Decapitated first started out as… well, as a band that sounded exactly like you’d expect a band named Decapitated to sound. After a trio of acclaimed death metal albums, they began experimenting with other genres of metal, adding more sounds to their arsenal with each album. On their seventh record, Anticult, they bring that accumulation of experience and infuse it with a boost of thrash and hardcore.
The first track, “Impulse”, begins with a discordant intro, rising from melodic to screeching, bringing to mind some of Gojira’s instrumental passages, and each variation of the riff proper hits hard. It feels a touch overlong, especially during the diving breakdown and solo, but it’s a fun ride. “Deathvaluation” features an engine-revving, almost industrial main riff from band leader Waclaw “Vogg” Kieltyka, underpinned by a restrained but punishing snare beat from drummer Michel Lysejko. The riff drops back into a basic chug during the verses, making them feel a little incomplete, but the speedy thrash solo at the climax of the song is badass. “Kill The Cult” is crushingly heavy, but in a very different way than traditional death metal. The chugging riff is just straight up catchy, a little bit like DevilDriver or Soulfly, and Rafal “Rasta” Piotrowski’s vocals are perfect, intense throaty roars with a chorus hook that will get stuck in your head for sure. The entire 4 ½ minute runtime is packed with some sort of riff: Hubert Wiecek even buries a bass run that could be from a Muse song in the groove at one point. To top it off, the rather lengthy guitar solo is also Vogg’s best on the record. “One-Eyed Nation” is the most traditional death metal track on the record, with Vogg’s melodic noodling providing a dash of light. When it focuses on being as heavy as possible it’s quite good, but it struggles a little with the atmospheric elements.
“Anger Line” pummels and lurches along, but it’s Rasta’s incessant, near monotone roar that drives the song, and when he cuts loose with his full-on screams is when the song is at its best. The extended instrumental section falls a little flat, but the outro riff is impressively wild, putting some thunder behind Rasta’s final shrieks. Single “Earth Scar” is just pure thrash, windmill hair and all. The verses are damn near perfect, the hardcore bridge that lends the song its title is catchy as the plague, and even the over-the-top power metal guitar solo feels appropriate. “Earth Scar” has a tendency to wander away from the almighty riff, which does pay off at the very end of the song, but keeps it from being quite as good as it could be, but that’s a pretty light criticism considering how strong most of the song is. “Never” is another song that does well when focused on the riff, in this case finding the sweet spot between Metallica’s “Fuel” and Fear Factory. The bass riff under the melodic solo actually outshines the solo itself, and that’s easily extrapolated to the entire song: the riffs are uniformly great, but the song drifts too often to keep afloat for 6 minutes. “Amen” is a mostly instrumental dirge, pierced only briefly by Rasta’s pained shrieks and a darting guitar. It’s a very natural end to the album, unraveling bit by bit, which elevates it above the filler most “outro” tracks are relegated to.
Anticult doesn’t sound much like Winds Of Creation-era Decapitated anymore, but it does feel like a natural step from the past few records. Decapitated no longer really fit any subgenre of metal, instead sounding a little bit like all of them, and more so than ever before, Vogg has come to embrace the guitar hook, imbuing nearly every song with a memorable riff (and let’s not forget Rasta’s impressive vocal barrage throughout the album). Some songs are more focused than others, and the melodic passages feel almost uniformly lackluster compared to the riffs, but those riffs are so damn good it would be a crime not to hear them at least once.