Cattle Decapitation’s seventh album, The Anthropocene Extinction (review), is its own grindcore version of Roots, a turning point for the band and possibly one for the entire subgenre. This is grind like you’ve never heard it before. Among the blastbeats, the rhythm section divvies out multiple tempo changes, making for surprises around every bend. Songs flawlessly go from grind to thrash to black metal to even a hardcore tempo. Adding to the variety and depth are a range of guest musicians, along with a newer vocal style by frontman Travis Ryan. Providing the riffs is Josh Elmore, the band’s guitarist since 2001, ranging from harsh and pummeling to sad and epic.
The band already has begun the touring cycle for the new album by taking part in this year’s installment of the Summer Slaughter Tour (view tour dates here), headlined by Arch Enemy and also featuring Born of Osiris, Veil of Maya, The Acacia Strain, After the Burial and Beyond Creation. A week into the tour, which included stops in the Midwest, we talked with Elmore about the new release, the tour and selling T-shirts.
LIVE METAL: It’s been a week on Summer Slaughter now, so what have been some of the highlights of the first week, and what have been some standout crowds so far?
JOSH ELMORE: Well, it usually does take a week to kind of get into the swing of things. There’s just so many bands on the fest that it’s just getting everyone coordinated and getting everyone going. They all obviously have touring experience in that regard, but still with this amount of bands and stuff at the venues you just still really like have to get it worked out over the course of a week. So I think it’s getting to the point where it’s kind of a machine now. And we’ve had some really good shows: Denver, Minneapolis, Joliet, Cleveland. I mean we’ve done pretty well, and there’s been some standouts where the crowds have really been into it and merch is good for everyone. So it’s positive so far, and looking at the upcoming dates with Philly, and tomorrow in Hamilton, Ontario, and Quebec after that. Then Worcester, Massachusetts, and New York after that—it just keeps going down. It looks like the remaining schedule is going to be really strong.
Even though it’s early into the tour, have you guys had the chance to hang out with the other bands and stuff (touring) these mid-size venues? Be it backstage or jumping from bus to bus, have you made any new friends on tour?
Everyone’s kind of in a different sort of vehicle. We’re actually sharing a vehicle with Beyond Creation. It’s our first U.S. tour where we haven’t been driving in a van. It’s kinda like a modified airport shuttle, if you know what I mean, with bunks in it. (laughs) So yeah, obviously, we’ve been hangin’ with them here and there, well, because, you know, we’re kinda on top of each other. (With the) other bands, we’ve toured with Veil of Maya before, so we know those guys and The Acacia Strain dudes are super friendly and the crew’s really good. So I don’t feel any … With Arch Enemy, there’s no sense of “Oh, here they are, they’re off the bus.” (Arch Enemy guitarists) Jeff (Loomis) and Michael (Amott) aren’t falling all over themselves. They’ve been super friendly and accommodating. Of course, everyone is getting their work done and responsibilities first, but they’re very open to chit-chat and all that.
What are the benefits in touring on a tour like this as opposed to touring with someone like Soulfly—who I saw you guys with in 2009—and being support for someone like that?
Well, when we tour with Soulfly, that’s their crowd. Especially when you hold our stuff up to theirs, we feel that we have to try to win over their fans. With Summer Slaughter, it’s such a relatively diverse kind of lineup that we feel that a few people are gonna come out for us, but there’s definitely people that are new to the band or that have never heard us. So it’s kind of a wider variety of people to present yourself to and hopefully have them get turned on to it in some way. So like with Soulfly—and I’m just using that as an example—there’s gonna be some people that are like, “Oh, check this band out!” But primarily they’re just people there for Soulfly.
You have a little better chance on a tour like this. It’s almost like a bigger event, a once a year thing—Summer Slaughter. The merch is big, a big part of it because people want to go and grab the newest stuff and come home wearing the cool shirt. And there’s just certain kids and general people that just have disposable money, whether it be from mommy and daddy or just summer work money or income where they can just buy a ton of shirts and all that. And old folks will maybe get a shirt—they’ll go for the one band that they’re into and buy their merchandise and that’s it. It’s an access to a whole lot of people that would go to see Veil of Maya but would not come to see us or Born of Osiris. So they can at least be sort of forced to watch us for a half an hour and then maybe like it and buy some merch.
