Cattle Decapitation / Immolation / Sanguisugabogg / Castrator – November 21, 2023 – The Orpheum, Tampa, FLSaturday, 16th December 2023
Photos by: Brittany Barkasi
It’s been quite a year in many ways in the world of music. There have been more tours this year than we could have predicted, and many of them being ones that won’t soon be forgotten. Back in May, we were lucky enough to catch Cattle Decapitation on the Decibel Magazine Tour alongside Dark Funeral, 200 Stab Wounds, and Blackbraid in Atlanta. That had been the first time seeing them in over a decade – the previously most recent occurrence was in 2012 in support of the now classic Monument of Inhumanity, and was in a very small DIY venue in Pittsburgh (shout out to The Mr. Roboto Project).
Their show at said Decibel tour this year was so intensely good, that they briefly inspired yours truly to unretire from the mosh pit, if only for a short foray. While we don’t see that happening again this time around, there was palpable excitement when the death/grind legends announced a North American headline run in support of their latest, Terrasite, to which has been an unsurprising standout amongst a crowded field of quality releases in 2023.
To further increase anticipation, direct support comes in the form of New York death metal legends Immolation, death metal tongue twisters Sanguisugabogg, and the crushing upstarts Castrator. An evening of unwavering death metal was to be had at our usual stomping grounds of The Orpheum in Tampa, and on a crisp November evening, the ever awesome outdoor stage beckoned.
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The all-female four piece death metal project Castrator have been making a lot of noise since dropping a fierce piece of classic death metal on their debut Defiled in Oblivion via the mighty Dark Descent in 2022. Ever since, the band has snipped its way into our eardrums and has left quite the impression, playing several festivals and a major tour with Exhumed. Many in attendance were anticipating their set, as there was quite a buzz in the air. Those present were in for a severe pummeling.
Bassist Robin Mazen (Derkéta and Gruesome, and the best damn merch slinger on the planet) and drummer Carolina Perez are the longest standing members of Castrator, together forming a relentless rhythm section that energizes the band’s direct approach to death metal. Vocalist Clarissa Badini, a fellow Pittsburgh native who has quickly developed into being a hell of a vocalist, definitively making her mark within Castrator, showcasing a combination of discordant screams and rumbling growls that take the band’s music to the next level. It’s nice to see somebody who works so hard and has such a passion for metal showcasing their talents at such a level. Unfortunately, guitarist/riff master Kimberly Orellana was unable to make this tour, with Kurtis Layne stepping in late to help, ultimately making their partaking in the tour possible, as stated on stage by Badini.
Opening with the massive “Tormented by Atrocities,” Castrator cut deep right from the onset, quickly inspiring a pit to open up, with the crowd eating up every note. “Forsaken and Deprived” followed, upping the tempo further, with the crowd at this point whipped up into an impressive frenzy. Guitarist Layne shredded along like he’d been in the band forever, while Mazen’s smashing bass and Perez’s rhythmic drum patterns shook the eager crowd to their core.
Badini’s control of the crowd impressed, with her vocalizations tearing everything to pieces, and the crowd hanging on to every snarl. The band blasted through a seven song set, all from Defiled in Oblivion, with highlights including “Tyrant’s Verdict” and “Befoul My Existence.”
The set culminated with “Dawa of Yousafzai,” leaving the venue in tatters and the audience wanting more. Castrator couldn’t have started the show with a more emphatic performance, and we can’t wait to see and hear more.
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No, I’m not going to type out their name in syllables. You figure out how to pronounce it, and if you do, email me. All kidding aside, Sanguisugabogg has made a significant mark in their short four years. Known for their meme-level silliness as well as their chunky, straightforward death metal, most everyone in metal at least is aware of these fellows from Columbus. This evening, they would take no prisoners, and if anyone at the show didn’t know them, they certainly do now.
Pulling mainly from their 2023 sophomore album Homicidal Ecstasy, full-on aggression was brought immediately via “Black Market Vasectomy” and “Face Ripped Off,” with the latter being an apt description of the bedlam in an ever expanding pit. Vocalist Devin Swank is an imposing presence both physically and audibly, with monstrously deep growls and abundant energy, urging the crowd to slam along. Stringed warriors Ced Davis and Drew Arnold form an imposing duo, along with skin pounder Cody Davidson providing wild rhythmic calamity. The band clearly relish being on stage, and it shows with every note.
What was the most noteworthy and viciously amusing moment of the evening centered around the fittingly titled “A Lesson in Savagery,” to which is our top track from the ‘Bogg. Swank revealed an American football (so we differentiate from the one that gets kicked), and stated that they were going to play a game that he appropriately labeled as “Murderball.” The rules: Swank throws the football into the pit, song starts, madness ensues, and whoever has possession of the football at the end of the song wins a free merch item of the winner’s choosing. This reminds of a smaller scale (and much more light hearted) version of George Carlin’s bit about “Slugfest.” Thankfully, the result wasn’t nearly as extreme.
However, as soon as the song kicked off and Swank tossed that ball into the audience, an uncontrollable melee kicked off, with the sole focus of holding onto that ball, no matter the cost. The results were blatantly obvious, as our victor was busted open like Axl and Ian Rotten after the famed ECW Taipei Death Match. Blood was literally sprayed everywhere, and our champion posed proudly with the ball – and a giant gash in his forehead. True to their word, Sanguisugabogg provided said merch item, with our guy sporting a shirt soon after the set concluded.
It was going to be a tough slog to top that ingeniously orchestrated riot (kudos to Sanguisugabogg for the creativity), but the band successfully blasted forth with brutal entries such as “Mortal Admonishment” and “Dead as Shit.”
