August. Cicaidas scream in the oaks. The punishing sun presses vapors from the Earth, rendering the air nearly drinkable. You could brew tea in the steam rising in the morning light. Even the dogs relinquish their rightfully-given portion of summer in favor of an air-conditioned shelter. Inside of that shelter, complete with the high-speed internet needed to distract one from the horrors of the season, a terrible, moments-long sound streams from the wide, unblinking eyes of the speakers. It sounds like fucking Decapitated.
September. Blood Mantra is available in full. Death neckbeards fly to their computers and turntables. The promise of apotheosis hangs in the air. Can it be granted in full?
October. Only time will tell. Blood Mantra achieves the greatness expected of any release from Decapitated, grinding and shredding its way through just under 40 minutes of madness in a less than spherical form, and that’s ok. That’s good. The world is in order. Yet Decapitated evolves.
New and fascinating ideas writhe and retch under the surface of what, at first glance, may seem an all-too-straightforward album. Strange churnings and scrapings introduce the album and a dusty, arid outro sees it off, and between the muffled grating rears its head every so often to remind you that, for instance “Veins” has more to offer than musicianship and brutality. And boy are they offered. Although each performance is everything one would expect, Michal Lysejko is unambiguously the star of the album, successfully aping the late Vitek’s unrelenting attack while adding energy through more grindcore-influenced patterns – expect a lot of off-beat snare hits and modified d-beats, especially on “Nest.” While he takes the lead in “Blasphemous Psalm to the Dummy God Creation,” he also plays excellent support in the more riff-driven “Instinct” and fits himself in by standing out in “Blindness,” where he plays a groovy tom-dominated pattern in 4/4 while the guitars wrap around him in 3/4.
It’s no secret that Vogg has been making doe eyes at Sweden’s finest for at least the last half-decade, and to this day he’s still determined to impress the prettiest girl in school by appealing to her memories of youthful days. “Blindness” intends to be passed around under desks; a big, floppy heart made out of the LP art for Nothing that takes its damn time getting across the classroom. Meshuggah-isms abound in the riffs of Blood Mantra, not in the sense of complex “djent” rhythms, but in the tonalities and completely unmelodic and at times droningly repetitious approach to music that the two bands share. Not just “Blindness,” but “Veins” and “Red Sun” are not only written with the band in mind, but placed in the same spots Meshuggah would put those songs on the album. This disc is excellently paced, making it very conducive to repeated listens – listens that won’t kill your ears due to the album’s loud but not excruciatingly brickwalled mastering.
Blood Mantra only fails in its lack of distinct peaks and valleys. These have been ignored in favor of a desolate, almost featureless plain of incessantly driving death metal. When ravines and patches of quicksand appear, they’re always climbed out of quickly as the band barrels towards nothing in particular. Like an oxygen-starved shark, Decapitated has to keep moving. Blood Mantra races and cruises until “Blindness” builds enough speed to coast safely through the placid “Red Sun.”
Decapitated has returned, not quite as dramatically as they did with Carnival is Forever, but with no lack of potency. The Polish madmen are as ruthlessly heavy and remarkably composed as ever, fingers whirling and arms twisting while somehow maintaining a level of compositional and performative restraint that’s virtually unheard of in their pissing-contest of a genre. Blood Mantra constitutes not a step forward, but one in an almost orthogonal direction, with the same confidence of stride that the band has possessed since their beginning. By subverting and confirming all the right expectations, Blood Mantra proves to be an surprisingly interesting and engaging album from a band that’s not out of tricks just yet.