It seems like the merch is one of the biggest draws of this tour. I heard in his new book (Dark Days), Randy (Blythe) from Lamb of God, at one point, calls himself a “glorified T-shirt salesman.” (laughs)
OK, so I guess one of the most important things is that your guys’ album drops in two days, right (Friday, Aug. 7, 2015)?
OK, I didn’t know what day it was. (laughs) You just kind of have to go day to day with this. It’s like the whole cliche, like we don’t even know what town we’re in. So yeah, there’s that. But yeah, yes it is.
I was listening to the new album, The Anthropocene Extinction (read review if you didn’t above), and I’m liking what I’m hearing. You guys are trying some new things on some songs. I’m really liking the tempo changes, the guest vocals and musicians, and Travis’ vocals seem to just be all over the place. I feel like this really kind of started with the last album with more of an infusion of melody.
It really kinda started on The Harvest Floor (2009). Maybe there were a few on Karma.Bloody.Karma (2006), but “Regret and the Grave” (from Monolith of Inhumanity) was the first song where he kind of used that, but very sparingly. And with Monolith, people had mentioned to him that on “Regret and the Grave” they liked that singing, but it was kind of a screeching-like voice. So he tried it on Monolith, and it came off pretty well. So I think it started from that point, and he kind of developed it a little more.
I read how you guys are obviously not trying to make the same album over and over, and trying to build upon each release, but was it really a goal of yours to infuse more melody and make these songs more memorable? It seems like they’re catchier and more memorable than ever before on this album.
Yeah, I agree. We wanted to have those hooks, I guess. Whatever it takes. Whether it’s a riff, a melody or a vocal line, it’s just another way to add depth and replay power to it. It’s like with some bands that are so brutal and (you play it for your friends), and they’re like, “Woah!” But really, how much do you listen to that by yourself? It’s almost like the one-trick show pony you bring out. Yeah, the technical stuff is great, but we want something to bring out just because they enjoy hearing it, not like some sort of novelty even for extreme metal people. So yeah, all of us were into making this as gripping as possible.
What are some standouts for you on the new album or even ones you enjoy playing live the most so far?
The sets are a half an hour, but we start with “Manufactured Extinct” and people here that melody, and people react to that because that’s was people’s first taste to the new stuff. But we also did a couple of others before they were released yet. We do “Prophets of Loss” and “Pacific Grim.” So people were kind of in a good way just giving us the stare down, like, “Oh, OK!” And we play another one of the songs that was previously released called “Mammals in Babylon,” and that’s one of the songs that starts out super-intense, and it usually takes people in a live situation a few seconds to say, “Oh shit. This song!” We see the recognition on their face. There’s a few other songs on there, like “Plagueborne,” which I can see working really well live. And a lot of people have been mentioning in their reviews and comments on our Facebook page the song “Not Suitable for Life.” They were saying that they really like that song, but as far as we’re concerned, that’s really like the dark horse of the record. It was one of the last ones written, and we were like, “It’s OK, I like it.” But people are responding to that song. This always happens with that one song that we weren’t expecting to have the good of a reaction to, but people are always like, “That song, man. I don’t know what it is!” So we’ll probably incorporate that into our set.
Usually when bands do a record, there’s always a couple of songs where they probably won’t do it live. But I think with this record—and it was the same with Monolith too—at some point in time, we’ll probably have every song cycled through the set at some point. So that’s a good thing.
OK, Josh, this album is certainly a standout—maybe your best yet, but I guess that’s to be determined. I’ll be at the (Summer Slaughter) show in Baltimore (Aug. 13, 2015). What time do you guys go on?
It’s been pretty consistent at like 6:10pm.
OK, well congratulations on the album, and I hope it has a successful release, and I’ll see you next week.
Thank you. Yeah, and we’ll see you in Baltimore.