In a world of overproduced, uninspired, overly long (and frankly boring) death metal albums, Decapitated have proved their command of the genre once again by delivering Anticult; a fresh, exciting, and aggressive piece of death metal excellence that keeps things exciting and doesn’t overstay its welcome, but unfortunately doesn’t stray far outside its comfort zone.
Since their inception in 1996, Decapitated have commanded considerable respect in the technical death metal arena; I’m pretty sure nearly everyone with any interest in the genre whatsoever has at some point listened to “Spheres of Madness” (and probably more than once!). Decapitated‘s style has evolved significantly through the years, but has always been the gold standard for excellent death metal, and I am glad to report that things are mostly unchanged. Decapitated have managed to avoid many of the pitfalls of the genre, and don’t feel any need to conform to many of the cliches of death metal (perhaps with the exception of blast beats).
Thanks to a move away from the overly clinical production styles which have come to characterize a lot of modern metal, Anticult enjoys an aggressive and almost raucous sound which is definitely a breath of fresh air. The slightly dirtier production doesn’t detract anything from the listenability of the record – guitars and drums are still clear and understandable – but gives the record a slightly more classic feel. None of the music sounds like it’s written to fit death metal genre conventions (and in fact – borrows from thrash metal more than once), but feels more like it just happens to fall into place naturally. The result is an album that sounds organically and intrinsically death metal, but still feels different from a lot of other bands in the genre. This is something of a combination of the less-growly-more-shouty vocals, employed by Rafał ‘Rasta’ Piotrowski, the band’s decision to eschew triggers when recording drum, and the distorted yet mostly clear guitar tone. The bass also sits high in the mix (though not as high as the likes of Obscura), which adds a bit of groove and texture to the album.
The feel as a whole is more melodic than you might expect, with lead guitar providing enough over-arching melody to give each of the songs on Anticult a different and compelling atmosphere for the drums and rhythm guitar to drive forward. There’s no shortage of riffs either, with songs like ‘Kill The Cult’ and ‘Earth Scar’ containing a veritable banquet of tasty riffs for the listener to feast on. Beyond the guitar work, the drumming throughout the album is also dynamic and keeps things fresh, and is enhanced greatly by the decision to use a “real” recording of the drums instead of samples and triggers. Everything sounds as it naturally should, without too much interference from either the pressures of the genre, or a desire to add gimmicky sound effects and samples.
One notable thing about Anticult is its length: coming in at a grand total of 37 minutes, this is on the short side, but ensures that everything sounds fresh and doesn’t give the listener a chance to get bored. It would have been nice if this philosophy was applied to the songs themselves though, not just the album; some tracks like “Never” are a bit too long in my opinion, and whilst each track has its own feel, there isn’t always lots of variety within them. More worryingly, the differences between tracks seem a bit superficial. It’s hard to name a standout song from Anticult because a lot of them re-use similar elements; nothing really jumps out at me. They don’t all sound the same by any stretch, but I didn’t get the impression that they were really that different either. That’s not bad per se, it’s all pretty good, but if you don’t like the first song on the album, chances are you won’t like the rest either.
If you like technical death metal, you will like Anticult, and it’s different enough from a lot of the other albums in the genre that it will keep you entertained throughout, but it’s a little hard to pick out just which songs stand out. Anticult is almost a victim of its own success; it’s consistently good, but at the cost of being a truly standout album.
Notable Tracks: “Earth Scar”, “Kill The Cult”
FFO: Psycroptic, Hour of Penance