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Cattle Decapitation: Extreme Metal With A Message

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When Cattle Decapitation, one of the most brutal forces ever witnessed in extreme metal, return to Australian shores in February, it will have been almost five years since they last toured here. With a sharp intake of breath, frontman Travis Ryan exclaims, “Has it been that long? I thought we came in 2013. I guess it has. That’s too long.”

Ryan is stumped. Given the calibre of their most recent album The Anthropocene Extinction, five years between tours is baffling. “Australia’s the best, but it’s not the easiest place to get a tour happening,” says Ryan. “I’m glad we’re able to do it on this album because I was worried that we’d just written an album that practically takes place in the Pacific Ocean and we’re not gonna cross the Pacific Ocean to play one of our favourite places – that’s just weird.”

Where most visiting bands have a lot of positive things to say about impending Australian tours, Ryan amps up the staple enthusiasm, gushing and cooing. “It’s probably my favourite place. I’ve been saying our Australian tour [2013] was my favourite we’d ever done and honestly, it’s just because of the territory. It’s the country – I’d always wanted to go, the fans were awesome, they were the cherry on top.

“I’d say always romanticised; I’d fanaticised about what it would be like to go to Australia, or even to be Australian – when I was a kid I wanted to have your guys’ accent so bad! Honestly, it’s very similar to southern California. I think a lot of it has to do with, sometime in the 1800s I believe, there was a eucalyptisation – I believe that’s a word – of southern California. Somebody spread eucalyptus trees all over southern California, and they just grew like mad. I was reading about it last year; it’s interesting to me.”

Don’t be fooled by Ryan’s romantic notions; Cattle Decapitation is still looking to bring brute force to their tour if a glance at the tour poster is anything to go by. So very typically Cattle Decapitation, the artwork makes a statement. A Crocodile Dundee character, skeletonised and reptilian, his vest adorned with faces crying in anguish, draws a blade over the scaly sails of the Sydney Opera House, amid the chaos of an apocalyptic sky. It was cool and inspired to say the least. Relieved at the positive reaction, Ryan cries, ““Okay good! I was worried, you know, the stereotypes and stuff like that. You give anyone a reason to be offended these days, and they will jump on it.

“I ran it by my mate, Matt Young from King Parrot and he was like, ‘Oh no man, we love that kind of shit,’ and I thought, ‘Oh cool, you’re into self-deprecating humour as much as I am.’ Everyone needs humour, but I think it’s funny when people can make fun of themselves.”

These days, we can all agree, you sneeze, and someone gets offended – luckily for Ryan, Australians have a backbone and see the funny side. Much like their music and their mantra over the past two decades, Cattle Decapitation’s artwork carries a message and if you look more closely at the depiction of an apocalyptic southern hemisphere, you see there’re more messages to be delivered, and that then conjures far more emotive reactions – interest, a little fear, a little ‘Woah, these guys are weird’. Though such reactions from their fans are a show of positive reception, Ryan says the music must come first and foremost. “Of course, for me, lyrics and themes are secondary. Music is music; I’m a musician.

“If I’m gonna talk about something, it might as well be worth something, and let’s face it; it’s all been done before. Even what I’m talking about for the most part has been done, I’m just taking a more political approach to lyric writing.

“I’m not really into spoon feeding people; I want them to have to think and search things out for themselves. When they look at the album cover, they probably don’t immediately get what’s going on; you have to look into it. I’ve always felt that was a better way to do things, because what’s the sense in preaching to the choir? What’s the sense in spoon-feeding everybody? If they can’t think for themselves, maybe they shouldn’t be listening to it. People are gonna do what they want, and that’s kinda just how it is.

Ryan is asked if he hopes Australian audiences will take something away from his politically driven and ferocious performances if he hopes they’ll look beyond the music and reflect. A pregnant pause is followed by a weighted sigh. “It would be nice… One thing I’ve never done, never wanted to do – I get accused of it all the fucking time, and it’s absurd because they’re just going off the name, and the media – I see a lot of people say ‘I don’t need some bitchy pussy forcing his opinion down my throat.’ Okay. It’s never been done.

“Forcing someone is a physical act, so that’s never been done, but also, just because somebody lays out something and allows you to walk away or read it and take whatever you want from it, that’s not forcing to me. And if people would finally read the lyrics, they’ll see we’re not forcing anything on anyone. I wouldn’t want someone to do that to me so I wouldn’t do that to somebody else.

“What we’ve done is present a series of problems, a series of issues, not solutions – we’re just a death metal band! We don’t have the solutions to any of the stuff, but that’s not gonna keep me from talking about it.”

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