Decapitated – Carnival Is Forever

Decapitated

Carnival Is Forever
Nuclear Blast

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Poland’s Decapitated should have been death metal royalty by now. Formed at an early age and on an upward wave following killer album after killer album, their progress was suddenly and tragically halted in a tour bus accident in Belarus in 2009, which took the life of drummer Witold ‘Vitek’ Kiełtyka at the age of 23, and left then vocalist Adrian ‘Covan’ Kowanek facing a painfully slow recovery ever since. Such adversity would have finished off lesser bands, but Vitek’s brother Vogg (Waclaw Kiełtyka) would not let the Decapitated flame die.
The new look Decapitated returned last year, now consisting of Filip ‘Heinrich’ Hałucha on bass, Rafał ‘Rasta’ Piotrowski on vocals, and Kerim ‘Krimh’ Lechner taking Vitek’s position on drums, leaving Vogg as the only founder member remaining. They devastated live audiences across the world and then set to work on fifth album ‘Carnival Is Forever’.
As with all previous releases, ‘Carnival…’ has eight tracks and is straight on the hammer with ‘The Knife’, which sees Rasta unleash an almighty scream roughly a quarter of the way in. His voice has more range than previous vocalists Covan and his predecessor, Sauron, those screams featuring more than guttural growls and roars from past releases. There’s a lot more variation to them than his predecessors, although whether this suits you, the listener, is down to individual taste. For me personally, it was a minor quarry at first, but something I managed to get over fairly quickly.
The title-track sets out to be the album’s centrepiece, a near 9-minute song that begins with some lone echoey guitar from Vogg, before launching into the heavy section. It reverts back to a quieter, eerie section again, giving the song room to breathe before blasting back into action. It’s not perfect but at least it don’t plod along, which so many bands striving for the epic button fall into the trap of. These new darker elements also crop up later in ‘A View From A Hole’, which sees Rasta getting in on the progression with some unsettling whispered vocals.
At first, ‘Carnival…’ does feel like Decapitated are trying to settle into a groove. The first half is a little hit and miss at times, and the grooves aren’t quite as memorable as they were in the past. That said, the album does begin to pick up as it goes on and the songs seem to get better and better. ‘404’ is reminiscent of Meshuggah in places but maintains its own identity, chameleonic as it shifts between riffs and beats, topped off with an electrifying solo from Vogg. And ‘Pest’ brings in some buzzsaw shred and some serious blasting. The closer, ‘Silence’, is feels somewhat reflective, almost as though it’s a requiem for the fallen members, particularly Vitek. It’s a fitting tribute, if that’s how it was intended, and it’s an ideal comedown to the freneticity with its single, haunting guitar.
It was always going to be hard for Decapitated to create an album to reach the bar set by the likes of ‘Nihility’ and ‘Organic Hallucinosis’ and overall they fall just slightly short. Krimh in particular puts in a shift behind the kit, but he is always going to be compared to Vitek and those memorable moments that Vitek was able to provide through his own incredible ability aren’t replicated here.
That was always going to be a challenge with the major upheaval they have endured, but despite that, Decapitated have proved they are still a potent force, proving they can still blast with the best of them, while introducing one or two new elements to their sound. Come the end of the year, it probably won’t quite be among the top death metal releases of 2011, which you could definitely say for their previous records; but it still blows most of the competition out of the water. It’s good to have them back.
Peter Clegg
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