GIG REVIEW: Cattle Decapitation w/ Fallujah – Psycroptic – Melancolia – Sydney, September 15th 2023

The Metro Theatre - Sydney, NSW

Cattle Decapitation

Watching Cattle Decapitation live at The Metro Theatre was one of those unique multi-sensory experiences that you don’t get to do a lot in your life: the music and soundscapes that you hear, the engaging performances you see, your sweat running down your forehead as the relentless blast beats punish every inch of your body, everything just comes together for a truly intense and rewarding Metal experience. The San Diegans are currently touring Australia supporting their (very awesome) newest album “Terrasite”, and they are doing it in style. With a truly stacked line-up made of fellow American Prog-Death Metallers Fallujah, Tasmanian favourites Psycroptic and Melbourne’s own Melancolia, the night delivered high-quality Death Metal from start to finish.

Melancolia kicked-off their set at exactly 7:15pm, and the fact that people were rushing from the back of the venue to the stage area as soon as this happened, speaks volumes of how engaging this band was as a first support act. Their set, already a bit shorter than the rest, felt even shorter as every song delivered was just thoroughly enjoyable and brutal at the same time. Their very own brand of Deathcore that mixes dense atmospheres, Industrial rhythms and true Black Metal moments can easily rival that the sound of bigger and more famous Deathcore acts. I seriously think these guys have a very bright future ahead, I mean, the fact that they’re signed to Nuclear Blast Records so early in their career must mean they are doing things right. Frontman Alex Hill has a massive stage presence and moves through the stage as if he owns it. And the musicians playing behind him, hitting every note and beat in the most accurate and effective way to warm up a crowd of roughened up Death Metal fans. By the end of their 20-minute set the venue was almost full and I was ready for more music from this newish Melbourne band that I had just discovered.

After a quick changeover, it was Hobart’s very own Technical Death Metal masters Psycroptic who took to the stage to deliver one of the most intense and overall excellent performances I have ever seen by any Australian band. I have seen these guys before, but I really felt that tonight the band was supercharged. It seemed almost unreal to watch them this early in the night, but at least that meant that our bodies were fresher and in better conditions for the full round of carnage and moshing that was about to be unleashed upon them. From the very first notes of the first song, the crowd was totally into it, with the very first circle pits of the night starting not very long after. If you’ve seen Psycroptic live before you know it, the band was as tight and brutal as usual, with truly masterful performances from every single member. Drummer David Haley was an unstoppable machine throughout the whole 30-min set, and vocalist Jason Peppiatt has such an imposing, and almost threating onstage persona that is literally impossible to ignore. He had us on the palm of his hand the whole time, and by the end I don’t think anybody was ready to let go. It literally felt like every new song was only getting faster and angrier, and everybody loved it. The sense of melody that guitarist Joe Haley brings contrasts deliciously with the sheer brutality of the rhythmic sections and the vocal deliveries to create some of the highest quality Death Metal of any subgenre that I have witnessed live.

After another pretty swift changeover it was time for the first international band of the night. Progressive Deathcore powerhouse Falljuah took to the stage and did not waste any second to deliver a really tight and enjoyable set. To be perfectly honest, this is a band that for some reason has always escaped my radar. I have listened to their music before, but never really paid much attention to it, so I was very curious to see them perform tonight with a set of fresh ears, and they did not disappoint. Fallujah is heavy on the melody, more than the previous bands, and the relative change of soundscapes was a very welcome one as it allowed me to appreciate the different layers in their performance even more. As a musician myself, I tend to pay attention to little details like the way the guitar licks can enhance an atmosphere, or the way a vocal sound can become almost percussive and add to the whole rhythmic base of a song. Fallujah’s set was full of these little details, and I really enjoyed the way their songs came together. We had beautiful tremolo guitar moments, droning string atmospheres, crisp arpeggios and even some clean vocals. Massive props to bass player Kilian Duarte for his infectious and joyful performance throughout the set. That man has some skills, and was really having the best time of his life while playing that bass. Again, all the musicians were on point, and overall I was very pleasantly surprised by this band that I didn’t know much of beforehand.

After Fallujah finished their set I headed to the back of the venue to grab a beer, some people did the same, others went to the bathroom, and some others were still stuck in the massive merch queue, but in reality everybody was just quietly getting ready for the brutal onslaught that was about to be unleashed on us. At this point of the review, I would like to point out that the setlists all flowed flawlessly and with really quick changeover times between them, and also that the audio quality has absolutely top-notch since the first song of the first band, and continued with exactly zero issues throughout the night. This speaks scores about a really well-organised show where all the engines are well oiled and working as they should. I believe that a show with very few or no setbacks at all, really enhances the live experience for the fans.

