Decapitated – Blood Mantra
Release Date: September 26, 2014
A dark cloud looms over my house as I write this review. It’s monsoon season here in Bangalore, so dark clouds are not uncommon, but this particular one seems especially sinister. But what else can I expect when I have Decapitated blasting in the background, their music drawing out the evil from every nook and cranny of my room. The previous album Carnival Is Forever was without doubt a worthy continuation of the band’s discography and a stunning return for a band most feared was over. It was the first release following the tragic car accident that claimed the life of former drummer, Witold “Vitek” Kieltyka. The accident also rendered vocalist Adrian “Covan” Kowanek unable to perform with the band any longer. No one knows what might have been instead if fate hadn’t been so cruel toward the original lineup, but mastermind Waclaw “Vogg” Kieltyka found the strength to move on, and I was absolutely convinced that it was a great decision. Vogg is joined by vocalist Rafal “Rasta” Piotrowski, and Blood Mantra, the band’s sixth studio effort welcomes new members Pawel Pasek on bass and Michal Lysejko on drums.
The songwriting and musicianship on Blood Mantra is unequivocally worthy of praise. One cannot go wrong with ferocious songs like “Exiled in Flesh”, “The Blasphemous Psalm to the Dummy God Creation”, “Veins” or “Blood Mantra”. However, on the other side, there are also a few tracks towards the end of the album which surprise me completely. For instance the outro of “Blindness” and “Red Sun” show a different side of Decapitated. It seems like their intention was to start on an insanely brutal note, and end the album on a note where it leaves the listener a gut-wrenching, shuddering wreck.
There are many moments in the album that carry on Decapitated’s combination of technicality and murderous aggression. It is evident that they have flirted with various tempos, mixing death metal, grindcore and an almost outright black metal atmosphere together with more “crowd-pulling” beats verging on groovy, almost stoner-rock climates. One such example is “Blindness”, which reflects the atmospheric, progressive side of Decapitated. There are so many infectious grooves on tracks like “Nest”, “Instinct” and “Veins”. As a technical death metal fan, I don’t expect a band to go super crazy and mindfuck the listener with technical riffs. This is one reason why I have always appreciated Decapitated for maintaining a perfect balance between the extreme elements and the groove. I think that’s the best way to describe Blood Mantra.
After spinning the album a few times, I realized that there is just something about the precision attack of the compositions and the sheer viciousness of the delivery that took me back to the Nihility days. It makes Blood Mantra sound more like a classic Decapitated opus with a good amount of experimentation. Maybe some of it has to do with the mix of thick and gooey bass licks by Pasek and sickeningly crunchy guitars that producers Wojtek and Slawek Wieslawscy have skillfully captured in the Hertz studio. It could also be the furious pace or the lethal chord progressions of Vogg. Piotrowski’s powerful screams and distinctive deep growls sound very promising as well. He has definitely upped his game and is a much more experienced vocalist now compared to his work on Carnival Is Forever. Lysejko is a very skilled drummer and demonstrates skillfully how precise he can be with his musical ability, by working with Vogg to create a dense, progressive atmosphere.
To conclude, Blood Mantra is the heaviest and most mature album of Decapitated’s career so far. It is well worth the effort to sit down with it and to fully understand what it has to offer. This is an incredibly important album for Vogg and Decapitated, and I’m just glad he had the courage to try something new rather than resting on his laurels. I cannot wait to see them play these songs live, since the riffs are so deep and powerful. As I am done with this review, I can feel the darkness growing. I may not survive the night, but at least I go out listening to one of the best albums Decapitated has created. Blood Mantra is evidence that the combination of genuine anger, amazing skill, precision and execution will always result in the creation of excellent extreme metal music.