Decapitated – Cancer Culture (Album Review)

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Corruption rages from within.

Widely heralded as one of the premier bands in revitalizing the death metal in the early 2000s, Poland tech death wizards Decapitated have never been an outfit to shy away from innovation. Having established themselves as one of the most insanely virtuosic folds in the business with their early millennial fits of mayhem Winds Of Creation and Nihility in spite of their extremely young age at the time, the years since have seen guitarist and founding member Vogg explore territory that one might consider in keeping with the times, though never to the point of abandoning the blend of unrelenting aggression and elite instrumental prowess that original made them a household name. It is within this context that their latest studio venture, the fittingly dubbed “Cancer Culture,” makes an excellent show of tapping influences from a diverse array of recent metal trends while avoiding the trap of abandoning the core sound that originally inspired the likes of Decrepit Birth and Soreption to take up the art.

Opting to continue the concise formula within which to contain their increasingly eclectic array of aggressive anthems, this album keeps things beneath the 40 minute mark, no small feat considering the massive amount of ideas that makeup each entry. Starting in storybook fashion, the opening prelude “From The Nothingness With Love” builds up a colossal level of tension with a droning military drum line and a repeating dissonant, Slayer-like melodic motive that is peppered with a correspondingly Kerry King-influenced series of chaotic guitar sounds before landing with a thudding blast on the title song “Cancer Culture”. True to form, this song splits the difference between the band’s chaotic earlier sound and the newer, Pantera meets Gojira groovy one and manages to be both unhinged and catchy at the same time. Similarly dualistic crushers like “Just A Cigarette” lean a bit heavier on the furious side of things while the dreary “Suicidal Space Programme” brings a more melodic and atmospheric gloss to the equation, but overall this album is a consistent mix of blaring brutality and a side order of other stuff.

For his part, newly acquired drummer James Stewart does an apt job of emulating the wild technical flair originally brought to the table by the dearly departed Vitek and his two prior successors, and veteran growler Rasta shines in keeping the Frank Mullen end up, but at the end of the day this album is a manifesto of guitar-centered brilliance. In what can be best described as a continuation of arguably the most auspicious variant of the death metal guitar solo, Vogg satiates with his riffs but utterly wows with his brilliant lead breaks. Chalk it up to a brilliant merger of Trey Azagthoth-styled chaotic shredding with the structuralism of Chuck Schuldiner and James Murphy, but the end result is something that could easily rival the expressive brilliance that Ralph Santolla took to Deicide while also trading blows with the sea of shred-obsessed modern tech death guitarists out there. One listen to the extended display adorning the jarring atmospheric beast “Hours As Battlegrounds” could easily dispel the idea that technical flash has to come at the expense of musicality.

Though by no means an afterthought, it is interesting to note that there is also a pair of auspicious guest vocal slots that play into the traditional meets modern flavor that this album exudes. Taking the microphone for part of the precision-based kill session “Hello Death” is none other than Jinger vocalist Tatiana Shmailyuk, who brings a pristine sense of melodic consonance to what is otherwise a heaping stream of dissonant riffs delivered in rapid succession. Likewise, the brief clean sung slot offered on “Iconoclast” by groove metal icon and Machine Head front man Robb Flynn offers an interesting metalcore-like contrast to what otherwise an exercise in unrelenting auditory carnage as only modern tech death can deliver. It’s basically the cherry on top of what is already a highly competent sundae, one that checks all the boxes for those who are long term fans of the band and also those who lean more towards the modern end of the death metal spectrum. It’s not quite the astounding technical fest that was “Organic Hallucinosis,” let alone the brilliance that preceded it, but it stands tall among their post-2009 reformation material.

Released By:  Nuclear Blast Records
Release Date: May 27th, 2022
Genre: Death Metal

“Cancer Culture” track listing:

1. From the Nothingness with Love
2. Cancer Culture
3. Just a Cigarette
4. No Cure
5. Hell Death
6. Iconoclast
7. Suicidal Space Programme
8. Locked
9. Hours as Battlegrounds
10. Last Supper

Decapitated is:

  • Wacław “Vogg” Kiełtyka / Guitars
  • Rafał “Rasta” Piotrowski  / Vocals
  • James Stewart  / Drums
  • Paweł Pasek  / Bass (live)

Order your copy of “Cancer Culture” here.

8.3 Great

Poland’s original tech death masters deliver a pummeling array of brutality, bridging the gap between the modern style’s melodic and groove-infused offshoots while maintaining their traditional formula of virtuosity at blinding speed and including a couple of prominent guest singers to boot

  • Songwriting 8
  • Musicianship 9
  • Originality 7.5
  • Production 8.5

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