Almost twenty years together, Polish death-tech legends DECAPITATED take their time in delivering new product to their rabid fans. Only their sixth full-length, "Blood Mantra" is a prime example of substance versus quantity. Even with a mere eight songs on it, "Blood Mantra" accomplishes more in one sitting than some death metal bands need three albums to achieve.
DECAPITATED's proficiency has always been one of their biggest assets, but on "Blood Mantra", the band reportedly went back to the explorative mindset of 2006's "Organic Hallucinosis". If anything, "Blood Mantra" captures the essence of its predecessor, then takes a huge evolutionary step forward as DECAPITATED mingles numerous theories to produce a volatile and wildly entertaining record.
They make you wait for it a few rounds on "Exiled in Flesh". Waclaw "Vogg" Kieltyka's shredding guitar lines alone are heavy enough, but then DECAPITATED hits the blast button and sends the song onto a blazing path. The rest of "Exiled in Flesh" is dealt by new drummer Michal Lysejko in mostly two measures, grind and thrash, before everything fades into a droning cascade. After that, "The Blasphemous Psalm to the Dummy God Creation" flares along for 2:31, again switching between blast measures and restrained, though no less extreme thrash punches. Kieltyka's guitar and Pawel Pasek's bass on both songs swarm gracefully overtop the cataclysmic debauchery beneath them.
The chuffing riffs and moshing tempo serving up "Veins" will summon pit churns and here is where DECAPITATED largely stays, sending the song into a fun dance of the damned where brushing strokes merge with down-picked spools. A decorative melody emits during a tone-drenched bridge and subsequent breakdown. For music this extreme, there's a serious verve to it all. As much as this band likes to impress by their velocity (spiking things to jackhammer speed by song's end), they doubly impress with their punctuated musicianship and tendency to rock out as they do on "Veins".
This trend continues on the banged-up title track, one guaranteed to snap necks and keep the whirlpool flowing on the floor. At 5:06, there's more groove than embellishment and transition going on here (albeit, there are a few turns taken in the second half of the song), which makes the explosive thrash hurled into the final minute much more spectacular. It's savvy songwriting you just can't teach to your average death metal act.
As "Nest" rolls on for 6:26, it's this dedication toward groove that keeps the song interesting. DECAPITATED stitches their sicko riffs in front of a churning guitar melody and keeps the method up longer than most bands today would. Thank God for that, because the steady crunch of the song makes the out-of-nowhere glide into a gorgeous harmony on the bridge appealing, even more so once Waclaw Kieltyka hits an equally attractive solo. As impressive as anything DECAPITATED has ever performed, this is how you effectively marry beauty and the beast in death metal.
Reserving their fullest chops for the hyperactive "Instinct", DECAPITATED goes berserk instrumentally for a minute-and-a-half before pulling much of the guitars away, flirting with bare whispers behind the continuous beat pounding on the verses, then blaring them at full volume. As fast as "Instinct" goes for most of the way, every time the guitars and bass hit their strides, they smother you before the song hits a few signature volleys. At that point, the riffs march along with a slower tempo and hits a striking concord in mid-stride.
The 7:38 "Blindness" again makes the listener wait with rolling, patient guitar lines and a riveting rhythm. Even when Rafal "Rasta" Piotrowski's bear vocals emerge, DECAPITATED continues the same pattern, layering things in repeat. Whenever you think this song is about to erupt in speed, it doesn't, and that's crafty showmanship. "Blindness" stays on a hypnotic lull, constantly baiting and tiding over with a guitar solo that winds along with the rest of the song. For lesser bands, this gambit wouldn't pay off, but DECAPITATED hardly loses their urgency on this cut. If anything, they give a protracted tease that still satiates.
If you're expecting a blistering closing statement with the instrumental "Red Sun", forget it, but by this time, DECAPITATED has already delivered a masterful set of songs that are plenty enough to chew on. "Blood Mantra" is perhaps the most poised and gutsy album DECAPITATED's yet delivered and its courageous bends make it a turbulent but pleasurable ride.