There is no question that Poland’s Decapitated are a very different band to the one that formed way back in 1996. Although Waclaw ‘Vogg’ Kieltyka remains from the band’s formative years, the tragic accident that claimed the life of his younger brother (and respected drummer), Vitek, and incapacitated vocalist Adrian ‘Covan’ Kowanek placed the band on hiatus for two years just as their flame appeared to be burning brightest. The band’s return, with the excellent ‘Carnival is forever’ and its ferocious follow up ‘Blood Mantra’ very much reflected Vogg’s ascendency as the sole creative force in the band, but, with three years under the bridge and the new members firmly bedded in, ‘Anticult’ emerges as a more collaborative album with Michael Lysejko (drums) and Hubert Wiecek (bass) taking a much greater role in the creative process.
That Decapitated have maintained their place amidst the tech-metal elite despite the tragedies that have befallen them says much of the tenacity of the band (and Vogg in particular) and ‘Anticult’ sees the band maintain their place even as they spend more time exploring more atmospheric sounds. The wailing guitar and hypnotic introduction of ‘Impulse’, for example, owes a debt to latter-day Meshuggah before giving way to a more straight forward barrage of riffing guaranteed to get the adrenal glands pumping. The light and shade of the ambient elements suggest that Daniel Bergstrand (who produced the album) was allowed a hand in the crafting of the music and his dark production is brutally beautiful, allowing Rafal ‘Rasta’ Piotrowski’s vocals to shine amidst the waves of coruscating guitar. As the track ends in a trail of reverberating guitar, so the staccato riff of ‘Deathvaluation’ emerges, backed up by Michael’s propulsive drumming and yet never slipping to far from a subtle sense of melody that sees the band keep things memorable without a corresponding sacrifice of power. A mosh-pit-killing monster, ‘deathvaluation’ is a harrowing firestorm of ferocious riffs and unholy screams and ‘Kill the cult’ is no less scorching, the groove-infused riff that sees the song claw its way into existence custom-made for neck-snappers everywhere. However, for all the fire and fury, those ambient guitars continue to add an eerie sense of melody, barely audible and yet discernible nonetheless, and it is this that adds a layer of depth to an album that is otherwise as savage as they come. Given how heavy the opening salvo is, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Decapitated had nowhere further to go, only for the towering might of ‘one-eyed nation’ to prove you incontrovertibly one. As brutal, technical and ferocious as you could possibly wish, this is decapitated at their least forgiving and the ensuing sonic barrage is an album highlight.
The second half of this short album kicks off with the unforgiving ‘anger line’, the album’s most direct attack and yet, even here, a side slip into the more progressive realm of Meshuggah is somewhat inevitable. Impressively, the song clocks in at a mere 3:45 and yet, for all that it packs in plenty of shifts in mood and tempo, it never feels forced or rushed. The fast-paced ‘earth scar’ is a gleaming riff machine, the band placing pedal to the metal as Rasta spits out lyrics like a man possessed. Hints of Gojira emerge here amidst the mechanistic riffs and, again, it’s that sense of melody, implied rather than heard, that keeps the track memorable. At six minutes, ‘never’ is the album’s longest track and the band make full use of the expanded run time to explore a darker, more introspective sound on the introduction only for Michael’s monstrous barrage to rent the mood asunder, drawing the listener into a veritable tornado of hatred. The album concludes with ‘amen’, a hulking, mid-tempo piece that serves more as an outro piece to the album than as a stand-alone song. It brings the record as a whole to a well-thought-out close and demonstrates that Decapitated were thinking in terms of crafting a whole album and not just a collection of songs, an increasing rarity in this time of soundbites.
Taking the decision to continue Decapitated is not something that Vogg could have done lightly. To pay adequate tribute to his fallen brother, the band had to continue to grow and evolve, and that is precisely what Vogg and his bandmates have achieved. The progress that began with ‘Carnival is forever’ and ran neatly through the astonishingly good ‘Blood Mantra’ is continued here and the band continue to surprise with their innovative approach to extreme metal. Few bands can match Decapitated for sheer technical muscle, and yet it is the moments of calm that really help to bring this album into a class of its own. The band know the value of light and shade and, for all the savagery on offer, there are moments where the waters run still and deep, allowing just enough time for the listener to lose themselves before the next assault upon the senses. 9