Metal is strength. Metal is pushing on. When the dark is all-consuming and life casts its unforgiving glance, a fiery spirit burns through the gloom and DECAPITATED emerge anew.
Succeeding a horrible bus accident along the Russia/Belarus border in October of 2007, the legacy of Poland’s brightest Technical Death Metal stalwarts appeared to have reached a tragic end. The death of 23-year-old drumming phenom Witold "Vitek" Kieltyka and the severe injuries sustained to vocalist Adrian “Covan” Kowanek, who despite waking out of a two-year coma is still struggling through extensive rehabilitation, shattered the hearts of fans across the globe. A band whose musical progression and blinding technical abilities elevated them to the peaks of Death Metal notoriety exhaled a disquieting and painful sigh. How could DECAPITATED possibly regroup, and if so, should they?
Older brother to Vitek and the only remaining member of a band that began practicing at the age of 12, guitarist Waclaw “Vogg” Kieltyka refused to let the memory of his brother and the vibrancy of a surging Covan fade into the past. Six years removed from “Organic Hallucinosis,” a revamped DECAPITATED are back with “Carnival is Forever,” a brutally bittersweet return to form that will have fans of old nodding their approval for much more than the album’s grueling intensity.
Alongside Vogg are three new members: Rafał Piotrowski on vocals, Kerim "Krimh" Lechner on drums, and Filip "Heinrich" Halucha on bass. Although Heinrich does an admirable job of adding DECAPITATED’s familiar mass, it’s the introduction of Rafal and Krihm that are rightfully being cast under spotlights. While Covan delivered a monstrous and intimidating roar, Rafal emits soul-searing screams, ranging from ground-level to a deafening pitch. His lung capacity, especially on tremendous tracks like “The Knife” or “Pest,” immediately puts him in league with some of Metal’s most naturally gifted screechers. Krihm, whom many a Metal fan discovered on YouTube well before he was enlisted by DECAPITATED, is encumbered with the task of filling a position that surely must tug at the heart-strings of Vogg during every jam session. Just as Rafal is not Covan, Krihm is not Vitek, but evident is his desire to give his all on an album that means so much to so many. An absolute whirlwind, Krihm brings the heat from start to finish and drives songs like the rip-roaring “Homo Sum” with his waves of double bass and inexorable, on-a-dime fills.
“Carnival is Forever” is, however, a showcase of Vogg and his return from the brink. There is a palpable emotion in the guitar chords, an angst and fury that grabs its listener by the throat and refuses to release. While other DECAPITATED albums may be hookier and more technical, what Vogg creates on a song like “A View from a Hole” is a gateway of recurring feelings and unsinkable truths; the unbelievable manifests and transforms before us, and Vogg captures his inner turmoil with a refreshing, practically therapeutic display of bottled up fear and longing. The instrumental closing track “Silence,” undoubtedly the most haunting of all DECAPITATED songs, somberly echoes departing thoughts to a younger brother.
Beyond the album’s emotional impact, “Carnival is Forever” is a righteous homecoming for Poland’s lost sons. There is no show-boating, there is no pretension, this is not walking through the motions; each track stirs with a frenzied sentience and is alive with blistering resolve; “404” winds and storms and levels, “United” is a stop-and-go nightmare with a wonderful Vogg solo, and the album-titled third track is a Death Metal endurance test, a foaming beast that also happens to be the longest and most intrepid song DECAPITATED have in their discography.
Long live DECAPITATED. Get better, Covan. Rest in peace, Vitek.
Me(n)tal Note: If you wish to know how Covan is doing with his rehabilitation or would like to donate some financial aid, please visit Let’s Help Adrian Sing Again.
(Online July 14, 2011)