Decapitated – Cancer Culture
Released: May 27, 2022
Rafał “Rasta” Piotrowski // Vocals
Wacław “Vogg” Kiełtyka // Guitar
James Stewart // Drums
Paweł Pasek // Bass
A band whose history had been mired with tragedy, Poland’s Decapitated have become one of the most respected acts in death metal. Ever since the tragic transit accident in 2008 that claimed the life of drummer and founding member Witold “Vitek” Kieltyka and left vocalist Adrian “Covan” Kowanek with brain damage and full body paralysis, guitarist, fellow founding member and brother of Vitek, Wacław “Vogg” Kiełtyka has steadily helmed the Decapitated ship. One thing that has followed them around is the heavy burden of their excellent early material. Their first four albums are highly lauded for the complex yet grabbing output, but truth be told their last couple of records have seemed to be a little below par – good, but not amazing. Cancer Culture, the group’s newest and 8th full length, sees the four-piece firing on all cylinders and creating music worthy of their illustrious name.
Decapitated are one of the very few death metal troupes that seamlessly combine highly technical ability and head-bobbing groove. Even when the music is blisteringly fast, there are countless riffs and moments that elicit the classic ‘stank face’. Instrumental opener ‘From The Nothingness With Love’ sets the mood with military-like snare rolls and walls of harmonising guitars, before the title tune kicks down the doors. It’s instantly memorable, and amongst the best material the band has written in a long time, packing plenty of that signature groove amongst the blastbeats and ferocity.
‘Just A Cigarette’ is another excellent number, and one of the big highlights of LP. It’s charging opening is huge, and the fantastic bridge features even more dazzling playing, with a finger twisting riff moving into a melodic guitar solo. The middle section to ‘No Cure’, the record’s fourth track, has Cancer Culture’s first real restrained moment, bringing in an almost Meshuggah vibe with quietly reigned-in toms and spoken word vocal. In extreme metal it’s hard to include melodic aspects without weakening the overall vibe, but when Decapitated are at their peak they make it sound effortless.
It can’t be overstated – Vogg is undoubtedly one of the best guitarists in the current extreme metal scene. He is an ultra tight rhythm player, yet is also able to tastefully solo and create more melodic and ear grabbing passages. Cancer Culture marks the debut of drummer James Stewart. The UK player has filled in for Decapitated in a session capacity previously, and lent his talent to fellow extreme metallers Belphegor, Bloodshot Dawn, Skeletonwitch and fellow Polish wrecking crew Vader. His combination of speed and dynamic playing fits in his new employers perfectly.
Cancer Culture features two guest vocal spots – the throttling ‘Iconoclast’ includes Machine Head’s Robb Flynn in the bridge, and his emotive roars suit the track quite nicely. The single ‘Hello Death’ utilises the clean vocals of Jinjer frontwoman Tatiana Shmailyuk. Her voice is an interesting addition to the song – and a little divisive I’d say. Personally, this reviewer found her singing a little jarring and shoehorned, but Jinjer fans will more than likely think the opposite, and they do add an otherwise unused element on the release. Considering the rest of the album is basically an all-out assault, a highly melodic passage does break things up nicely. Speaking of singers, longtime frontman Rafał “Rasta” Piotrowski does a fine job – albeit nothing to really phone home about. His harsh roars fit in with aggressive music perfectly, but it’s telling that the two most noteworthy vocal sections belong to the aforementioned guest spots. Truth be told Rasta’s enunciation isn’t tremendous, and his delivery becomes monotonous. Again, not a poor effort, just a fairly unremarkable.
‘Suicide Space Program’ keeps bringing the heat, with a Dimebag Darrell inspired solo, before it segues into the manic, minute and a half long ‘Locked’. Cancer Culture’s production works perfectly, both muscular and real-sounding – you can tell that the performances were delivered by high-end musicians, not just cut-and-pasted in the studio. It’s that element that has routinely separated Decapitated from the rest of the pack – yes, they fall into the technical death metal category, but they are far from the overly polished, soulless music that the genre often falls in to. Closer ‘Last Supper’ is an excellent way to wrap up the record. The first half is all pace and power, but as it progresses it begins to get more melodic (in a dour way), and features a great guitar lead, before the album-opening military snares reappear again, acting as a nice coda. The final 18 seconds features another dive into blastbeats and general death metal insanity before the song concludes.
Cancer Culture is a tremendous comeback from Decapitated – certainly the most well rounded and consistent in over ten years. With guitarist Vogg’s recent addition to Machine Head’s lineup he, and his band’s, profile is bound to be raised even higher. So if this is your first exposure to Decapitated, then Cancer Culture will serves as a fantastic introduction to the Polish group. For older fans who maybe haven’t paid as much attention to them in recent years, get your act together and check out Cancer Culture.
Decapitated – Cancer Culture tracklisting:
1. From the Nothingness with Love
2. Cancer Culture
3. Just a Cigarette
4. No Cure
5. Hell Death
7. Suicidal Space Programme
9. Hours as Battlegrounds
10. Last Supper
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