Review | DECAPITATED Returns Triumphant on Cancer Culture

            Death is the destination we all inevitably face, and its unstoppable spirit has been renewed by Poland’s illustrious wizards of brutality and groove, who’ve risen like a phoenix from the ashes after these past few harrowing years. Since overcoming the circumstances related to falsely accused crimes, DECAPITATED have seized an effective release from those afflictions, which combines their lingering trauma with uninterrupted time during the Covid era to craft a mighty comeback titled Cancer Culture. An array of elements and methods reflecting the band’s entire catalog are exercised on this masterwork, with technical designs from the early days punishing alongside newer grooves, and some progressive features also appear with the atmosphere to complete a dynamic campaign. A resilient energy prevails across the arrangements of Cancer Culture, and DECAPITATED directs that tendency toward a grim fate aligned with our deplorable society.

            A grand aura approaches in the militarized drumming and melody of “From the Nothingness with Love,” and immensity builds with psychedelic string effects to herald the arrival of “Cancer Culture,” where accented patterns traverse a blasting onset that persists amid grooved alternations. A crisp and sharp sound heightens the instant appeal of these forms, and their allure drifts into darker arpeggiated shades that bring a novel dynamic to the attack. They continue alongside crushing rhythmic intervals, and the status of this title track is further elevated with soloing before a bleak fury proceeds on “Just a Cigarette.” Clean-noted sections weave a haunting presence among its advance, which is then amplified by a subdued vocal delivery, and Rasta’s dominant commands resume as razor-edged speed riffage tears through with resurging frenzy. Turbulence is also infused when the percussion accompanies shifts between slow bending vibrations and fretted intricacies, and those patterns extend to a euphoric solo until brutality rages ahead on “No Cure.” The riffing here leans into blackened death territory, with stepped progressions and low-end tremolos leading toward multiple tapped designs, and these complexities reach leadwork levels that drop into melodies coursing through vast atmospheric depths. The spirit of older material is recalled in punchy riffs on “Hello Death,” and this bludgeoning subsides for technical currents to exalt a spellbinding guest performance from Tatiana Shmayluk, of JINJER. Majesty develops within the accumulating orchestrated energy while both vocalists carry out a duet, and another dose of devastation follows with an end succumbing to hallucinatory torments.

            Heavy and melodic layers steadily escalate on “Iconoclast,” with dissonance glaring over one transition before the full wrath is unleashed, and its striking details extend from progressions to noted points while these areas evolve with subtle ambient and lead elements scattered throughout. An intricate course ushers in another guest vocal contribution, this time from MACHINE HEAD’s Robb Flynn, and clean arpeggiations coincide with a distinct percussive beat to send his voice soaring. Other spaced-out psychedelic effects appear during its closure, and this influence is appropriately followed by “Suicidal Space Programme,” where notes slide ominously in time with a striding pace that launches into erratic chord and tremolo combinations. Other technical features are also glimpsed amid the madness, and it transfers to an exercise in classic death metal riffing when leadwork emerges. Soloing sustains its flight across sections of groove and blasting intensity, and the latter force takes hold during a brief but brutal excursion on “Locked.” Unsettling tones pierce through its riffs before descending into eeriness with spoken transmissions, which are answered within the deeper gloom on “Hours as Battlegrounds,” and harmonics punctuate its evocative array of brooding and ethereal textures until a decisive culmination is achieved on “Last Supper.” Many prevailing energies gather into a fierce collective, including grooves that unfold into a riff and blast-beaten storm, and vast auras are imposed along with transcendent leads to crush adversity beneath their last triumphant execution.

