging songs.
I was also nice to see that the band are well aware of the impact they have on their fans, and had quite clearly prepared to come back with an encore. The song may have been A Body Farm from earlier album The Harvest Floor, however by this point I was beginning to feel full to bloated capacity, unable to process much more insanity and was simply smiling at the way in which Cattle Decapitation conduct themselves.
There is no air of arrogance or ego-centrism present. The band clearly have great love for the fans, which for an ignorant outsider you might be shocked to consider given their heavy, scathing critiques of the selfish, destructive, gluttonous and ignorant nature of humanities raving plebs. But it is evident they do such scathing out of a place of sincerity and in a roundabout way, to connect with people and inspire them to take a long hard look at themselves and the way they live their lives, for the betterment of our race. The band certainly manage to do that even when Travis Ryan is snorting his own saliva back through his nostrils and shrieking like a manic, mouth frothing harpie-thing.