"Carnival is Forever"

By Thor

Poland’s Decapitated has been around for over a decade now creating some of the most technically searing extreme metal in the world.  And assuming there are no death metal virtuoso collectives on Mars, Decapitated has also made some of the most compelling metal music in the history of the universe.  But enough with all the technically-true, non-hyperbole.  These guys are good, but make no mistake, this isn’t the same band that burst onto the scene back in 2000 playing death metal with the skill of musicians much older and more experienced than the teenaged musical prodigies they were at that point.

Decapitated’s new album, Carnival is Forever is an undeniable departure from the death metal aesthetic.  This evolution was multifaceted and necessary.  It’s born of tragedy – original drummer and founding member Witold “Vitek” Kiełtyka died after a horrible tour bus accident in 2007.  He was only 23, but had amazingly recorded four major releases with Decapitated while cementing his reputation as one of the top drummers in the world.  The band’s evolution is also necessitated by survival - the band’s second vocalist, Adrian “Covan” Kowanek was also badly injured in the accident and struggled to recover, prompting his decision to leave the band the following year.  After some soul-searching and in order to continue what he had started with his prematurely deceased brother, the band’s other founding member, Wacław “Vogg”  Kiełtyka, had to find new musicians and a new direction to both continue the band and to transcend the tragedy.  And finally, musicians of Vogg’s caliber don’t allow complacency or stagnancy – they’re on a fluid exploration of new musical territory in which they refine and expand their skills.

With the additions of drummer Kerim "Krimh" Lechner, vocalist Rafał Piotrowski, and bassist Filip "Heinrich" Hałucha, Decapitated has left the confines of death metal and has assembled eight tracks of ambitious and blazing extreme thrash on "Carnival is Forever".  There are still blast beats and other death metal tropes, but there are long stretches of post-Pantera thrash groove as well as polyrhythmic passages that recall Meshuggah and would require that Steven Hawking use a calculator to figure out what the hell’s going on.  Vocally, Piotrowski has a lot more in common with recent material by bands like Exodus than he has with any of his guttural peers.  The songs are lengthy and dynamic, at times featuring jazzy noodling and subtle acoustic passages.

Songs such as "The Knife", "Homo Sum", and the haunting closer, "Silence", are impressive musical achievements regardless of genre.  Moreover, anyone with an understanding and an appreciation of good metal will jump on board, while a small minority of close-minded, nonmalleable DM purists is sure to stubbornly drown in an irrational adherence to the past.  Honestly, after what Decapitated has endured over the past few years, I would have been happy with an EP of Manilow covers, but "Carnival is Forever" is the best-case-scenario and it should not be missed.