Sound — 8
When Decapitated initially formed in 1996 the oldest member of the band was only 16 years old, and the youngest member, Vitek, was only 12 years old. The band's first full-length release, "Winds of Creation," was released in 2000 when Vitek was only 16, yet the album immediately made an impact on the entirety of the technical death metal genre for the solid songwriting and the high level of skill each member brought to their instrument. Over the years members have left the band for different reasons - relocating with their family, health issues, and even death in the case of Vogg's brother, Vitek. After Vitek's death in a car accident where the band's tour bus was hit by a logging truck, the band disbanded for a period of approximately 2 years, but eventually reformed with new members. Vogg has remained the creative force behind the band, as well as the sole founding member and performing the guitar parts in the studio and live. Rasta joined to provide vocals in 2009, and "Blood Mantra" will be his second album providing vocals for the band. Paweł Pasek joined on bass guitar in 2012 and Michał Łysejko joined on drums, making this the first album for each of them with the band. The album, "Blood Mantra," is the band's sixth studio album and contains 9 tracks with a runtime of 46 minutes. The album was released by Nuclear Blast Records, with the track "The Blasphemous Psalm to the Dummy God Creation" released as the lead single in early August 2014.
The album opens up with the track "Exiled in Flesh," which has the sound of a far-away helicopter in the intro, which is quickly replaced by some intense tremolo picked guitar and the drums creating a powerful blastbeat. Like the genre's name suggests, there are some highly technical guitar and bass parts going on with a relentless pounding provided by drummer, Michał Łysejko. Next up is the lead single, "The Blasphemous Psalm to the Dummy God Creation," which utilizes a lot of quiet/loud dynamics, as well as some intense screams. The solo from the track is my favorite solo from the album. "Veins" is probably the most aggressive track on the album in the way that each instrument is utilized for maximum impact, including the vocals. The title track, "Blood Mantra," opens up with a cool riff that sounds almost like it would be more at home in a stoner metal genre, but the band definitely makes it work for them. "Nest" is another example of the band being much more riff-based than a lot of bands in their genre, which personally works well for me, though they will probably continue to estrange their early fans. "Instinct" has a lot more groove than most of the rest of the album, but it does it without trading off any of Decapitated's aggression. "Blindness" opens up with a palm muted riff that is seriously infectious. The vocals come in as a pained scream while the music just continues to repeat the same riff over and over. The song does evolve a little as it goes, but comes back to the same riff. "Red Sun" is a very atmospheric track, much more like black metal than technical death metal. The album closes out with "Moth Defect" which opens up like an ambient black metal song, but crashes into a technical death metal track in the second half, giving Rasta and Vogg, both, a workout.
Lyrics — 7
The vocals are provided by Rasta, Rafał "Rasta" Piotrowski, who also provided vocals on the album, "Carnival Is Forever." Rasta's vocals on "Blood Mantra" definitely feel like they are more skillfully provided than on their previous release - which is a good thing in the genre where you often hear vocalists lose a little bit with each release instead of get better. As a sample of the lyrics, here are some lyrics from the title track, "Blood Mantra": "Through centuries leading their wars/ armed with crucifixes hardened with dogmas/ ravaging, cursing and murdering every Proteus/ I heard faith is a weapon/ To protect or kill? / If you want me/ find me a faith not raised from ruins/ find me a god with non-dirty hands/ and I will be your/ I will be your assassin/ Eternal struggle, exchange of souls/ seven billions of souls/ and there is no free trade/ if God is aware/ who is the businessman? / innocent merchant with familiar face/ is kindly trying to strike a bargain/ priceless currency/ salvation for sale/ a unique offer? / who likes fairy tales? / instinct calls for destruction/ prayers will muffle their screams/ good lord will drink this blood/ every divinity demands sacrifice/ every sacrifice needs divine purposes/ this is blood mantra/ universal rite/ right?" The lyrics are pretty much standard fare for the band and the genre, but a touch more intelligent than a lot of their peers.
Overall Impression — 7
While I'm not the biggest fan of technical death metal, I found a lot of things in this release to appreciate. My favorite song from the album may be "Blindness" based solely off the guitar riff running through it. I'm also very fond of "Nest." I enjoyed the album a lot for what it is, and I felt like the band was showing a willingness to experiment with their sound that is especially courageous for a band that is already six albums in, who have already changed their initial sound and alienated some fans, and who also are trying to revitalize a career that was devastated by loss. Decapitated are definitely still as close to a "trendsetter" as the world of extreme metal has.