@Newcastle Think Tank, June 21 2016

Over a career spanning 20 years, Cattle Decapitation have earned a reputation for delivering pummeling eco-conscious deathgrind. Albums like 2004’s Humanure are rightly revered and over two decades, the San Diego act have carved out a bloody name for themselves across the globe.

Thankfully, they’ve also pushed boundaries: 2012’s towering Monolith of Inhumanity saw the quartet sharpening their writing, with vocalist Travis Ryan adding a new, melodic dimension to his rabid onslaught. Its stunning follow-up, last year’s The Anthropocene Extinction, bristled with barbed hooks and built on the achievements of its predecessor – so it was no surprise this show focused heavily on those two records.

Progressive grindcore anyone? Well, not quite. But watch guitarist Josh Elmore and bassist Derek Engemann up-close, as they work every inch of their fretboards, and you’re left in no doubt that Cattle Decapitation are a highly evolved bunch of musicians, who can carry off highly complex of arrangements with ease – even in the midst of a grueling tour schedule.

However, it’s the searing heat that they create as a unit, the unrelenting intensity that pours out of the PA, that makes the most impression – and while the day’s soaring temperatures were starting to subside outdoors, Cattle Decapitation weren’t in the mood to allow their North East acolytes to cool off. Manufactured Extinct and Prophets of Loss – complete with wonderfully animated performances from Ryan – burst like solar flares, threatening to vaporize the throng of fans who had flocked to Think Tank for this much-anticipated shindig. Ok, the sound could have been clearer, yet that did little to diminish Cattle Decapitation’s merciless barrage –  every blastbeat was lapped up, every new serving of riffs feasted on with grisly relish.

Long haul UK tours are a rarity for this group – something that they acknowledge. However, after witnessing the rabid reaction to the likes of Forced Gender Reassignment and Circo Inhumanitis, they might just find their way to the likes of Newcastle a little more often. This performance saw the Californians depart drenched in sweat… and was joyously received by a crowd witnessing a band at the top of their game – an outfit now rivaling Napalm Death in their ability to stretch musical limits, deliver a powerful message and be a formidable live force – while never abandoning their core sound (or playing it safe to shift units).

Travis Ryan paints a bleak vision of Earth’s future, but with the likes of Cattle Decapitation around, extreme music has plenty of life left in it.