The opening track on Decapitated’s new album, Anticult, has an ominous voice to it. The clean guitar motif feels dangerous, as if warning in a language unfamiliar that the world before us will soon not be the same. Certainly, trail-blazing masterpiece “Impulse” is the harbinger of change. The ceaseless assault of riffs, drums, bass, and vocals—expertly delivered by guitarist Waclaw ‘Vogg’ Kieltyka, drummer Michal Lysejko, bassist Hubert Wiecek, and vocalist Rafał ‘Rasta’ Piotrowski—is unlike anything before it. But “Impulse” is more than the sum of its parts. Between Vogg’s monstrous volleys and Rasta’s brutal existentialist barks, there’s something else in the mix. Not just Decapitated’s penchant for building tension by continually winding up and layering upon themes either. That’s a trademark harkening all the back to 2000’s classically-inspired Winds of Creation full-length. On “Impulse” (and definitely throughout the rest of Anticult), Decapitated weave in thrusts of brightness. Turns out, Anticult was designed—with an almost devil may care attitude—that way from the start.
“One of our [songwriting] goals was to not think too much,” Vogg reveals. “We said it ourselves, ‘Hey, it’s only music, so let’s not make the writing process torturous.’ If a riff sounds good, then we left it. Also, a lot of the solo parts were taken from first takes, the first ideas I had when jamming on my laptop. We weren’t afraid of leaving things like first takes on the album. I mean, Anticult sounds like Decapitated from the first to the last song, and that, for me, is very cool. It means that we have our own sound and own style.”
Since they formed the band—and signed a record deal or two—as teenagers in 1996, Vogg and team have always looked at their music pragmatically. It can always be bettered. It can forever be topped. They will always be able to best songs like “Winds of Creation”, “Day 69”, and, of course, “Spheres of Madness”. Check out “Deathvaluation” and, especially, “Earth Scar”! Every album, from Winds of Creation to 2014’s unstoppable Blood Mantra, is a learning experience, a stepping stone. Anticult is no different. Written with time not tempo in mind—Vogg thinks metal albums shouldn’t exceed a 40-minute runtime—Decapitated’s sixth full-length focuses on compactness, where the next killer riff or drum pattern is always around the proverbial corner.
“[Another] goal was to do shorter album,” says Vogg. “We didn’t want to waste time. The songs are more compressed and a better listen. Fans don’t need to wait too long for the next riff. That’s why it’s a cool listen. That’s why the arrangements on Anticult are better than the last time. The hardest thing, in my opinion, was keeping a good tempo. Before, songs were too fast and they lost the groove. Now, it’s different. We have lots of slow parts that have the perfect groove. I’m sure they’re going to kill when we play live.”
While Blood Mantra may’ve taken Decapitated all over the world, exposed hordes of new fans to the Poles, and opened a few new doors, the Krosno-based quartet are confident Anticult will raise their profile even more, allowing Decapitated to tour with just about anybody. It’s got the songs. Tracks like “Impulse”, “One Eye Nation”, and “Never” are guaranteed to hook fans from any genre of metal. Which is why Vogg, at this stage in Decapitated’s near two-decade lifespan, isn’t shying away from new musical horizons.
“It’s not pure death metal anymore,” he admits. “Right now, Decapitated’s music is a mixture of musical ideas that is really hard to describe. We connected death, thrash, rock ‘n’ roll, even black metal, and atmospheric parts together. All this makes Decapitated unique. I love to listen to all kinds of metal and all kinds of music in general. It will be so hard for me to make a pure death metal album now. And I think it would be a little boring.”
Even though the songwriting process isn’t something Vogg reveres—he’s also father of two, so his axe-slaying time is limited—it’s a task he’s grown to appreciate over the years. As with 2011’s lauded Carnival Is Forever and Blood Mantra, so too with Anticult. It all started with a riff. From there, Vogg and team would revise and retool it until they had a framework of a song. Repeat over three years and, out of the dark of nothing, is a full-length. The addition of bassist Hubert Więcek (Banisher), who officially replaced Paweł Pasek in 2016, has only empowered and emboldened Decapitated to write the best songs possible.
“Hubert is a very talented musician and a metalhead 100 percent,” grins Vogg. “He brings skills and huge potential for Decapitated. He’s also very funny. Normally, he’s a guitar player (in Banisher). But his bass parts for Anticult sound awesome. He’s also a gearhead, which makes him very useful when we’re on tour. And, finally, he was a big fan, so getting him onboard was pretty easy.”
If Anticult sounds incredible, well, it’s because Decapitated took great care throughout the process. The drums were recorded—without triggers—over eight days at Custom34 Studios in Gdansk. The guitars, bass, and vocals were tracked for five weeks at ZED Studios in Chechło. And the mixing and mastering were completed over a two-week span at Dugout Studios in Uppsala, Sweden with Daniel Bergstrand (Meshuggah, In Flames) and Lawrence Mackrory (Firespawn, Nightrage), respectively.
“It was different because we worked with some new people for the first time,” Vogg says. “It was very interesting to watch them work. We learned a lot, again. We discovered new places to record, which was amazing. The drums went much better and faster this time than on Blood Mantra. Custom34 Studios is an unbelievable place. They have everything we can imagine in a studio. An amazing room for drums, huge with amazing sound. Daniel couldn’t believe that this place was so great. Guitar, bass, and vocal sessions went well, too. We did stress out a little because Rasta had problems with his throat. When we recorded his vocals it was winter. And it was freezing. Rasta was recording right up to last day.”
Thematically and lyrically, Anticult deals with the abstract of who and what we, as humans, are. Conceived and written by Rasta, it’s existentialism at its finest. “Deathvaluation”, “Kill the Cult”, and “Anger Line” deal with the destructive qualities of humanity. The lyrics discuss, as Rasta says, “the hourglass of life.” As for the title, Anticult, it posits a world where everything has input in our lives. The forces of modern society have an impact on everything we perceive and do. The idea behind it is to rage against the so-called machine. To be an individual. And to stand up for yourself and define your own code. Clearly, the Poles have learned a lot from the complexities of life—Decapitated suffered superlatively when they lost Vogg’s younger brother Witold ‘Vitek’ Kiełtyka in a bus accident while on tour in 2007—and Anticult yet again questions if we are merely the product of our environment.
“You can find ‘cults’ everywhere and in everything we do,” explains Vogg. “Anticult, from one point of view, is a rage against all this values. An impulse. It makes you think: ‘What kind of world do we live in? Who or what pulls the strings? And what is our role here?’ So think of the title as finding your own ‘cult’. In that regard, Anticult is, from another point of view, about illumination. Or Noesis.”
As for what’s next for Decapitated, it’s readying for the release of Anticult—their third full-length for Nuclear Blast—as well as preparing for the road ahead. The Poles have plans to visit countries, cities, and towns they’ve never played in before, in fact. Together with Anticult, they’re sure as fire is hot that 2017 and beyond are not only going to rule but be remembered fondly. Refuse, resist, and reinvent. That’s a motto Decapitated can stand behind.
“We put lots of time and energy to make this album sound like it does,” Vogg offers. “I hope people will love it, too. I sure this album will not disappoint old and new Decapitated fans. There is something for all of them. I really can’t wait to get on tour again. I want to play Anticult songs to everyone.”
1 - Impulse
2 - Deathvaluation
3 - Kill The Cult
4 - One-Eyed Nation
5 - Anger Line
6 - Earth Scar
7 - Never
8 - Amen