Sanguisugabogg doesn’t pull punches with their meat and potatoes death metal assault, and are here to wreck the place as well as entertain. Mission absolutely accomplished.
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Immolation’s legendary status goes without saying, but we’re going to anyway. Name me a death metal band who has consistently provided the highest quality of death metal for such a long time, without even a slight misstep. Every release strengthens their status further, and their latest and eleventh full-length Acts of God was one of the best pure death metal records of 2022. They’re not slowing down, and our ears are indeed grateful. It had been a few years since catching the Yonkers, New York natives, and unsurprisingly, they’re just as potent as ever.
Kicking off the pummeling with the foreboding “All That Awaits Us” set the tone, with the precise riffage of the always animated Robert Vigna burying the eager crowd in destructive death metal delights. Having seen this band at least 15 or so times over the years, they have never shown even an inkling of slowing down. Ross Dolan’s vocals only seem to become more ferocious; that trademark deep growl being one of the most distinctive and powerful in death metal’s long history.
Drawing from their latest opus Acts of God, “The Age of No Light” blistered by, driven by percussion master Steve Shalaty’s hyper quick and forceful stylings. Truly one of the best drummers in the game, rounding out the NYDM legends sound in all settings. Classic track “Dawn of Possession” followed, causing a fury amongst the already raging pit enthusiasts.
The setlist was an overall smattering of Immolation’s long career, covering seven of their eleven full-lengths, spanning from early from 90s classics like “Christ’s Cage” and “Once Ordained” to more recent monstrosities “Epiphany” and “All That Awaits Us.” Truly something for everyone, and a faithful overview of their illustrious career.
With Tampa being so integral to the origins of the genre, a lot of folks connected to those early bands were in attendance, including members of Deicide, Lee Harrison of Monstrosity, Cannibal Corpse’s George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher, and probably others we didn’t identify, all enjoying the festivities to the fullest. Cool to see, as Tampa’s metal community is truly one-of-a-kind, and one we’re proud to be a small part of.
Immolation continues to be one of the leaders in death metal, and their continued run of high quality albums and live performance continue to cement their legendary status. A lot of the old guard haven’t been able to keep turning heads like Immolation does, and from our perspective, there’s zero chance of a decline in sight. Keep showing how it’s done!
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Moving on from legends to more legends, it was time for the mighty Cattle Decapitation to take the helm. Having been an innovator in both grindcore, and more recently, their own brand of the more progressive side of death metal, the Californians have evolved like no other. It’s a marvel to witness; always a step ahead, carefully adding new twists that further enhance their output as they continue. This year’s Terrasite – the band’s tenth album – is one of their best yet, showcasing new creative directions within their already compelling songwriting prowess. Their live shows are an uncontrollable fit of energy and chaos, and this large crowd was more than ready.
Cattle Decap emerged focused and prepared to explode, jumping straight into material from Terrasite, starting with the dynamic album opening trio of “Terrasitic Adaptation,” “We Eat Our Young,” and “Scourge of the Offspring.” Vocalist extraordinaire Travis Ryan roared, snarled, and goblin-screamed with undeniable ferocity and passion, with the audience reciprocating that emotion with fervor. Ryan continues to be the most moist vocalist in metal, with droplets of fluids flying with every thrash of his neck. Yes, there was a loogie catch, if curious minds are wondering.
Harkening to Monolith of Inhumanity, we got a bit of the grind side of the coin via “Dead Set On Suicide,” much to the delight of attendees. Drummer David McGraw was in overdrive, and definitely doesn’t get enough due credit for his versatility, blasting away with insane speed and precise technicality. He provides so much of the veritable kick in their music, and live, he’s a sight to behold.
While there weren’t any pre-2012 tracks within the set, that didn’t detract from what was presented. True, we’d love to hear some cuts from Humanure and Karma.Bloody.Karma, but what we did get was an excellent smattering of songs representing the best of Cattle Decapitation’s continued evolution. Drawing from 2019’s Death Atlas, the ironically prophetic “Bring Back the Plague” made this writer muse over the timing of what would happen not long after this would be released. They sort of got their wish, right? Definitely one of my favorite tracks, and guitarist Josh Elmore showcased his chops with sinister delight.
If having never witnessed Cattle Decap live, we have to call out the sheer amount of effort and sweaty energy they collectively put into their performances. How they didn’t collapse mid-set is hard to fathom, but they continued on with more Terrasitic domination via “Solastalgia” and “A Photic Doom.” A few more slices of Death Atlas followed, with “Vulturous” especially making yours truly neck achieve full strain.
As the set loomed close to the end, the lone entry from The Anthropocene Extinction presented itself in the form of “Pacific Grim.” Ryan also announced that it was McGraw’s birthday, surprising him with a cake on stage, with Ryan naturally leading a rendition of the “Happy Birthday” song, in goblin mode, of course. That has to be the wettest cake of all time.
The band finished off with a rousing rendition of “Kingdom of Tyrants,” which left the now exhausted onlookers ready to drop, but still needing more. We don’t think there’s a timeline where it’s possible to have enough of Cattle Decapitation’s musical dealings.
Death metal has a way of bringing folks together, and this evening at The Orpheum was an example of loads of fans of all different walks of life, legendary purveyors of said music, made possible by bands making their mark with gusto and long-standing heroes who continue to lead the way. Castrator and Sanguisugabogg will only continue to make large strides and engaging tunes, while Immolation and Cattle Decapitation continue to do what they do best while staying ahead of the curve, being the example of how to stay fresh and impactful. How they continue to write incredibly potent and important music is inspiring, with this show (and tour) being a celebration of the legacy they’ve created. Any time these bands play, it’s more than worth the time and hard earned cash to come out and take it all in.