Cattle Decapitation: That band ain’t right, I tell you what…

I’ve been rather hesitant to discuss Cattle Decapitation for some time now. If there was ever a band that so singularly personified love/hate for me, it would be this Californian four piece. Across their releases since 2002’s ‘To Serve Man’, they’ve singlehandedly made historic strides for the entire genre of deathgrind, introducing progressive and even melodic elements in a genre that has always emphasized anything but. However, the band’s lyrical theme and overarching message unnerves me to no end. Not so much that every single one of their songs is a flowery way of saying ‎’All humans should die! Except us, of course.’ (which doesn’t help) but more to the harsh reality that whether their vegan message is simply hyperbolic or actually as narrow-minded as it first appears, it hasn’t inspired much of anyone to stop eating meat. In fact, reading the vast majority of their lyrics make me want to eat even MORE meat, then send a video tape of my feast directly to the band.

Now, don’t take my indictment of faux genocidal bullshit to mean that I oppose bands with genuine causes in Death Metal. Hell, Gojira at least practices what they preach by donating and actively supporting the efforts of The Sea Shepard Conservation Society, my objections to that organization notwithstanding. Do Cattle Decapitation donate even a shred of their profits to (highly objectionable) organizations like the Animal Liberation Front that share their eco-fascist, anti-human tendencies? Do they support the efforts of anti-civilization types like John Zerzan? No? Then shut the fuck up and spare us the damn soapbox, would you please? Your speciesism is making it exceedingly difficult to appreciate your groundbreaking music.

Monolith Of Inhumanity’s first leaked single ‘A Living, Breathing Piece of Defecating Meat’ is absolutely no exception to my previous issues with Cattle Decapitation. If anything, it embodies the dilemma in an even stronger sense if only because this is some of the very best musical work the band has ever done.  This track alone takes ‘The Harvest Floor’ and beats it into irrelevance. The chorus is unbelievable, demonstrating once again (as if further demonstration was required) that Travis Ryan is one of the most innovative and intense vocalists in Death Metal today. If only the ‘message’ of the band was trying to bludgeon me over the head again and again.

“We should have stopped it before it got this far

That writhing reject, that web-footed bastard child
That spawn of animated lard, that curdled wad of embarrassment
Dripping mucus and leaving a trail…

Released upon the populace this ‘thing’ shall breed, emit its seed
a monstrous mold of cells resembling jellied meat assembly”

I think I’m still having trouble understanding…humans are BAD, right? Why don’t you stick with that the whole album so everyone can get it? Oh you have? Since 1997? Well, fifteen years of writing ability straight into the toilet.

I’m sure there’s a small percentage of readers chomping at the bit to write me a frenzied comment along the lines of ‘If you think Cattle Decapitation’s message is full of shit, why don’t you front your OWN band with your OWN message? Tell us how hard it is then!”

Well Captain Critic, you’ll be pleased to know that I am. I’m making strides towards starting a band called Democide, detailing the inhumanity, injustice and outright villainy of government, corporations and much more broadly, the system of statism. It won’t be a deathgrind band, instead taking direct musical inspiration from Classic 90’s New York Death Metal ala Dehumanized, Internal Bleeding, Pyrexia, Skinless and Suffocation. I can also GUARANTEE that a percentage of any profit I may make from the band will go to support organizations like The Center For A Stateless Society (C4SS) and any other activists/journalists/organizations that deserve support. That’s the key difference between walking the walk and talking the talk.

As much as Cattle Decapitation is indeed at the front of the deathgrind pack musically, they really need to reevaluate the way in which they present their message, even if I have issues with it. As it stands, the vast majority of fans that I know personally have not stopped eating meat, supporting ‘animal cruelty’ or anything of the sort. Perhaps instead of just calling for the wanton massacre of humanity (except for themselves of course, because then who would spread the message?) a more interesting and creative approach should be taken…like writing songs from the perspective of the animals perhaps? I’d certainly be more inclined to support the message if Cattle Decapitation released a concept album from the perspective of animals in a slaughterhouse. Or perhaps even detailing the thoughts of a human who maintains the agribusiness/industrial farming system they oppose. (I oppose it as well, but jumping the gun and saying NO ANIMALS can be eaten or that human beings need to be eradicated is pretty damn ridiculous.) The bottom line is, for as creative and genre bending as their music is, Cattle Decapitation’s theme has become stagnant, counter-productive and tiresome. How can four musicians of such talent be satisfied with rehashing the same lyrical assertion on EVERY, SINGLE, ALBUM? It just ain’t right, I tell you what…

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4 thoughts on “Cattle Decapitation: That band ain’t right, I tell you what…”

  1. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120420105539.htm

    “Carnivory is behind the evolutionary success of humankind. When early humans started to eat meat and eventually hunt, their new, higher-quality diet meant that women could wean their children earlier. Women could then give birth to more children during their reproductive life, which is a possible contribution to the population gradually spreading over the world. The connection between eating meat and a faster weaning process is shown by a research group from Lund University in Sweden, which compared close to 70 mammalian species and found clear patterns.

