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Originally, this stop in Chicago of the Cattle Decapitation-headling tour was to feature Author & Punisher and Full of Hell. Unfortunately, the former had transportation issues and the latter had gear theft. This is a gargantuan bummer, of course (and it's heartwarming to see that Full of Hell's fundraiser went well very quickly), but setbacks like these should never ruin a night of metal magic. Chicago is home to incredible heavy talent from across the spectrum; luckily, the mind-benders of Gigan and neck-snappers of Immortal Bird were available to fill in the absences. And so it was, and it was indeed great in all the ways you'd expect such a diverse lineup, also featuring Vitriol and Atheist, to deliver. Below are thoughts and images from the night.

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Cattle Decapitation

What else is there to say about Cattle Decapitation other than that, well, this was once a band not to be taken too seriously but now are to be taken very seriously. And I don't mean that statement in a bad way: albums like To Serve Man and Humanure are righteous in all the right ways. But ever since Monolith of Inhumanity, and then the introduction of those "goblin vocals" in The Anthropocene Extinction, Cattle Decapitation has become sort-of… super-professional. Now, with Death Atlas, released just a few weeks ago, it's 100% proven: whereas old Cattle Decapitation was great, new Cattle Decapitation is even greater. For a band with such lineage and pedigree to keep amping up the knobs like this is no small feat. On stage, they fucking slayed; a perfect performance, and yes, the goblin vocals ring true and clear and album-worthy in the live environment.

Bonus: read Langdon Hickman's full review of Death Atlas.

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Atheist

Atheist may be an old(er) name, but do not make the mistake of thinking this band is just a piecemeal reassemblage of some older, once-famous parts into something half-functional. On stage, Atheist might just be one of the tightest-performing metal bands in active rounds today. Despite not having new full-length material in nearly a decade, all of the songs rendered on stage felt hyper-modern and, especially notably, totally eviscerating. You could tell by the band's stage presence that this wasn't a first rodeo for any of them; that said, their performance was sporadic and in-the-moment for each second of time they vaporized into dust.

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Vitriol

Holy fuckin' smokes, Vitriol smokes. It's hard to fathom how long it takes to become not only this good at your instrument, but this good as a band featuring such incredible musicians. Those thoughts were quickly set aside as Vitriol's hyper-mesmerizing array of tech-death-that-doesn't-sound-like-tech-death assaulted a packed house. It wouldn't surprise me if the band played more notes during their one set than all the other bands combined; quantitativeness aside, what really matters with Vitriol is the surefire quality of both their delivery and technique. This is a band whose music leaves you mouth-agape, but so does the visual element itself: impossible guitar/bass calisthenics, impossible drumming speed, and vocals to tear holes in spacetime.

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Gigan

I love Gigan's indisputable headiness, the band's ability to remain subtle despite so hard-hitting in terms of transporting your brain to another realm entirely. Gigan isn't a "weird" band, but they play alien-feeling music which feels inspired by unknown entities in other dimensions. On stage, their command of the floorspace and airspace is almighty: from slow, undulating, churning waves of contorted notes to raw explosions of manic energy, seeing Gigan is like watching every action movie of the last ten years on ludicrous-speed fast-forward.

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Immortal Bird

Immortal Bird is a semi-recent signing to 20 Buck Spin, a label with a history of signing pretty damn good bands, and their second full-length Thrive on Neglect earlier this year splashed up some waves with its no-shits-given attitude and subtly complex songwriting and structure. What really impressed me, personally, about the album was how it captures the band's engrossing live performance -- all of its sweaty, cinematic drama -- without destroying the fine details which really make Immortal Bird a great band, not just a good one. And as the opener to one hell of a show, the band climbed perhaps the highest hurdle of the night, stirring up the crowd with as much energy as any of the other bands to follow.

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Remaining tour dates below:
Dec. 10 — Albuquerque, N.M. @ El Rey Theater
Dec. 11 — Mesa, Ariz. @ Club Red
Dec. 12 — Los Angeles, Calif. @ Decibel Pre-Party @ The Regent
Dec. 13 — Las Vegas, Nev. @ Fremont Country Club
Dec. 14 — Fresno, Calif. @ Strummers
Dec. 15 — Berkeley, Calif. @ UC Theatre
Dec. 17 — Seattle, Wash. @ The Showbox
Dec. 18 — Portland, Ore. @ Bossanova Ballroom
Dec. 19 — Sacramento, Calif. @ Holy Diver
Dec. 20 — Pomona, Calif. @ The Glass House
Dec. 22 — San Diego, Calif. @ Brick By Brick

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