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cattle decapitationPhoto credit: Taija Lynn for Brooklyn Vegan.

Last Saturday I attended the California Blood Tour in San Francisco, featuring Son of Aurelius, Burning the Masses, Knights of the Abyss, Devourment, and Cattle Decapitation. I had mixed expectations of almost all the bands on the tour, but many of them ended up being proven wrong.

First up were Son of Aurelius (most of you probably know them by now, since we’ve done quite a few articles on them). They opened with a shreddy, breakdowny intro song that even incorporated power metal vocals, so I think a lot of the crowd were a little confused. But once the band started playing songs like “Myocardial Infarction” and “A Good Death”, the crowd warmed up to them, spawning some of the biggest pits of the first three bands. They definitely wowed me. Even though they had a different vocalist for this tour, he still performed admirably, and their mix was fantastic; both shredding solos and brutal breakdowns were perfectly audible. Great opening band for this tour.

Burning the Masses followed Son of Aurelius. I must say that I had very low expectations for this band after seeing them this summer on the “Over the Limit Tour”, on which they played almost entirely breakdown-filled songs interwoven with a little bit of shredding. But I was on the East Coast when I saw them, and Saturday’s show was on the West Coast. I’m pretty sure that BTM decided to update the material they played on the California Blood Tour, because there were very few breakdowns and only a couple that really annoyed me. Instead, Burning the Masses served up an excellent series of shreddy death metal pieces – not really deathcore – that I actually enjoyed. My expectations were far exceeded, and I now see that these guys really can be good.

After BTM came Knights of the Abyss, a band who had certainly endured a lot of this tour and who I also had relatively low opinions of. I didn’t really know much about KOTA, and I still don’t, but I pretty much expected them to be generic deathcore. I was again pleasantly surprised. They turned out to be pretty much metalcore without any singing. I never thought I’d say this, but I actually prefer metalcore to the hordes of shitty deathcore bands roaming around today. So while Knights of the Abyss didn’t wow me, they were pretty fun, and I didn’t dislike them at all. I do have to say that they ended their set very underwhelmingly, with a song that was essentially an entire breakdown. Meh. But overall, not too bad.

I swear an entire legion of gigantic bald guys came only to support Devourment. This was my first time seeing the band, and their first time in the Bay Area. Needless to say, it was a… life-defining experience. For those who haven’t been to Thee Parkside, it’s fucking tiny; crammed into a café-size pit while Devourment blasts out “Baby Killer” with way too many people, most of which were 2-3 times my size, is definitely not an everyday experience. Their mix was by far the grittiest of all the bands on the tour, blending Horse-Man’s massive bass drops with the sole guitarist’s gain-ridden breakdowns and frantic, chaotic blast beats. They made by far the craziest pits of the night. As you’ve probably noticed, I’m generally opposed to breakdowns, but with Devourment, there’s a kind of infectious and disgusting feeling that penetrates me to my core and made Devourment one of the night’s highlights.

After that, a lot of people cleared out, but there were still plenty left for headliners Cattle Decapitation. Unfortunately the band had some technical difficulties at the start: the kick drum was completely inaudible for a while and I think there were some issues with the samples. It didn’t help that a few of the crowd members were being obnoxiously drunk, taking pictures of literally everything and ranting about the Giants or complaining about Travis talking too much about the band’s history. Really? When the frontman of a band tells you that a song came off a 2001 release, do you have to say “Thanks for the history lesson?” I felt really bad for the band.
But despite technical difficulties and annoying audience members, Cattle Decap put on a great performance. They opened with “The Gardeners of Eden,” one of my personal favorites, and went straight into “A Body Farm” without a second to spare. In fact, the band played a LOT of material off “The Harvest Floor,” including the previous two mentioned, “The Ripe Beneath the Rind,” “Regret and the Grave,” and even the title track. They threw in old favorites as well – “I Eat Your Skin” was a highlight for me. And although they had issues with the samples at the beginning of the night, once said samples got fixed they were awesome. Travis Ryan threw in some truly amazing screams while the squeals of farm animals rang out in the background. Even with only one guitarist, everything was spot on.

So even the band that I had the lowest expectations for proved me wrong and managed to make me enjoy their music. And all the bands I expected to do well exceeded my expectations. For me, Cattle Decapitation were the best of everyone that night, but they were truly underappreciated by everyone else. Unfortunately, there aren’t any dates left on the tour, but I hope that everyone else who managed to see the California Blood Tour shares at least some of my sentiments.


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