The story of Polish extreme metal stalwarts Decapitated is not an easy one to swallow, but it’s one that makes this excellent band’s legacy all the more powerful and ultimately, proves that some of the best music is created out of strife and tragedy. With a near-perfect back catalogue that includes death metal classics such as Winds of Creation, Nihility and Organic Hallucinosis, Decapitated took a huge blow in November 2007 when a horrible auto accident killed the band’s original drummer extraordinaire and founding member, Witold “Vitek” Kiełtyka, and put the band’s vocalist at the time, Adrian “Covan” Kowanek, in a coma that he still remains in to this day. Founding guitarist and band mastermind Wacław “Vogg” Kiełtyka understandably put the band on hold soon after this tragedy occurred, and the future of Decapitated became uncertain. However, in 2011, Vogg assembled a new fireteam of death metal musicians, and Decapitated burst back onto the scene, revitalized and raring to destroy, and released the excellent Carnival Is Forever to critical acclaim. This album not only proved that Decapitated was still a force to be reckoned with, but it also stands as a proud example of the resilience of the human spirit. Now, three years later, this resilience carries on in the form of Blood Mantra, a very different album for Decapitated, but one that sees the band evolving naturally and reaching yet another creative high.
The album kicks off with the brooding “Exiled in Flesh”, which serves more as an intro track than anything else. It has nowhere near the same punch as “The Knife” did on Carnival Is Forever, which is slightly disappointing, especially as an opening track. but it may appease those who were hoping Decapitated would revert back to their Nihility days. This track and “The Blasphemous Psalm to the Dummy God Creation” are the closest Decapitated get to emulating their early discography on Blood Mantra, which may be misleading for some listeners. However, sticking around until the album’s contemplative instrumental closing track “Red Sun” is well worth your time, because Blood Mantra contains some of the best riffs and compositions that Vogg has ever written.
Decapitated have never been a band to write the same record twice, and it’s no different with Blood Mantra. There are hints of their discography sprinkled throughout, but Blood Mantra marks yet another new chapter in their ever-evolving legacy. This album feels like a spiritual successor to their 2006 masterpiece Organic Hallucinosis, especially on the jittery “Nest” or the bonus track “Moth Defect”, but again, it’s no mere rehash. The band toured with metal heavyweights Meshuggah and Lamb of God during their touring cycle for Carnival is Forever, and Blood Mantra makes it clear that this had an impact on Vogg’s writing style. A strong Meshuggah influence has been present in his compositions since Organic Hallucinosis, but Vogg explores a different side of this on Blood Mantra, most notably on “Blindness”, an entrancing, almost Tool-esque dirge that slithers along subtly until reaching a shockingly rhythmic and robotic crescendo. The title track is also a real highlight, showcasing arguably one of the best and grooviest riffs Vogg has ever written, and might be the closest we’ll ever get to hearing what Pantera might have sounded like if they were a death n’ roll band.
Simply put, Blood Mantra is a much more streamlined record than anything Decapitated have done before. New drummer Michał “Młody” Łysejko gives a great performance behind the kit, but it is much more pocket-oriented than anything Vitek or Krimh ever played. Vogg’s lead playing is as impressive and acrobatic as it’s ever been, but his sense of groove is where his true strength has always lied, and it’s more impeccable than ever on Blood Mantra. When Vogg finds that groove, he rides it for all it’s worth, and he is such an adept songwriter that even listening to him play a riff over and over again doesn’t get tiring; the title track or the damn-near danceable break that occurs two-thirds of the way through “Instinct” are prime examples of this.
Blood Mantra may end up being heralded as Decapitated’s most divisive moment, but it’s also their most mature. They may not be the same band they were seven years ago, but in spite of unspeakable pain, they have reclaimed their throne and emerged even stronger, and with Blood Mantra, Decapitated have crafted a fine masterpiece of modern death metal that Vitek and Covan would be proud of.
Decapitated’s Blood Mantra gets…