    Learning to hunt was a decisive step in human evolution. Hunting necessitated communication, planning and the use of tools, all of which demanded a larger brain. At the same time, adding meat to the diet made it possible to develop this larger brain.

    ‘This has been known for a long time. However, no one has previously shown the strong connection between meat eating and the duration of breast-feeding, which is a crucial piece of the puzzle in this context. Eating meat enabled the breast-feeding periods and thereby the time between births, to be shortened. This must have had a crucial impact on human evolution’, says Elia Psouni of Lund University.

    She is a developmental psychologist and has, together with neurophysiologist Martin Garwicz (also in Lund) and evolutionary geneticist Axel Janke (currently in Frankfurt but previously in Lund) published her findings in the journal PLoS ONE.

    Among natural fertility societies, the average duration of breast-feeding is 2 years and 4 months. This is not much in relation to the maximum lifespan of our species, around 120 years. It is even less if compared to our closest relatives: female chimpanzees suckle their young for 4-5 years, whereas the maximum lifespan for chimpanzees is only 60 years.

    Many researchers have tried to explain the relatively shorter breast-feeding period of humans based on social and behavioral theories of parenting and family size. But the Lund group has now shown that humans are in fact no different than other mammals with respect to the timing of weaning. If you enter brain development and diet composition into the equation, the time when our young stop suckling fits precisely with the pattern in other mammals.

    (Elia Psouni) is careful to emphasize that their results concern human evolution. The research is about how carnivory can have contributed to the human species’ spreading on earth and says nothing about what we should or should not eat today in order to have a good diet.”

  2. I have NOT seen that article, but I would like to. I think I may have heard a similar idea before, though. I saw a documentary a long time ago that said that the reason man’s ancestors were able to evolve to Homo sapiens was due to higher protein levels that resulted in increased brain growth, which corresponded to a large increase in meat consumption. Is this a similar idea?

  3. “Cattle Decapitation’s lyrics are meant to be extreme hyperbole, and many of them are not meant to be taken literally. Travis Ryan even stated in an interview with PETA that the band’s name is meant to be taken ironically.”

    That’s good news.

    “Furthermore, think of the context in which the band’s name will be viewed: this is DEATH metal. The only way for them to be heard is through gore and obscenity – and, by posting and commenting on the lyrical matter, you have, in a way, proved that the band’s methods are effective.”

    A very valid point to be sure.

    “By getting people talking about the disgusting lyrical matter, listeners are then aware of the band’s vegetarian views, and may research more about the meat industry, or even start to consider vegetarianism.”

    They may, but most of the Cattle Decapitation fans I know around here actually share my sentiments to a degree, emphasizing that they do unprecedented things in the deathgrind genre over the vegan/vegetarian message. *shrugs*

    “One of your primary concerns with the band seems to be their opinion of man as something that should be obliterated. The devaluation of human life is nothing new in this genre. See Cannibal Corpse, or any other of an endless list of bands.”

    ^ I would posit that in an overwhelming majority of circumstances, the idea of mankind’s demise is handled from a completely different and genuinely intriguing way. Countless bands approach the topic from the perspective of a serial killer. Some approach it from the angle of UNIVERSAL destruction (Origin, Brain Drill via Quantum Catastrophe) both of which are far more interesting and don’t come off as ‘As humans we hate humans so here’s music about hating humans by humans’. Sure, that’s not Cattle Decapitation’s goal but it lends itself to that assessment in a way that almost no other band that I can think of does.

    “If you look at the lyrics, a LOT of metal bands say humans are bad – and this is without evening getting into black metal.”

    Indisputable but there’s a distinct difference in my opinion for a couple of reasons;

    1. The lyrics work within the fictional premise of the band.

    2. Most bands that write lyrics about how shitty humanity is don’t have underlying philosophies. Lyrics like that are generally written from a fictionally compelling standpoint that complements the type of music being made. Disgorge for instance doesn’t ACTUALLY disembowel women or support the disembowelment of women. When you veer into radical ideological territory, things get a tad different. Just like so called ‘insurrectionists’ give non-violent, evolution instead of revolution anarchists like me a bad name, unhinged morons like The Animal Liberation Front give a bad name to decent people who refuse to eat meat. Folks like that ALREADY take the hyperbole Cattle Decapitation puts out seriously, so it can be a difficult to gauge exactly how much stock the band puts into ideas of that nature.

