Monday, August 21, 2017

review by Matt Spall: Decapitated

Our friend Matt Spall has never been a fan of Decapitated. The music has never impressed him as much as it has other people and the hype has not convinced him to become a fan. Why has Matt not thrown himself into the fandom of Decapitated? Maybe his thinking is too old-school? Maybe Decapitated hasn't had the songs to impress him in the first place? Maybe the hype was always just that, hype? Decapitated is an old band now. Once they were young and shiny, but life and death has thrown more than a few monkey wrenches their way. How does Matt see Decapitated now? Is it the same old stuff that has not impressed before? --MMB
Artist: Decapitated
Album Title: Anticult
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Date of Release: 7 July 2017
My relationship with Polish death metal band Decapitated could be best described as casual. I was struck in the early days by two things: the band’s youth and their proficiency. The proficiency was mind blowing, savage and suddenly, to many, here was a band which helped to breathe new life into the death metal scene.
And yet, since their inception in 1996, I have only really dabbled in and out of their offerings. I admired the talent and I own a few of their albums but I’d not refer to myself as a hardcore fan. In many ways, I think that this had something to do with the overt technicality which threatened to make their albums sound just a little too polished and perfect. Nevertheless, their name carries enough of a cache to force me to take notice when a new album arrives.
‘Anticult’ is the seventh album from Decapitated, which may seem a relatively low number for a career that has now spanned more than two decades. Mind you, given the disaster that befell the band in 2007, we should be grateful that Decapitated still exist. Indeed, in the months and years following the vehicle accident that sadly claimed the life of drummer Witold ‘Vitek’ Kiełtyka, one of two founding members and the brother of guitarist Wacław ‘Vogg’ Kiełtyka, the band took a well-understood hiatus.
It can often sound trite, but positive shoots can grow out of adversity. And if there is any proof in the truth of this platitude, it is here. ‘Anticult’ can quite possibly claim the accolade of being the best album of their career. This is an album that does everything that is required of death metal and does it fantastically well. It sounds vital and fresh, it sounds full of anger, full of hunger and it is brutal as hell. And, most importantly for a band that has historically sat within the more technical end of the death metal spectrum, it is razor-sharp and incisive.
Decapitated 2017 is comprised of vocalist Rafał Piotrowski, guitarist Wacław ‘Vogg’ Kiełtyka, bassist Hubert Wiecek and drummer Michal Lysejko. And whilst ‘Anticult’ retains some of the overt technical prowess, the likes of which we have become accustomed to over the years I can’t help but think as I listen to this record that the technicality has been dialled down a little from the early days. It might be my brain playing tricks on me, but I found myself being surprised initially by the looser and freer delivery that I hear on ‘Anticult’. It is something that is bound to divide their fanbase. Those that love the precision might be concerned and even upset by ‘Anticult’. But those who are slightly more open-minded and embrace a touch of change, might just feel similarly to me about this record. It is a monster.
The most positive thing that I can say about this album is the fact that I have found myself somewhat addicted to it. This happens with other genres of metal, but for me, it’s a rarity where death metal is concerned. With ‘Anticult’, I have listened to it with a frequency that initially surprised me but over the past week, I realised it’s because it is a damn fine record, with plenty to entertain and delight.
The songs themselves are utterly immense; they are certainly some of the most immediate and accessible of the band’s career. However, this does not mean that they have lost any of their aggression. There is groove upon groove to be heard, clever atmospheric interludes, uncomfortably dissonant soundscapes and a welcome injection of progressive ideas that has been built on from 2014’s ‘Blood Mantra’. And that’s not to mention the veritable cornucopia of little subtle embellishments that litter the eight tracks, many of which go under the radar for the first few spins.
Case in point – track one, ‘Impulse’. Opening with some unsettling quiet and brooding melodies, it soon explodes into a blitzkrieg of intensity overlaid by some mournful lead guitar melodies before settling into explosive riff after explosive riff. The rhythm section, it almost goes without saying, is tighter than a duck’s behind and so are the transitions within a song that lasts six minutes but which packs an album’s worth of ideas into it almost seemlessly. The grooves, the drama, the sense of violence, it all comes gushing forth in a well-measured torrent but in a way that makes perfect sense, thus creating one hell of an opening statement.
The rest of the album follows suit with a further seven expertly crafted tracks that have an unmistakeable vibrancy to them. They live and breathe in a manner that I don’t think I’ve ever heard from Decapitated before, whilst still sounding distinctive enough to know you’re listening to Decapitated…or at least to one of the best death metal units out there on the scene today. To pick out personal favourites feels a little unfair given the unbelievably high standard here throughout. Nevertheless, ‘Kill The Cult’ is probably has the biggest grooves and the cockiest swagger to it, whilst I love the drum solo intro to ‘Anger Line’ as well as the ensuing three-and-a-half-minutes of high tempo devastation. I also have to mention the stomping excellence of ‘Earth Scar’ with its extended guitar solos and where the vocals of Piotrowski call to mind Darkane, another firm favourite of mine.
But all-in-all, there is nothing less than brilliance to be heard throughout this highly impressive album. You tend to know when you are listening to something a little bit special and that is most definitely the case here with Decapitated and ‘Anticult’. If this doesn’t end up being the best pure death metal album of 2017, I will be thoroughly shocked.
The Score of Much Metal: 9.5
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