            The lyrical focus entwines death with other factors plaguing our modern civilization, and “Divide et impera” reflects the main governing strategy of this technological age on the title track, while allusions to “keyboard warriors” seem apparent in references to those “Throwing digital rocks” and the weight of “Comments like convictions.” Derision is perceived when likening these to the “Supreme court ruling the state from their parent’s house,” and the impact of technology extends to sources of information and certain theories on “No Cure.” The prognosis applies to “Conspiracy” and “Illiteracy,” with many “Breast-fed by ignorance” leaving college as “Experts in funny pictures and cats,” and further scorn is heaped in stating that “Your flat Earth is safe” from a regrettably off-target ”Asteroid.” The “Wicked plans of deep state” are also exposed, and the relatable sense of being pawns in a bigger scheme is attached to the consumerism of a “Christmas sale at the mall” on “Just a Cigarette.” It reveals how we “Are not in control” and have “Been bought, gift-wrapped, and delivered,” along with a confusion noted between praying and paying to bring another level of ridicule, and aims to become a “True hero that saves the world” are quickly derailed by the higher probability of dying “Alone, scared, obese, most likely overdose.”

             The dread surrounding this unavoidable outcome is confronted on “Hello Death,” where “Influencers and followers” emerge alongside “Inquisitive philosophers,” and “Fat bishops and their golden rings” capitalize on this fear among “Sweet little lambs” that “End up as deaf stray dogs.” A “Flame is inevitable” during the scenario of a “Moth fluttering around the candle,” and the experience of death is effectively summarized with an end passage quoting Joseph Conrad. Institutionalized religion faces its own slow decline on “Iconoclast,” with “Gott Mit Uns buckles” possibly reflecting a greedy totalitarian influence alongside the “Laundries of Ireland and gold of Aztecs,” and “The dust from holy land” is also matched by “The storm to wash it away.” This “Empire designed to fall” also applies to our planet when addressing the parasitism of humanity on “Suicidal Space Programme,” and the excrement is literal when “Different sun, same shit” relates the approach to a new home after the earth becomes “Red” from bloodshed and “Grey” like an “Ashtray.” A direct observation that “You reap what you sow and you rape what you own” is noted beside the ability to “Escape exhausted land,” but not “Yourself,” and futility is evident in how “We’d gladly repeat all mistakes” if given a new beginning.

            Psychological torments encountered during Covid lockdowns are induced on “Locked,” and they combine with other consistent themes in depicting “Clones and drones fighting our holy wars” and a progression across “Cradle, kitchen, bedroom, coffin.” This relates to the brutality of passing time on “Hours as Battlegrounds,” where a “Sandstorm in the hourglass” demonstrates how we “Blink” and are then “Gone,” and many empty lives are incarnated within a “John Doe,” who “Never even lived and yet you die.” An invitation from “Uroboros” is mandatory, and the “Waiter that wouldn’t wait” delivers ourselves as the main course on “Last Supper.” Man is likely the intended embodiment of a “Naked ape that feeds on its own shit, yet so keen to pray before it dines,” and irony underlies “Revenge” as “A dish best served cold” despite how “We got the planet boiled.” Finally partaking in this self-consumption describes the taste after “We swallowed our pride” to be “Bitter as fuck,” and a contemptuous regard for the recent past is subtly discerned in similar expressions throughout. Many lyrics provide a constructive outlet for the turmoil endured while addressing relevant issues or topics, and their presentation serves as a fitting counterpart to the substance of the songcraft.

            The best art often spawns from difficult ordeals, and this may have been the case with events leading up to the creation of Cancer Culture. Resilience is firmly demonstrated in the revitalized force behind its compositions, and these evoke dark impressions through formulas infusing some new atmospheric tones amid the fury. DECAPITATED employs an expansive arsenal on this exhibition, with intricate layers and leads weaved throughout its crushing resolve, and turbulent areas harmonize with other entrancing and grooved varieties for a thoroughly engaging venture. Favorable measures of progression and tradition are also captured within, and the support from special guests represents another elevating feature. Those already committed to this entity will easily gravitate toward Cancer Culture, but even skeptics are likely to lose their head over this blast from DECAPITATED, which undoubtedly stands as a striking highlight for the year.

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