Travis “The Virus” Helton is a friend of mine who’s the vocalist and guitarist in a three-man Seattle death metal group named Carnotaurus. I’ve talked with him about the band numerous times and listened to some of the band’s early recordings (when “the band” was just Travis and a drum machine), but had never made it to one of their gigs until last night. They played at Seattle’s 2 Bit Saloon (a very cool place, btw), and I showed up along with a group of other mutual friends of Travis and mine.
To be honest, I was a little nervous. Travis is a wonderful person and a walking encyclopedia when it comes to metal, but what if his band turned out not to be very good? I mean, I’m not a very good liar, except when I’m making up stories about the NCS loris horde. What would I say if the music proved to be disappointing?
Well, thankfully, I needn’t have worried, because I had a fuckin’ blast listening to Carnotaurus. In fact, I liked them so much I thought their show deserved this post. Also, my confounding camera decided to play nice with me for a change and I got some decent pics of the venue and the Carnotaurus set. I’m including some of those at the end of this review.
In a nutshell, Carnotaurus sound like a full-throttle battle tank. I don’t mean one of those slick, modern-day, high-tech M1’s that cost about $5 million a copy. I’m talking about something from the last World War that has somehow survived the decades while remaining just as destructive as ever — loud, heavy, rusted-out, belching noxious fumes, scattering metal shards, throwing pistons and treads, and just crushing everything in its path.
Carnotaurus inflict their decimation at high speed and high distortion, spewing radioactive static along with brutal blizzards of riffs and high-caliber percussion. It’s an onslaught of barely controlled mayhem, with high energy and bludgeoning force, but with some meaty grooves and bursts of jet-fueled soloing that explode and go crazy. And in addition to being a fleet-fingered guitarist who can bring the shred, it turns out that Travis is a bestial vocalist, too.
As fast and technically demanding as the music is, it isn’t some kind of modern-day tech-death. It’s got more of a no-bullshit, old-school flavor, in the vein of Cannibal Corpse and Hate Eternal, with a healthy injection of thrash.
So, yeah, I’m a believer now. And I’m really looking forward to the new Carnotaurus EP, which has been recorded by Travis and his bandmates Brad Navratil (drums) and Jason Stephenson (bass) and now awaits mixing and mastering. If these guys can bring it in the studio like they bring it on stage, it should be some badass fun.
You can find Carnotaurus on Facebook here. For NCS readers in Seattle who dig death metal, I’d encourage you to check out this band the next time they play in the area. And here’s a Bandcamp link for the first Carnotaurus EP, which is now a couple years old and was recorded before Brad and Jason joined the band:
Now, here are those pics. You might recognize the shirt Travis is wearing. The man has good taste in clothing.