There’s album artwork and then there’s album artwork. The latter is the kind that speaks to you the moment you pick it up. It’s the kind that—in conjunction with the album title—conveys every hidden detail beyond its glossy surface. Beyond the praying hands to my left—forced together in the most submissive way—is post-Vitek Decapitated. A band I’ve had a hard time understanding since Vitek passed in 2007. Like many fans, I am partial to the earlier period of Decapitated. An era that included Nihility: an album that pretty much controlled my existence the moment it came out, and for years afterward. So, understandably, I was excited about the band’s 2011 comeback record, Carnival Is Forever. Honestly, I was so excited that it brought me to tears. Although the band changed forever in 2011, the comeback was decent, though, it was different. And, in some cases, wrong. Then, Blood Mantra arrived with its new-meets-old sound and, all a sudden, their style made sense to me. Now, Anticult has arrived. Like its predecessor, Anticult‘s artwork screams of death, groove, and everything between. It conveys aggression, massiveness, and an unrelenting desire to crush all in its path. But, what the music should sound like—as per the artwork—and what it does sound like are two different things.
I can’t say I’m surprised by the full-on groove of Anticult. As the band slowly pulled away from technical death, it makes sense that this new release would contain a greater degree of the groovy stuff. And that’s exactly what Anticult is: a groove metal record with a fine dusting of death. Within its tight thirty-seven-minute runtime lies the signature face-smashing vocal assault of Rafał Piotrowski and the band’s bludgeoning attack of drums and guitars. Yet, the outcome (in comparison to Blood Mantra and records before it) is something between the back-alley bullying of a heavier DevilDriver, a meaner Lamb of God, and a Phil-less Pantera. But this is Decapitated as we know it (now). It may not be the band that released Winds of Creation back in ’00, but it’s still Decapitated—love ’em or hate ’em.
Long story short, Anticult ain’t at the same level as Blood Mantra. It’s actually quite a bit below it. Blood Mantra was a damn good record that worked hard to mix groove into the band’s older death style. But, no matter how much I try, I fight to listen to Anticult when Blood Mantra is so close by. Which, I suppose, says something about this new record. However, there are a handful of decent moments. The better parts include the riffs and attitude found on tracks like “Kill the Cult,” “Earth Scar,” and “Never.” All have ball-busting segments that’ll get your head snapping like home-grown green beans. The first two, in particular, have some killer groove and the kind of riffs that spark adolescent, living room mosh pits. Unfortunately, that’s about as far as they go. Especially considering that the riffs in both “Kill the Cult” and “Earth Scar” are similar enough that “uniqueness” is a stretch when describing the two of them.
In the end, these DevilDriver-like numbers lack the diversity old-time fans are looking for. Where can you find such diversity? Look no farther (further?) than “Never” and “One-Eyed Nation.” By “diversity,” I mean “different than the straight-forwardness of the rest of the album.” Both trample your soul for five–to–six minutes using sinister riffage and nut-clutching tightness. “Never” has some aggressive guitar licks that scream of Fear Factory and vocal lines that’ll punch you right in the face (while dropping odd, senseless piano chords right in the middle) and “One-Eyed Nation” has a gentle introduction that gives way to hell. Just the same, neither performs in ground-breaking ways.
Beyond the tracks mentioned above, you get two opening tracks with the same forgetfulness (“Impulse” and “Deathvaluation”), a track that tries too hard to be memorable (“Anger Line”), and an instrumental closer that tries to match wits with Blood Mantra‘s closer, “Red Sun” (“Amen”). But, in this case, the closer never had the album to support it. The result is a finale with decent riff that’s about as convincing as a nun with a pitchfork. All that said, Anticult‘s production is up there with its predecessor’s. The drums have an immediate presence and the songs have a nice crispness. But it’s not enough, and I’m left feeling a little bummed by the final product. But, don’t take my word for it. If this is what you expected—and wanted—dive right in. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed. As for me, Anticult is about as disappointing as it gets.