Decapitated - Carnival is Forever (2011)
Decapitated have become the kings of using technical death metal to serve extremely memorable and usually even catchy songwriting while never failing to be brutal as fuck. They always bother to create great riffs and songs, and make them totally infectious and addictive along the way. A lot of bands recently have perfected a balance of still being heavy and extreme while nailing it on the songwriting and catchiness fronts. Meshuggah comes to mind with their latest monster “Koloss”, and Decapitated deliver one of the top records of 2011 in much the same vein.
It’s tragic what happened to the band since the last album, though. Drumming prodigy Vitek (brother of guitarist Vogg, I believe) was killed in a bus crash that also put vocalist Covan in a coma. I mean…fucken awful, right? But Vogg has said that Vitek would have wanted him to continue the band, and that’s totally unfuckwithable logic. The best of the situation is made, and though here Vogg is the only remaining member from the previous album, the band sound just as ferocious, tight, and as much like Decapitated as ever. FUCK YEAH.
There are two tracks on here that are total instant classics, though no song is less than great. “The Knife” tears out of the gate with gusto, and wastes no time at all getting its choppy, frantic thrash on. I fucken LOVE the infectious little tag at around 15 seconds in before the next riff starts, and that breakdown at 2:25 goes SO FUCKING HARD. The whole song is just pure electric; breathless and brutal.
And WHAT A SONG “Homo Sum” is. Probably my favorite metal song of all of 2011. The riff is the sound of your guts writhing in disgust, and the rocky syncopations in the phrasing always make me feel like I’m in a mosh pit being battered around by the devastating snare attack of drummer Krimh. Even now as I’m sitting naked in my bed listening to it and typing this shit for you to fucken read while you masturbate and cry. I hope that now you think of me naked when you do it. Cry, that is.
But yeah, “Homo Sum”’s solo is an eerie, trippy, but still driving thing that mutates into a wah-infused dirge, and then they bring that NASTY riff back (“If you want make God laugh, tell him about your plans!!”) and it’s heaven. The song is structured perfectly for maximum battery. If death metal was as prominent in the music market and collective consciousness as pop, “Homo Sum” would be the hit of the year and the song on everyone’s mind.
Vogg is of course his usual inhuman speed-picked self. Nobody does that stop-start tremolo thing better than him. And goddamn does he know how to get mileage out of a riff. Like the dudes in Meshuggah, he often bases entire songs on short motifs or riffing styles instead of just shoving together stuff with the same tempo. “Homo Sum” especially is an admirably conservative composition. His solos are often bravely unaccompanied by rhythm guitar, and it’s not just that that recalls Dimebag; his sense of flair and infusions of infectious melody into his lead style make them essential parts of the song, just like the track-highlight squealers ol’ Dime used to pull out. Vogg is all over this thing with his stringy death metal riffing, and when he breaks out a nasty chug on the title track and “404”, you’re in for a fucking leveling.
The new drummer, Krimh, puts in an amazing performance that Vitek would have been proud of. Just as relentless on the double bass as his predecessor, and with just as much deadly accuracy and natural flow, he’s on point throughout, following the uneasy twists and turns of the riffs seemingly effortlessly while keeping it relatively simple and not wanking around. I’m a terrible air-drummer, but I ALWAYS try my best during the intro to “Homo Sum”; the way he builds up that pattern from the ride cymbal to the snare creates incredible momentum into the main riff-hit. I love his Hoglan-esque ride cymbal twitters in the title track too, and his amazing not-quite-blast-beating throughout “The Knife” gets me windmilling just thinking about it.
The bassist is, I’m sure, very talented. He’s not really prominent in the mix, and has a pretty hollow, rattly tone anyway. This is the Vogg and Krimh Show for sure, but the bass here does its death-metal-bass job and not really anything else. The vocalist is an interesting choice, but his Derrick Green-like hardcorish shout works well with the music, even in direct contrast to Decapitated’s past vocalist going for the growl almost exclusively. He puts a good amount of energy and catchiness into his vocal lines. I dig.
If the last three tracks on the record are less memorable than the first five, that’s not because they don’t rip, it’s because the first five tracks on this record rip SO INSANELY HARD. “A View From a Hole” doesn’t have anything as interesting and earwormy as the previous tracks but offers plenty of energy once it gets going, and “Pest” has a nice if slightly derivative breakdown. “Silence” is a lonely, spacious clean-guitar piece, and it’s not hard to imagine that it’s Vogg’s personal tribute to Vitek. It’s not a gratuitous tack-on at all; it offers even more emotional depth to the impassioned pounding that precedes it, and it’s a great melancholy epitaph for the album and for Vitek’s memory.
Fucking get this album. It’s fucking Decapitated, you should already have it just because you know Decapitated is always great. It’s absolutely bonkers, it’s absolutely memorable, it’s absolutely essential.
9/10: Prepare for severe bruising even while grinning madly.
Listen to: “Homo Sum”