Decapitated - Anticult album review

Polish death metal conquerors reach a new peak

Cover art for Decapitated - Anticult album

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The tragedy that befell Krosno’s Decapitated in 2007 has been well documented, but it’s the courage of guitarist Wacław ‘Vogg’ Kiełtyka to not only reform the band a couple of years later, but to continue to rip up the rulebook and forge an accomplished path straight through the heart of extreme metal that’s the real story. After all, this was a band whose first four albums not only brimmed with youthful passion and fierce invention that reignited the coals of a dormant genre, but whose revolutionary riffs throttled and inspired an entire new generation of bands across multiple scenes. Yet with adventurous comeback Carnival Is Forever and 2014’s monstrous Blood Mantra, Decapitated 2.0 have lived up to their legacy and written their own chapters in death metal’s weighty tome.

With the likes of the much-heralded Spheres Of Madness, The Negation, Day 69 and The Blasphemous Psalm To The Dummy God Creation, Vogg displayed a profound talent for crafting vicious riffs that buried serrated hooks deep in the consciousness, yet nothing prepares you for the seismic leap of Anticult’s indomitable grasp. Put simply, no one has made such technically incendiary riffs this damn irresistible since Robb Flynn and Phil Demmel conjured The Blackening to such acclaim. Nestled in among grandiose harmonies that open proceedings in extravagant style, Impulse swings and stabs along, punctuated by the rhythms of sticksman Michał Łysejko, whose beats tuck in neatly and accentuate every note, with the sparse blasts and double bass rolls having extra effect. While still meeting the criteria of death metal, Deathvaluation has a hard rock swagger and gritty groove embedded in its percussive punches that veer into a Kirk Hammett-inspired wah-wah lead, initially seeming absurd but registering emphatically due to the dark current that lurks beneath. The heads-down crunch of Kill This Cult wields an instantly recognisable lurching menace. Bassist Hubert Wieck steps up to the task of beefing up the rhythm as lead breaks scorch the sky, jostling with Rafał ‘Rasta’ Piotrowski’s mid-range snarls to become the lingering memory, the rabid lyrics succeeding in being comprehensible without losing any bite. Earth Scar flirts with clean vocals and mutates a classic metal run into a clattering finale, while Never slashes with glee as it hurtles along at blistering speed.

But while Vogg’s irresistible arsenal takes centre stage, the album is still drowned in a grand canvas of disorientating atmosphere, blistering ferocity and the fiendish ingenuity that has long garnered the band such praise. The uneasy One-Eyed Nation builds a wall of dissonance, before an echoey lead break and chaotic descent summon a blast of savagery, Anger Line distills the band’s entire discography into four minutes of razor-sharp delivery and the mournful Amen winds down the frantic celebration with a thick slab of burning melancholy. Decapitated have long been seen as the gateway band into more extreme realms, and Anticult holds them up as a serious successor to the likes of Pantera and Lamb Of God – a band who can draw new legions into the metal world as its new champions.

Adam Brennan

Rugby, Sean Bean and power ballad superfan Adam has been writing for Hammer since 2007, and has a bad habit of constructing sentences longer than most Dream Theater songs. Can usually be found cowering at the back of gigs in Bristol and Cardiff. Bruce Dickinson once called him a 'sad bastard'.