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The congregation of Cattle Decapitation: Some of extreme metal’s most extreme fans

Make no mistake about it, a band as extreme both sonically and visually as Cattle Decapitation pulling 250+ people to a show in the Aussie road stop of Newcastle is a feat as bizarre as it is impressive.

The band, known for their 300bpm+ tempos, range of vocal squeals, roars and throaty gargles, are about as non-entry metal as you can get. Think of all the stuff that your church-going parents think heavy metal is, and Cattle Decapitation pretty much tick all the boxes (substituting Satanism with environmental activism, of course). 

The band is to extreme metal what your most pseudo-spiritual, free-tempo, psychedelic munching jazz improv band is to a casual swing fan; over the top, over-extreme and totally niche.

Yet, you’d be hard pressed to find fans as fiercely dedicated to said niche as those who gather at the altar of Cattle D. in a regional town. 

For starters, the night in question is as much about the support as it is the headliner. Openers Evocatus had a healthy swell of headbangers gathered to enjoy their take on classic death metal, and by the time Boston slammers Revocation hit the stage, the venue was already well and truly packed.

“There’s none of that fuckin’ tall poppy shit here.”

“This is the only style of music that I’ve ever felt truly drawn to”, says one delirious punter, sporting an old school Morbid Angel shirt from their 1994 Aussie tour (death metal gigs are essentially museum displays for past shows). “It’s a total community at these shows. Everyone wants to support new bands and be happy for them – there’s none of that fuckin’ tall poppy shit here.”

It’s a statement often said about metal shows – the friendliness exuded by punters, be it as a result of moshing out all the testosterone, or other factors, is a key selling point for taking the uninitiated into the pit for the first time. It’s something that the local security guards have noticed too.

“I way prefer working at these shows as opposed to some of that indie shit”, says the security guard standing at the entrance to the main room when questioned about working at death metal shows.

“I’m not super into this style per se, but it’s a way easier night at work.”

“Some of those indie bands – they have dudes being seedy towards girls, they have all this drama and way more alcohol – people here are more chill. I’m not super into this style per se, but it’s a way easier night at work.”

As Cattle D. take to the stage and rip into scintillating jams from their latest release Death Atlas, it’s impossible not to be swept up in the feel good energy in the room. Of course, a majority of the crowd is exactly who you would expect; long-haired, bearded shy guys with a joyous reckless abandon of dignity when the slamming riff of ‘Bring Back The Plague’ kicks in. The themes might be apocalyptic and violent, with a sometimes worrying focus on the overpopulation of the earth by humanity, but that doesn’t define the show.

Frontman Travis Ryan comes across as nothing less than charming, gleefully launching into each new slab of tech-death between expressions of gratitude to the assembled throng. “These are the spaces where you can actually meet and hang out with these musos and feel like they’re normal people”, exclaims a fan after the assault has concluded (with a scintillating performance of ‘Kingdom of Tyrants’). “I met these guys last time they toured (a double bill with Psycroptic) and there was no sense of them being too good for me. That’s what makes these bands awesome – they don’t think they’re better than you just because they’re on the stage. At the end of the day, you’re both fans of the same shit.”

Upon exiting the Cambridge Hotel there was no chorus of “hey baby”, no checking of the Insta thread from the gig…only metalheads, keen to keep talking about metal and to swap mosh stories. Contrary to what many might think, a Cattle D. gig, nay any extreme metal show, is more like Comic Con than a cool cultural centre. But that’s just the way the punters like it, and with the healthy turnout for this tour, it seems more and more people are hearing the good news of death metal and taking up their (inverted) cross.

with Revocation

Thursday, 13th February
The Brightside, Fortitude Valley
Tickets: Destroy All Lines

Friday, 14th February
Factory Theatre, Marrickville
Tickets: Destroy All Lines

Saturday, 15th February
Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle
Tickets: Destroy All Lines

Sunday, 16th February
The Basement, Belconnen
Tickets: Destroy All Lines

Wednesday, 19th February
Max Watts, Melbourne
Tickets: Destroy All Lines

Thursday, 20th February
Pier Hotel, Frankston
Tickets: Destroy All Lines

Friday, 21st February
Enigma Bar, Adelaide
Tickets: Destroy All Lines

Saturday, 22nd February
Amplifier Bar, Perth
Tickets: Destroy All Lines