Finally, it was time. At exactly 9:45pm the stage room went dark and the first ominous notes of opening song “Terrasitic Adaptation” could be heard, and all of a sudden, headliners Cattle Decapitation were on stage. From the very first moments their music started, so did the onslaught. A relentless attack to your senses from all directions, courtesy of their very own brand of chaotic and extremely technical Deathgrind. This song was a perfect starter because it has a perfect ‘calm before the storm’ effect, and it pretty much goes from 0 to 100 in one second. The circle pits started right away, and didn’t stop for the next song, the extremely catchy ‘We Eat Our Young’, also from their new album.

And yes, I said catchy. Cattle Decapitation have developed a very unique and unusual approach to Deathgrind in that their music is full of melodic hooks, catchy guitar lines and yes, even some actual vocal notes that you can sing to. This is pretty much the main reason I’ve been following and liking the band for at least 10 years now, I am a sucker for a catchy song. This has been true about their music especially since their 2009 album “The Harvest Floor”, when singer and vocal maestro Travis Ryan started developing a very unique brand of guttural singing, one that I can only describe as a deranged Goblin style of singing, and it is pretty fucking awesome if you ask me. Since then, this vocal style has made appearances in most of their songs to some extent, effectively making them one of the very few Deathgrind bands that can actually make the crowd sing their songs, like with actual notes.

By the time “Scourge of the Offspring” started, everybody was already warmed up and in the zone for the barrage of music to continue. This is a great song, one of my favourites of them, and features a lengthy sing-along moment using the vocal technique I mentioned above, which worked marvels with the crowd. Now, some people might argue that the band has sacrificed some Old School brutality for some of the aforementioned melodic hooks, but the next couple of songs proved the exact opposite. “Dead Set On Suicide” sounded just as pounding as their earlier albums, and “The Storm Upstairs” saw the start of a non-stop wave of crowd surfers that quickly and precariously made it to the front of the crowd. It was pure madness, of the good kind. I then heard the first notes of my favourite song “Bring Back the Plague”, and I think it was a general fan-favourite, because the chaos, moshing, pushing and crowd surfing went up a few notches for this one. When this happened, this 36-year old body of mine decided it was time to leave the front and middle section of the crowd, and head to calmer waters for the rest of the show. From a more chilled area of the venue I was able to admire the masterful musicianship of every person on stage, and understand why this band is where they are now. Cattle Decapitation is a true force to be reckoned with, inventive on every aspect, always brutal and just so musically talented, these guys could play anything they wished.

The 2nd half of the show followed the same tenure of quality and madness, and no one complained. “Finish Them” brought a circle pit that was almost as big as the floor area of the venue, and “A Photic Doom” reassured us that their new album “Terrasite” is definitely one of the very best in their career. “Forced Gender Reassignment” brought back that old school Brutal Death Metal feels with its ultra-gory lyrics and menacing delivery. And by the time “Pacific Grim” was announced as the last song of the night, everybody felt like the concert was not ready to finish. This is by the way, another one of my favourite tracks from the band, with a massive melodic sing-along section that effectively works as an outro and manages to bring the energy to more stable levels. During this song, bass player Olivier Pinard also proved that he might have a neck of steel, because that was some of the most insane and hypnotic windmill-headbanging I have ever witnessed. Fortunately, this was not the last song, and after a short encore the band came back to perform fan-favourite “Kingdom Of Tyrants”, another ultra fast, ultra catchy Tech-Death anthem that was the perfect cherry on top for a massive night of Death Metal debauchery. After playing for a bit over 1 hour, the band promised to return soon, and then proceeded to wrap up their presentation.

All in all, this was one the most intense live experience I have ever had, and I was able to see why Cattle Decapitation is such a well-loved band in many parts of the world. The energy they bring to the stage is infectious like the diseases they sing about, the quality of their musical performances is truly admirable (Travis Ryan is able to produce a crazy amount of different guttural sounds and swap between them in a matter of milliseconds, I swear). I am not normally one to delve too much into song lyrics, I usually like a song for its music and how memorable it is, but if you know Cattle Decapitation well, you know they are one of the most misanthropic and nihilistic bands around, and that their songs actually do tell a story and give a message, a warning almost, of a doomed world that is dominated by a pretty nasty species called Homo Sapiens, and how this species is surely and not-so-slowly heading to a pretty grim scenario if we keep doing things that we do.

This was definitely one of the most memorable live performances I have seen in recent years, all the bands gave their best and played excellent sets, the organisation was really good, and only made me want to see Cattle Decapitation live again as soon as I can.

written by Roman Ibarra

and photos by Marc K/Nell Photography