Decapitated Continue Perpetually Resurrecting Themselves on Blood Mantra

  • Sammy O'Hagar

Decapitated are now entering their second act in earnest. They’ve come back from the bus accident, put out an excellent comeback record, and endured even more calamity in their Kennedy-esque cursed existence. They can move forward from this point judged on their own merits without worrying about satisfying some sort of narrative. Decapitated are a functioning unit independent of elevated expectations; the only thing they have to do is be as great as one could rightfully assume they would be. After all, before 2007, they were quietly one of the best and most consistent bands in death metal (if not metal as a whole). You wouldn’t be wrong in assuming that Decapitated were a band who could reliably put out something pretty damn stellar. So now that they’re forging ahead, is their streak of excellence going to continue?

According to Blood Mantra, not really. That’s OK, though: what it lacks in the emotional heft or impeccable tech-death of their past it makes up for by being a whole lot of fucking fun. It’s sure to piss off purists (and rightfully so), but for the rest of us, Blood Mantra is full of ingenious grooves and Vogg’s chunky, odd-time signatured brilliance. Blood Mantra isn’t as essential as what the band have done before, but it’s still Decapitated. And fittingly, it’s well-worth getting into.

While the groovy direction the band took on Organic Hallucinosis didn’t sit well with the longhairs jerking off to Nihility, it sure as shit hasn’t been without merit. The first two songs on Blood Mantra immediately throw a bone to those die-hards: the fierce and winding “Exiled in Flesh” and the relentless “The Blasphemous Psalm to the Dummy God of Creation” are a liberal nod to their tech-death past. But from there, it gets weird: the opening to “Veins” is so simplistic that it bears more resemblance to Slipknot than Vader. The title track is rooted in a jaunty two-step (no, really). Both get suitably heavy eventually, but even for the band that minted the notion of combining Meshuggah with Polish death metal, the experiments don’t necessarily pay off.

“Nest” and “Instinct” follow a similar so-so pattern, until “Instinct” drops a comically heavy riff in 2/3 of the way through.  Blood Mantra reaches its emotional apex with the closing duo of “Blindness” and “Red Sun.” Even considering the relative departures of Hallucinosis and Carnival is Forever, “Blindless” is something new. Paying tribute to post-Arise Sepultura (well, the Cavalera version), they find enlightenment in the song’s deep, deep groove. While there’s nothing death metal about it, it’s still pretty faithful to Decapitated (whatever that may mean now). Here, as on the rest of the record, the band don’t sound weighed down; they’re just as nimble as they ever were.

While there are parts of Blood Mantra that don’t work, the parts that do don’t feel beholden to the genre they started with. They’re opting to make great metal instead of simply great death metal. While not a classic (and, I guess, technically the worst thing the band have done, which is a testament to how great they are) Blood Mantra is refreshingly confident and limber. Decapitated aren’t the band they used to be—and considering what they’ve gone through, why would they be?—but the band they are now isn’t one to ignore. I get why the Winds of Creation-era heshers wrote them off a while back, but man, they’re missing out now.

Decapitated’s Blood Mantra comes out September 30 on Nuclear Blast. You can stream the entire album here and pre-order it here.

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