With the new Cannibal Corpse album still ringing in my ears (and what a week for death metal this has been), I found it hard to believe that the new Decapitated album could have the same impact, but I should have known better because not only is ‘Blood Mantra’ the equal of ‘a skeletal domain’, it may well be the finest death metal release of the year. Put simply, ‘Blood mantra’ is an amazing, 46 minute ride through the gnarliest, dirtiest and yet most relentlessly precise death metal you could ever want to hear rendered in gut-wrenching clarity by Waclaw Vogg Kieltyka alongside Wojtek and Slawek Wieslawsey. Poland already has one hell of a death metal reputation thanks to bands like Virgin Snatch, Behemoth and Vader, but with ‘blood mantra’ Decapitated have wrenched the crown from the competition by crafting an album that is technically superior, hugely entertaining and crushingly heavy. It is a masterpiece of death metal firepower and utterly thrilling from first to last.
Rising from a brief hum of droning electronic noise, ‘Exiled in flesh’ immediately grabs the listener as the band engage in eastern chord progressions and Michal Lysejko hammers his kit into submission. Heavy as hell and yet with an innate sense of melody built from droning riffs, over it all Rafal Rasta Piotrowski unleashes a peerless vocal performance that is awash with confidence and power. It is a short, stunning opener, and the album does not let up for even a second from the opening riff onward. ‘The blasphemous psalm to the dummy god creation’, unwieldy title aside, tears savagely at the listener with a riff built from surgical steel, only for the band to strip the verse back to Michal’s unnervingly brilliant drumming and Pawel Pasek’s brutal bass work. It is a trick that gives the song a taut dynamic that serves to emphasise the horrific power of the guitar riff when it reappears, and it highlights the inventive nature of Decapitated, a band clearly hell bent on redefining the genre that spawned them. Heading into Slayer territory, ‘Veins’ recalls ‘exile’ with its crunchy riff and a vocal delivery that is more akin to a percussive assault than a human voice. With Vogg’s endlessly inventive guitar work writhing around the band’s formidable rhythm section, this is stunningly technical death metal delivered with fire and fury and it never sounds anything less than immense. Despite the album’s ferocious delivery, Decapitated have seemingly performed the impossible and made their music catchy as well crushingly heavy as the title track perfectly demonstrates. With guitar riffs and a brutal groove that sound like a mash up between Kataklysm and Opeth, ‘blood mantra’ is one of those death metal songs that you can listen to over and over again, and there is every chance that the track, like its parent album, will be revered as a classic of the genre in the future.
With its wailing leads and razor-sharp riffing, the lengthy ‘nest’ bristles with intensity and surprises with a number of twists, whilst ‘instinct’ leaps from the speakers with a rabid look in its eye and blood on its razor-sharp teeth, Vogg’s guitar work a thing of savage beauty as he tears into his fret board like a man possessed. Trading straightforward brutality for the epic, rhythmic power of tool, ‘blindness’ features a guitar line that bleeds over Michal’s thunderous percussion and the result is a track that underscores the diversity on offer despite managing to pack a ferocious punch. It is a testament to the band’s artistic growth that they’re able to move so deftly through the genre without once compromising the immense weight of their material and the closest I can come to a comparison is the sonc curveball that was ‘phone home’ in relation to the rest of Dillinger escape Plan’s epic ‘Miss machine’ album. The standard edition of the album concludes with ‘red sun’, a song that trades pace for weight with monstrous drone chords ringing out over an introduction that gives way to a Meshhugah-esque barrage of syncopated rhythms and awkwardly angular riffs. It is a crushing conclusion to an album that offers not a moment’s pause. For those buying the special edition, a bonus track in the shape of ‘Moth defect’ is offered which explores the more experimental nature of the band, opening with a subtly progressive riff, the band taking their time to ignite the touch paper and really let fly. The special edition also contains a short (twenty-seven minute) documentary (this seems to be increasingly common with Nuclear Blast titles) and comes in a typically handsome digi pack.
There really is no need for a lengthy conclusion here. Not only is ‘blood mantra’ the finest album Decapitated have put their name to, there is also a strong argument that it is the best death metal album of the year. Epic in scope, imaginative and amazingly memorable, this is an intelligent, effortlessly exciting release that you’ll want to have on repeat for days at a time. Utterly immense, ‘blood mantra’ is essential listening for anyone who claims to love metal.