Don’t Judge an Atrocity by Its Cover



The following blog post contains material that some readers may find disturbing.

Or absurd. Maybe just silly. You be the judge.

I am not ashamed to be a 46-year-old metal head. I love heavy metal music, and I don’t mind telling you. However, I occasionally feel the need to hide the fact from people. It happened earlier this week when I was in my office listening to music as I read emails. A colleague appeared in my doorway to ask a question, and I quickly reached for the stop button on my iPod. I knew she was aware of the kind of music I listen to, but she is not a heavy metal enthusiast. Rather, she’s a fan of country and Christian music. She’s a very nice person, and I respect her musical preferences. I respect her so much that I didn’t think it would be appropriate to expose her to my band of choice for the day, at least not without a warning.

I don’t like people to jump to conclusions about me based on the music I listen to. Heavy metal has a bad reputation, and I don’t want to be dismissed because I am a fan of such controversial music. I figure if I tell you I like metal, I have a chance to explain my affection. But if you just hear that awful noise playing in my office, you might write me off as weird or potentially dangerous.

She assured me I didn’t need to turn off my music for her. I appreciated the sentiment, but I didn’t think she knew what she was getting herself into.

I told her, “I figured you wouldn’t be too interested in Cattle Decapitation.”

Yes, that’s the name of a band, and they are awesome. They’ve been around putting out records since 2002, but I didn’t discover them for myself until last week. I’m pretty sure most of you reading this are unfamiliar with their music, so let me tell you about them before you come to any conclusions.

Dietary Preferences

Interestingly, several of the band members are vegetarian. Vegetarianism is not typically associated with metal music. It’s not a particularly aggressive dietary path. I’m an omnivore, and I love grilled meat, but Cattle Decapitation’s music is so intense, so brutal, I feel like the band might insist that I give up meat if I want to be a fan. They are clearly pissed off about livestock farming practices.

Band Name

Why cattle? Why decapitation? I suppose it’s intended to be evocative of a slaughterhouse and, thereby, ironically pointing out their vegetarianism, but I don’t think “cattle decapitation” is a term of art in the beef processing industry. It’s just odd.

Album Art

Cattle Decapitation use their album covers to create visual expressions of their disdain for humanity’s exploitation of the world’s resources. The art is beautiful, but gruesome. For example, their third album, Humanure, features a re-imagining of Pink Floyd’s Atom Heart Mother album cover, but in this version, the cute cow is pooping. Specifically, it’s pooping out human…umm…bits. It’s an activist vegetarian joke. I won’t encourage you to Google their album art. It’s the kind of stuff that you can’t un-see, and it’s definitely NSFW. Google the Pink Floyd album cover and just use your imagination.


Cattle Decapitation’s music is hard to describe in traditional terms. The instruments are used in an almost abstract, non-representational manner. There is almost no melody to be found; just enough to remind the listener that it is music. Mostly, it’s visceral, discordant rhythm with inhuman vocals. Technically speaking, lead singer Travis Ryan’s vocal range must span four or five octaves, but he doesn’t sing any of them prettily. His low notes get down into the single-digit hertz register, almost below human hearing. Crazy.

Obviously, Cattle Decapitation is not the average person’s cup of tea; it’s fierce music. I don’t expect you to like it, but I feel better that you know some interesting stuff about it now. I love them, but I missed out on their first five albums because of a snap judgment based on hearing the band name and watching a few seconds of a music video that suggested they were just a guttural grindcore band. I’m not a big fan of the grindcore sub-genre, so I made a huge mistake based on a bad assumption.

When I turned the music up so she could hear a bit of Cattle Decapitation’s The Anthropocene Exctinction album, I was impressed that my sweet, Christian music-loving co-worker didn’t turn up her nose or tell me how terrible it sounded. She just laughed and said she saw me in a whole new light. I think she meant I was a little scarier than she had previously imagined, but also a little more interesting.

So, I offer another twist on my personal motto: be who you are, like what you like, and do cool stuff…and take a minute to learn about what other people are, like, and do before you pass judgment. You might be missing out on something great.


5 thoughts on “Don’t Judge an Atrocity by Its Cover

  1. So of course I you tubed cattle decapitation after this. Man. Tho it’s not the most relaxing thing I’ve heard in recent days, I can possibly see some talent there. Then my wifi broke…

    You’re no average 46 year old!

  2. Not at all scary….but as I continue to read your blogs….more and more interesting. I once again see you in a whole new light:)

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