The Top 25 Modern Metal Frontmen

#24: Travis Ryan (Cattle Decapitation, Murder Construct)

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MetalSucks recently polled its staff to determine who are The Top 25 Modern Metal Frontmen, and after an incredible amount of arguing, name calling, and physical violence, we have finalized that list! Writers were asked to consider vocal ability, lyrics, and live presence when casting their votes; the only requirements to be eligible for the list were that the musician in question had to a) play metal (duh), b) be a frontman or woman (double-duh), and c) have recorded something AND performed live in the past five years. Today we continue our countdown with Travis Ryan of Cattle Decapitation and Murder Construct fame…

If we judged our metal front men on versatility alone, Cattle Decapitation/Murder Construct throat-abuser Travis Ryan would be a serious contender for the top spot. Listen to “A Living, Breathing Piece of Defecating Meat,” from CD’s 2012 stunner Monolith of Inhumanity. You’ll hear Ryan’s distinctive death metal growl, deep and sonorous, a ghoulish higher-pitched rasp, sputum-rich gargles and a strangulated melodic voice, the newest addition in Ryan’s arsenal. Ryan is metal’s answer to Sybil, a vocalist with as many distinct ways of horrifying a listener as there are ways to cook a pig. And speaking of pigs, he was pig-squealing before deathcore existed as a sub-genre.

The dude is a monster performer, a born owner of stages and maker of unpredictable faces. His onstage beer-spitting, eyeball-popping antics can be silly, but they come from a place of confidence – he has enough personality and charisma that he doesn’t need to project machismo to connect with a metal audience. That’s one of the many reasons he was a great choice for a cameo on the Death to All tour, reprising Evil Chuck’s role on “Living Monstrosity.”

Ryan’s also one of metal’s more versatile lyricists. The animal rights polemics of Cattle Decapitation’s first couple albums have left the completely false impression that he’s is a one-note writer, preaching a militant PETA agenda. Wrong. As he made clear in last year’s MetalSucks interview, Ryan’s had a wide range of interests since the beginning. If the ugly mix of misanthropy and sexual paraphilia splayed all over Monolith of Inhumanity’s lyrics sheet don’t convince you that Ryan’s got more on his mind than hailing seitan, his hateful lyrics for Murder Construct’s 2012 LP Results oughta prove that he’s equally anti-human as pro-animal. There’s venom aimed at the greedy and the ignorant, a bilious anti-religious screed or two, and in “Compelled by Mediocrity,” Ryan writes a deathless anti-deathcore anthem: “Your cookie cutting / Your imagery means nothing / Behind your 9-string, musically bluffing / Here comes your breakdown / King with a fake crown…We must demolish / This fucking turd you polished.” Zing!

That bitchslap of a line highlights another one of Ryan’s important qualities: he tells it like it is. Case in point, the recent feud between Ryan and Six Feet Under’s Chris Barnes. We may never know what exactly happened between the two of them at that infamous show, but Ryan sure came across as the sane one in the very public accounts each front man made in the aftermath. Barnes sounds patronizing; Ryan sounds totally reasonable. His greatest crime was giving a shit about how his band is treated on tour. Side note/spoiler alert: only one of the two ended up on this list.

It isn’t necessary for a great metal front man to behave like one of us. I’d argue that the best retain a bit of mystery and myth about them and can never be truly known. But Travis Ryan, like Phil Anselmo, is one of those front men who seems to love extreme music culture as much as he loves making music himself. He’ll gladly align himself with bands he’s not in, even bands that nobody knows, just because he believes in them. His guest spots on Cephalic Carnage, Nader Sadek and Devourment albums? Those make sense… they’re all as well-known or better-known than Cattle Decapitation, and the CC and Devourment dudes returned the favor on Monolith of Inhumanity. But what about his cameos on Bedlam of Cacophony’s Neuroleptic and Suntorn’s “Nature’s Inexorable Imperative?” They’re tiny local bands that do absolutely nothing for Ryan’s profile. But he still finds them worthy of helping out. And that’s fucking awesome.

Rad performer, rad songwriter, rad dude. Ryan deserves to be better known and better paid. And not to get any more stupid tofu jokes lobbed his way.

THE LIST SO FAR:

#25: Chino Moreno (Deftones)

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