“Blood Mantra”

by Thor

Decapitated is back with “Blood Mantra.”

First of all, these members of Decapitated are NOT the young musical prodigies of fifteen years ago who put out arguably three of the best death metal albums of the early-aughts.  The band is literally different, composed of some members who weren’t around in those early days, and that’s by way of both tragedy and turn over.  So it’s fitting that “Blood Mantra” isn’t death metal in any way, shape, or form.

Decapitated’s last album, “Carnival is Forever,” also wasn’t death metal, but it also wasn’t quite the full-on commitment to something else that “Blood Mantra” is.  And as such, I liked it, giving it credit for daring to be different (see my review of it here in the archives), but I wasn’t in love.  However, now that the band seems to have completed its musical evolution and we’re now a few albums removed from Decapitated’s death metal glory days, “Blood Mantra” strikes me as a very good album, if not quite great.

So what is this “something else” these guys now play?  Well, generically it’s probably best described as avant-garde extreme metal.  It has overt thrash, hardcore and grind elements that have been blended into a very consistent Decapitated-specific style that persists throughout the entire album.  At its most complex it recalls the work of Meshuggah and at its most stripped-down it’s similar to “Far Beyond Driven”-era Pantera.  There are zero death metal tropes here.

Technically, the music on “Blood Mantra” is still sometimes over the top, but much less often than on Decapitated’s early work.  Everything manifests from a very straightforward approach.  Nearly gone are the pretzel-finger inducing riffs and super-computer drumming from the death metal days and in their place are aggressive, high-tempo crossover thrash passages punched up with an outstanding vocal performance that’s the sonic embodiment of rage.  All this is cut with occasional odd, droning chord work and abstract acoustic interludes.  The technical wizardry that the members of Decapitated have always been known for only reveals itself infrequently and in understated ways—ways that may be overlooked by non-musicians.  It’s still there but the band no longer leads with it.

There are elements of “Blood Mantra” that are repetitive and a bit dull for this reviewer.  Truth be told, I’m of the opinion that Decapitated’s first few albums obliterate all the albums that follow, including this one.  However, if this album had been released under another band name, stripped free of that comparative reference, I’d put it up there with the likes of early Lamb of God, Carnal Forge, the aforementioned Meshuggah, and others in that mold, with nary a negative remark.

If you’re looking for death metal, this isn’t it.  But if you’re into aggressive metal that’s a bit more accessible, then you can’t go wrong with “Blood Mantra” by Decapitated.