Decapitated‘s career has encompassed major ups and huge downs, including the tragic death of original drummer and founding member Witold “Vitek” Kieltyka. Kieltyka was only 23 years old when he passed away due to serious head injuries caused by a severe accident that involved Decapitated’s tour bus and a large transport truck carrying wood on the border of Russia and Belarus on October 29th, 2007. This event would forever alter the lives of the surviving members of the band and for a short time seemed like it was the end of the Polish death metal masters.
After a six month hiatus, however, the band was reorganized and produced the crushing Carnival is Forever. The tale is tragic and the details are both graphic and unfortunate, however, Decapitated persevered and their determination and drive to continue is unquestionable. Fans of the bands last couple of records will no doubt be pleased with Anticult, a hard hitting album that finds the band taking a little bit of inspiration from rock’n’roll and, dare I say it, nu-metal leanings.
Really, this shouldn’t come as a surprise to any long time fan of the band. For those of you reading this who haven’t followed their career through the years it may not be obvious but this band started out as a much more brutal act. Through the years they have tweaked their songwriting and technical leanings and seemingly became more easily digestible. I am unsure if this is a concentrated effort by founding member Waclaw “Vogg” Kieltyka (older brother of deceased drummer Vitek).
In fact, the last two records (the post-accident albums) seem to have had a similar feel, but played with a radically different approach. It’s definitely death metal, but it just has so much “radio-friendly” riffing, or at the very least more commercial sounding material sprinkled throughout the playtime. I feel that this has been a path that Decapitated has been taking the last few albums. There are searing solos and impressive rhythm work from all members of the band and their vocalist is distinct and has a nice mid-tone range, allowing for some additional clarity, but the overall tone is just not as heavy as older material in their catalogue.
Opening track “Impulse” starts out with some very nu-metal or hard rock style sounding effects-laden clean guitars. It’s not jarring so much as boring or expected. The song soon tears right into head-ripping riffs and crushing drum work but the intro is a bit “off” for my tastes. Please don’t think that this album contains clean vocals or whiney singing in any severe degree when I make mention of nu-metal moments and a more rock’n’roll vibe. Decapitated do not go the clean vocals route; they stick to their death metal roots in this respect and it’s a good thing because their vocals are abrasive yet ungarbled.
This album is full of many great riffs that you probably wouldn’t hear anyone else write anything comparable too. At times I am reminded of their masterpiece Organic Hallucinosis, my favourite selection from their catalogue and still a classic in the domain of technical death metal records to this day. There are odd time signatures all over standout tracks like “One-Eyed Nation” and “Anger Line”, strange mathy segments that play with your sense of expectation by bending the rules of rhythm and dynamics. The album’s most serious problem may be that it has too many moments like the intro to “Never” with its clean phased arpeggiation that just seems oddly out of place and unnecessary.
Anticult closes out with the brooding track “Amen”, a slow burner of a sludge song that runs almost three minutes and doesn’t get stale. It is a fairly simple set of riffs and yet it holds my attention, proof that not every song has to be crammed full of dazzling fretwork and scorching leads or fretless bass slides and non-stop blastbeats. I’m fairly certain fans of Decapitated won’t be let down with this offering and yet I also feel assured that fans of the most extreme death metal and the heaviest of the heavy may not really find this album satisfying the way that pre-2007 Decapitated is. Not a record I would say to stay away from but not one that I can get behind and claim is a must hear or must buy album.