Anticult‘s lead singles are both textbook examples of how late career albums tend to bisect veteran bands’ fan bases. On the more vocal side are evergreen Decapitated fans who tolerate just about anything a band does while aggressively dismissing any dissenting opinions; to quote directly from the comments: “Hate all the people comparing those tracks to the “old” Decap. Fuck, its a new constellation with a switched style, so get over it and enjoy or leave.” Then there are traditional Decapitated fans, at whom these types of comments are directed. In their view, everything since Carnival is Forever has embodied the steady decline of an integral architect of modern tech death, and fans who’ve embraced the band’s last few records are doing so solely because of the name attached to music they’d be otherwise indifferent about.
Despite this division, there is one general point of agreement among the “Organic Hallucinosis or bust” and “leave Vogg alone” crowds. No matter where you fall on the spectrum, it’s difficult to deny the fact that, for better or worse, Decapitated have lost interest in death metal. This shouldn’t come as shock to fans who’ve followed their discography; the band has always had a penchant for groove, and while Carnival is Forever and Blood Mantra were passable death metal records, it was abundantly clear that the band’s focus was beginning to drift elsewhere. While this in itself isn’t an issue, diehard fans in the aforementioned comments sections have been mischaracterizing traditionalists’ opinions to insinuate that the sole issue they have with Anticult is its abandonment of death metal. After all, if a band changes genres an does their new style justice, there’s nothing to complain about, right?
Except, this is actually the precise issue that plagues Anticult—its core sound is a poorly performed amalgamation of dated metal trends. As unfortunate as it is that the band’s dropped their signature tech death formula, this only exacerbates Anticult‘s primary struggle with unmemorable songwriting. One of the band’s greatest assets used to be their cohesion; every member was not only firing on all cylinders throughout every track, but their efforts locked in perfectly into a larger machine that managed to deliver brutal pummeling with finesse and intricacy. Unfortunately, modern day Decapitated operates entirely contrary to this formula, which comes across as four disinterested musicians performing the same song independently without any unified connection. Worse yet, no one in the band even pulls their own weight to compensate for this disconnected feeling. Michał Łysejko’s drumming is rigid and straightforward even considering the band’s simpler direction, and Vogg’s songwriting is a shadow of its former self. As if his sanitized, over-processed guitar tone didn’t neuter the album enough, each track is made up of nondescript, groove-oriented riffs; it feels like a a Lamb of God and Soulfly fanboy’s novice attempt at infusing 2000s-era metalcore with elements of alt-metal.
Unfortunately, this is more or less a summation of what Anticult‘s eight tracks have to offer, save for a couple of exceptions. Opening track “Impulse” is by far the strongest track on the album; despite paling in comparison to Decapitated’s older material, it’s a solid track in it’s own right that balances the death and groove elements of the band’s sound with a great opening riff and a dynamic song structure. The few moments where Łysejko and Vogg link up for a blast/riff combo tie the song together, and even the cliche LoG-style breakdown in the track’s midsection serves its purpose decently enough before launching into a death metal gallop. Though a seemingly strong starting point for the remainder of the album, the next enjoyable track doesn’t arrive until album closer “Amen,” a short, heavy outro that’s main positive quality is its respite from the six tracks in the album’s midsection.
With these bookends aside, all that’s left of Anticult are six formulaic songs largely comprised of the unsavory formula detailed above. Picking any one song to criticize is difficult—each track opens with a bland riff that thrashes about for a few minutes before Vogg’s inevitable guitar solo, which is held up by an even further simplified beat and rhythm guitar foundation that vaguely picks up before the track concludes. The only outlier is “Anger Line,” an unfortunate attempt at a straight-up death metal track that further encapsulates the band’s waning interest in the genre. Vogg’s lazy riffing feels completely out of sync with Łysejko’s drumming and devolves into a Middle Eastern-esque guitar solo, struggling blast beat and subdued chugging that gut any remaining momentum the track had.
Decapitated follows “Anger Line” with its own nail in the coffin, courtesy of a structural misstep that bands should always avoid. Instead of spreading out lead singles “Earth Scar” and “Never,” the band slaps them back to back on the album as the final two full-length tracks. Even setting aside the mediocrity of these two tracks, it’s never a smart move to couple two tracks fans have already heard before instead of dispersing them among new material. Unfortunately, Anticult is structured so that fans are already familiar with the album’s “grand finale,” which is then capped off by a decent enough outro with “Amen” that’s still not quite the send off such a subpar album needed. It’s a whimpering ending for an album that desperately needed to make more of a statement at some point during its runtime.
Even if we humor diehard Decapitated fans and examine Anticult in a vacuum, it’s still a mediocre-at-best album that shows the band struggling to define their voice in the latter half of their career. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be enough of a spark among the quartet nowadays; their stale and uninspired take on groove metal tropes is almost as disappointing as their total disinterest in crafting quality death metal. Now, of course, no album exists without context, which is precisely why Anticult is as bad as it is. While Carnival is Forever and Blood Mantra were decent continuations of the band’s sound, Anticult feels like an enormous betrayal of the band’s core identity, and it’s no surprise that their change from incredible tech death to below-average groove metal isn’t a great method of convincing long-time fans to stick around. Whether you want a better Decapitated record or a higher quality iteration of groove-oriented metal, there are several albums that will better serve your needs and allow you to avoid listening to a death metal legend plummeting to the bottom of the barrel.
Anticult is available 7/7 via Nuclear Blast and can be pre-ordered here.