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Monday 4 November 2019

The Spotlight/A View From The Back Of The Room: Interview & Review Of Cattle Decapitation By Dr Claire Hanley

Cattle Decapitation, The Fleece, Bristol


Jumping in at the deep-end with my journalistic debut, I caught up with Cattle Decapitation guitarist, Josh Elmore, before their recent show in Bristol (in a shower, of all places).

MoM: You’re kick-starting the Global Warmup tour tonight. Looking back, what have been your standout live experiences?

Josh: When you don’t have to think about what you’re doing. You become aware after a few songs have gone passed that you weren’t over-thinking things or hung up on something you didn’t do correctly. That is the dragon that musicians chase, I think. Regardless of the style they’re playing, just to be in that head-space. Those shows stand out. It doesn’t happen very often. It’s a rarity. We’ve been fortunate to have had shows where the crowd were going crazy and freaking out, someone’s pants fell off, there’s some stuff like that from the early 2000’s. There was one incidence where this girl got up on stage, and was doing this exotic dance type of thing. She squatted down and then jumped off the stage. It’s a rowdy venue and people do that all the time, so I just kept playing. Then Travis comes over and kicks me, I look over and there’s a tampon on the stage. It’s more little ridiculous stuff like that. Thankfully no calamities or anything like that. We’ve been fortunate enough to be a band that people react physically to, so it’s cool just to be able to have that energy exchange.

MoM: The new record, Death Atlas, is released next month. What can we expect from this album compared to previous material?

Josh: It’s a lot more atmospheric than the last few records. There are definitely elements of atmosphere creeping in. It’s a little more ambient. Not just noise. More of what we’ve been hinting at for many years. This record is a combination of fully integrating all those influences and elements of the band into a seamless cohesive statement, song by song. There’s still the ripping, super abrasive style that we do but there’s elements of melody to that, which people have become more familiar with in our music over the past several years. It’s more pronounced here but it doesn’t compromise the brutality.

MoM: As a band that has been evolving since the late-1990’s, how do you define achievement and what’s important to you? How has that changed over the years?

Josh: Before, up to 2009/10, it’d be like we get to tour with *this* band. Not bragging or a notch on the head-board but we’d reached such a level because we can play with a certain band. More of an association thing, it definitely validated what we were doing. But 2009/10 to present, its more what we feel we’ve achieved with each record. We can basically put our thoughts into the music. So, writing as good an album as we possibly can is probably the ultimate satisfaction.

MoM: Cattle Decapitation are regarded as a band at the pinnacle of extreme metal - what are your thoughts on the opinion that it’s stagnating? Are there any bands that you think are flying the flag for the genre right now?

Josh: Now, with the world available to you at all times, I don’t see how people can say that. Maybe the bands they rely on have been putting out the same record? I love new music. I enjoy looking for it, that’s always been a thing even when I was younger. I think there’s just as good stuff out now as there has always been. In years from now, we’ll be saying ‘oh, that’s a classic from circa 2018/19’.

There are some bands in the past few years, on a label that just stopped putting stuff out called Fallen Empire. They had a few bands that really kinda grabbed me. One of the bands, Arkhtinn; just go on Bandcamp, all their releases are still up. More on the black metal side of things, super atmospheric and ambient stuff. And the new Blut Aus Nord, I haven’t heard it yet, but our bass player Oli was like ‘have you heard this today, man!?’. I just haven’t had a chance but I heard it’s excellent.

When we were trying to figure out the US tour, we tried to make it so there’s a selection of bands so it’s not all grind bands, or blackened death metal bands. Keep it eclectic. Its all ‘extreme’ but its different flavours of that. I threw Vitriol into the mix because I heard their music and saw people reacting to it on social media. It has elements of Immolation mixed with Hate Eternal, it’s sort of off-putting and dissonant. I kinda like that. That’s my bag.

MoM: I’m masquerading as a journalist this evening. Having a PhD in Neuroscience, you’re more likely to find me giving lectures than interviewing bands. Flipping things around, if you were going to study for a PhD, what subject would you choose?

Josh: I would have continued Anthropology, which was my undergrad degree. Then I’d actually be listening to my parents. I could be one of those guys who go back when they’re 50. All the regular aged people would be like ‘is this guy doing a survey, is he gonna bust us!?’. If we were able to, which I’m not guessing would be any time soon, take time off to do that - that might be something I could do. But we’re just starting this tour cycle and the record comes out at the end of November. We’ll be back in Europe, probably 3 times next year. No-one take this as gospel but in March we’re coming back, then doing the festivals in summer, and maybe another tour in the Fall.


It was fantastic to chat with Josh before the band took to the stage; delivering the brutality they’re known for, alongside the ambience of the new material. An expertly crafted set from start to finish - the crowd were treated to classics from Monolith Of Inhumanity and The Anthropocene Extinction (with Forced Gender Reassignment and The Prophets Of Loss as stand-out tracks). One Day Closer To The End Of The World and Bring Back The Plague, from the new album, translated incredibly well to a live setting. The audience response was phenomenal throughout. I was glued to the barrier for the entire show, as the ever expanding pit building behind me gained momentum with each track. Frontman, Travis Ryan, reacted to this like an insatiable crowd vampire, leaning into the audience and amplifying the intensity with which he delivered his unique vocal performance of guttural gymnastics, intermixed with high-pitched, throat-splitting screams. Following furied shouts from the crowd, a last minute set-change saw the band closing the show with Your Disposal – emphasising how Cattle Decapitation are very much a band in-tune with their fans. Extreme metal perfection  10/10

Cattle Decapitation’s new album, Death Atlas, is out 29th November via Metal Blade Records

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