What You Say

23 May 2013 | 4:45 pm | Matt O'Neill

“There was always tongue-in-cheek sentiment to this band, in everything we did. You know, it came more out of fun than people realise, I think. We’re kind of a weird bunch,”

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In a land of sheep, even a toothless wolf is king. So wrote Tom Clancy; about a retired assassin hiding in plain sight. However, San Diego's Cattle Decapitation would seem equally deserving of such an epithet. Since their 1996 formation, they've had a reputation as activists. Their disdain for animal cruelty has arguably outshone even their punishing death metal/grindcore hybrid. Inappropriately so, it would seem.

“I think a lot of people see the name and think, 'Oh, extreme name, extreme music, they're vegetarian – they must be militant vegan PETA warriors or some shit',” frontman Travis Ryan says. “It's not like that at all. For me, I think of being vegan as a very personal choice. I'm not preachy at all. That's one gigantic misconception with vegans – that we're very preachy. And that's definitely not the case with the band.

“There was always tongue-in-cheek sentiment to this band, in everything we did. You know, it came more out of fun than people realise, I think. We're kind of a weird bunch,” he elaborates. “The name doubles as a metaphor for the destruction of the human race. Which is what a lot of the lyrics are actually about, anyway. I think most of out fans get that. If you listen to our lyrics, I think you see we're a different kind of band.”

Cattle Decapitation is not actually a political or agenda-driven outfit. Their work is littered with rumination on religion, ethics, philosophy and environmentalism – but Travis Ryan seems almost obsessively compelled to clarify that the band are simply a band. He attributes their reputation for politics to a lack of any actual lyrical discourse within extreme metal. To hear Ryan tell it; Cattle Decapitation are simply not devoid of opinions.

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“It's not a priority in extreme music, no. There's just been so many bands that don't talk about anything at all, so that when you do talk about something or have a theme of sorts, people pick up on that a bit more,” he explains. “There are some bands that are just absurdly huge that are just saying nothing. They're offering nothing of merit and seem to have no discernible message whatsoever.”

Where many metal bands strive to be seen as an institution or an entity, Ryan prefers to think of Cattle Decapitation as the opposite. It's arguably why Cattle Decapitation have managed to maintain a progression for over fifteen years. They're not tied to a brand and can experiment as and when they wish. Last year's Monolith Of Humanity was arguably their best effort to date. Largely on account of a newfound appreciation of melody.

“I never thought we would last this long. The first couple of years were basically just me trying to keep the band alive while the other two dudes in the band toured with their other band The Locust. We just kept kind of morphing and evolving and changing. It's been a really long, weird journey, you know. If you'd asked me ten years ago what our plans were, I'd probably have said we would have broken up.

“It's different now, though. I think we've really solidified our line-up. We've really figured out our sounds. I'd be very sad if we didn't get to make a few more albums with this line-up. In a weird way, it actually feels like Monolith Of Humanity was our first record and not our seventh. After our last album, I didn't think we'd come up with anything better – but I'm very proud of our progression.”