    “(In these two examples) You can see that a major portion of Cattle Decapitation’s lyrics and imagery are aimed at exactly what you mention, the depiction of the savagery of the meat industry through a role reversal.”

    Not EXACTLY what I was suggesting, but decent all the same. *shrugs*

    “As an extrapolation, the lyrical message of your band, Democide, in a way can be seen as in line with Cattle Decapitation’s own views on the injustice of mankind. The lyrical themes by the band depict an absolute disgust for the activities of man, instead espousing the practices of animals. And since animals typically do not establish a federal state, the lyrics seem to suggest that they would be for similar decentralization of power, since it is in fact being used to enslave and consume animals.”

    Another very well stated point.

    “I am unsure of the band’s current status of donating to organizations. I searched the internet a bit, and all I could find was that the band supported organizations such as PETA, however, I am unsure of the method in which they do so.”

    Interesting. My (admittedly casual) search mentioned something about the band being most popular among hardcore animal/earth liberationists but left out any organizations. PETA doesn’t really fit that description.

    “I can imagine this will not affect the opinion of some meat-headed steak-lover who eats burgers for breakfast.”

    Me, in other words. [:P]

    “However, for this particular vegetarian, I find the message poignant and relevant.”

    I’m glad. Have you seen the article floating around recently that carnivory is responsible for the evolutionary success of mankind? That might make for an even more interesting discussion.

  4. Cattle Decapitation’s lyrics are meant to be extreme hyperbole, and many of them are not meant to be taken literally. Travis Ryan even stated in an interview with PETA that the band’s name is meant to be taken ironically. Furthermore, think of the context in which the band’s name will be viewed: this is DEATH metal. The only way for them to be heard is through gore and obscenity – and, by posting and commenting on the lyrical matter, you have, in a way, proved that the band’s methods are effective. By getting people talking about the disgusting lyrical matter, listeners are then aware of the band’s vegetarian views, and may research more about the meat industry, or even start to consider vegetarianism.

    One of your primary concerns with the band seems to be their opinion of man as something that should be obliterated. The devaluation of human life is nothing new in this genre. See Cannibal Corpse, or any other of an endless list of bands. Philosophically, think of this in comparison to bands with nihilistic perspectives: many bands espouse the end of existence, and the death of all life. If Cattle Decapitation is viewed in such context, their message seems right in line with any of a whole line of bands wishing for the destruction of the human race, such as Decapitated (“Nihility – Anti-Human Manifesto”) or any of the cosmic technical death metal bands, such as Origin, Xenocide. Not to mention countless albums about the zombie apocalypse. If you look at the lyrics, a LOT of metal bands say humans are bad – and this is without evening getting into black metal.

    Additionally, you mention that “a more interesting and creative approach should be taken…like writing songs from the perspective of the animals perhaps?” The band does in fact do this, and it is a major lyrical theme. For example, see the lyrics for “Long-pig Chef and the Hairless Goat,” in which a human is butchered for consumption. Or, check out the album cover for “Ten Torments of the Damned” in which a man with a cow face is preparing to decapitate a cow with a man face. In these two examples you can see that a major portion of Cattle Decapitation’s lyrics and imagery are aimed at exactly what you mention, the depiction of the savagery of the meat industry through a role reversal.

    As an extrapolation, the lyrical message of your band, Democide, in a way can be seen as in line with Cattle Decapitation’s own views on the injustice of mankind. The lyrical themes by the band depict an absolute disgust for the activities of man, instead espousing the practices of animals. And since animals typically do not establish a federal state, the lyrics seem to suggest that they would be for similar decentralization of power, since it is in fact being used to enslave and consume animals.

    I am unsure of the band’s current status of donating to organizations. I searched the internet a bit, and all I could find was that the band supported organizations such as PETA, however, I am unsure of the method in which they do so. If nothing else, their lyrics bring attention to the organization’s beliefs, and may convert people. I have heard people who listen to the band have conversations about the lyrical subject matter, people who probably would not otherwise have talked about vegetarianism or the meat industry in such depth.

    In the end it all depends on the perspective of the listener. I can imagine this will not affect the opinion of some meat-headed steak-lover who eats burgers for breakfast. However, for this particular vegetarian, I find the message poignant and relevant. And our discussion here proves that the lyrics were effective.

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