Veggie-Burger Time

Deathgrind group Cattle Decapitation shows lots of love to animals--and lots of scorn for the human race

Extreme-metal bands are not exactly known for being sensitive to animal issues. But Cattle Decapitation is far from your average deathgrind act.

For one thing, the members of the San Diego-based quartet are all hard-core vegans; for another, they're so creatively righteous in their beliefs that they inspired a grill to name a (veggie) burger after the band.

Called the Cattle Decapitation, the burger is served at Hamilton's Pub and Café in South Park and consists of, according to a press release, "a homemade all-vegan patty" made from "black beans, garlic, corn, potatoes" and a "secret mix of spices." Along with lettuce, tomatoes and onions, you can add some vegan PCS ("Phil Collins sucks!") sauce to taste. The Cattle Decapitation also comes with homemade chips and a side of "vegan sweet coconut curry sauce."

Talk about taking things to the next level.

"The only satisfaction comes from eating it," says Cattle Decap vocalist Travis Ryan, only half-jokingly. "Actually, our bass player Troy (Oftedal) just started working there, which is kind of embarrassing, really. Like, what if some kids come in, saying, 'Man, I didn't know you worked here, too! We only expected to eat the burger! Can you sign the wrapper? Wait, did you have anything to do with naming the burger?'"

In addition to its culinary impact, the band is changing how some tend to stereotype those eschewing meat. After all, the members of Cattle Decapitation don't physically resemble hippie vegans. They don't brandish acoustic guitars, for instance, and they certainly don't seem to go in for the whole tie-dye and Birkenstocks look, if their publicity shots are any indication. And it's upon closer examination of the album artwork for the band's brand-new release, The Harvest Floor, that you realize none of these guys will ever be granted entry into Burning Man--their imaginations are far too scary.

Still, Cattle Decapitation isn't just another bunch of Charles Manson wannabes intent on shocking audiences with slaughterhouse lyrics and imagery. Sure, one of the band's songs is called "We Are Horrible People," but there's a larger and more disturbing anti-human theme expressed in tracks like "The Ripe Beneath the Rind"--the message being that humanity is an evil plague in need of an extermination similar to the way we kill livestock to satisfy our never-ending appetite for meat. How's that for music made by sensitive cow-huggers?

If you're not familiar with slaughterhouses, you should know that the "harvest floor" is the final staging area for a factory animal before it goes on to be processed. It's where your dinner gets its throat slit or a bolt through its brain. But now Cattle Decap turns the tables, making the place a metaphor for the spiritual dead zone humanity has created for itself due to our limitless stupidity, greed and meat addiction. Or heck, maybe it's not even a metaphor; perhaps it's simply Ryan's sick fantasy.

"The album title is something I've had in my head since (2004's) Humanure, but I kept it on the back burner until the timing was right," admits Ryan during a recent phone interview. "For me, the idea serves as the epicenter of these people's tragedy (those in humanity's spiritual dead zone)."

Ryan always works closely with cover artist Wes Benscoter (Black Sabbath, Slayer) to devise new and intriguing ways of visually communicating Cattle Decap's dark concepts.

"I had worried the idea wouldn't be understandable or even attractive," says Ryan. "Which is where Wes comes in. He makes my concepts more palatable."

The Harvest Floor is in many ways the fulfillment of a challenge the band had presented itself with after a long and grueling tour in support of 2006's Karma.Bloody.Karma. Ryan says he didn't have any interest in doing another record unless Cattle Decap was going to progress. The main avenue of improvement would be in securing a drummer even more brutal and technical than departing skinsman Michael Laughlin. Not surprisingly, that drummer was Sleep Terror's David McGraw, a talent so formidable that he tricked more than a few metal critics into thinking he was a robotic machine.

"We gave David a lot of room to move around in Cattle Decap," confesses Ryan. "And he had (guitar) riffs of his own that he'd always wanted to introduce to a band."

The sonic results put Cattle Decap at the very forefront of technical grind, with kick-drum blasts so rapid-fire that they sound like experimental military hardware, and with guitars by Josh Elmore so violently spastic that they might as well be construction jackhammers. Indeed, the maelstrom of it all caused Ryan to pull out all the stops, lyrics-wise.

"I try to branch out as much as possible, to get as weird as possible with every song I write," explains Ryan. "Of course, I don't want to try too hard, but at a minimum, I want to keep things really different from one track to the next."

If a writer's words provide any insight into his soul or psyche, then Ryan is in serious trouble. He'll never be able to get away with a crime, because the criminality of his lyrics will certainly be presented as evidence. In his song "A Body Farm," a murderous crime-scene investigator runs, well, a body farm--a controlled environment designed to replicate open-air effects on cadavers.

"They put actual dead humans into the ground and then study how it breaks down and from what injuries. The guy in my song has a farm in his backyard, and he happens to be a serial killer, and his victims are also the ones that help him solve other crimes. I thought I was so smart until a friend told me it's almost the same premise as the show Dexter!

"I don't read many books with my ADD," he continues, although he has enjoyed books like Fast Food Nation and Mad Cowboy: Plain Truth From the Cattle Rancher Who Won't Eat Meat. "ADD is something I can't control without drugs, but I refuse to be medicated. I can say one thing about myself, though: People like me seem to be a lot more creative than most, so we got that going, at least."

Well, that and the veggie burger at Hamilton's.

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