Live Review: Cattle Decapitation, Manchester
17th August 2022
Support: Celestial Sanctuary, Cryptic Shift
Words: Dan Barnes
It is but three days since Cattle Decapitation successful slayed the toasted masses at Catton Park. The large stage, searing heat and daylight were not quite the normal conditions these Californian death-grinders would find themselves. The Bloodstock show was exceptional, so I was looking forward to seeing not only a repeat performance, but also one in more familiar surroundings.
Support comes from Celestial Sanctuary, who are just finishing their set as I arrive, closing with some sluggish grinding intensity that ticked a box with me and I made a note to check them out further. Second support was Cryptic Shift, who I’d previously caught at Damnation last year, and who’d impressed me with their technical prowess, enthralling performance and their ability to switch genres, seemingly at will. Based in Death Metal, but encapsulating Prog, Classic Rock and even a bit of Jazz, the band as a happy doing some Dream Theater style noodling as they are crunching out those heavy riffs.
Song-wise, I wasn’t expecting the set to be too far removed from Sunday’s show and, with the exception of the two The Great Dying interludes and One Day Closer to the End of the World, all from the last Death Atlas release, it was as you were at Catton Park.
Naturally, the smaller crowd gave the show a different feel, yet the club setting is more in keeping with the Cattle Decapitation ethos. Though lesser in number, the immediate front of the stage was a similar mass of bodies, with the first surfer over early on during Bring Back the Plague. From a stage bathed in blood red light, Travis Ryan playfully points out: “We go up here; you go down there.”
Only the slamming Forced Gender Reassignment from Monolith of Inhumanity and The Anthropocene Extinction’s blistering Plagueborne shift the set away from the last album, but Death Atlas is such an exploration of the genre that the mix of progressive elements and spacey mid-sections means that the brutality never feels forced or overplayed.
Finish Them is a plodding pounder; Time’s Cruel Curtain takes the progressive intro and runs with it, blending edgy drum patterns and Nu vocal lines into something able to match anything else on offer for sheer brutality.
As on Sunday, the set ends with the blistering epic that is Death Atlas itself. Taking the listener on a powerful journey through the twists and turns of this near ten-minute composition, which sees ebbing and flowing, peaks and troughs as the track builds to a climax. Travis, again, delivers a showcase for his range as Cattle Decapitation wring the final drops of energy from the crowd.
It’s fair to say the San Diego grinders are as at home on festival main stages as they are in the sweaty clubs of the land; managing to hit the mark time and again with precision and ferocity, yet never overlooking the need to build and maintain atmosphere, Cattle Decapitation prove they are more than just flag-bearers of a movement and are first and foremost an awesome, devastating live band.