Cancer Culture

Nuclear Blast
rating icon 9 / 10

Track listing:

01. From The Nothingness With Love
02. Cancer Culture
03. Just a Cigarette
04. No Cure
05. Hello Death
06. Iconoclast
07. Suicidal Space Programme
08. Locked
09. Hours as Battlegrounds
10. Last Supper

A new DECAPITATED album is generally a good reason to get excited. Ever since the Polish crew emerged as wide-eyed teenagers in the (very) late '90s, they have been a solid benchmark for whatever the sound of death metal's cutting edge has been at any given time. They mastered their idiosyncratic take on the old school on their early demos and first couple of records, and then dismantled and rebuilt the genre from the ground up on 2006's "Organic Hallucinosis", arguably having more impact and influence on so-called modern death metal than any other band this century. When the untimely passing of talismanic drummer Vitek in 2007 threatened to stop the show, his brother Vogg made the brave decision to power on, and subsequent albums like "Blood Mantra" and "Anticult" have pushed the band's sound ever further into an unknown and obscenely thrilling future. Consequently, most sensible folk will be expecting "Cancer Culture" to continue that noble tradition of near-perfect, state-of-the-art extreme metal with a curiously eccentric Polish twist. And, of course, it does.

DECAPITATED have been a vital force, both live and on record, for more than 20 years, but "Cancer Culture" shows not one shred of complacency from Vogg, or indeed his new drummer, James Stewart. Formerly a regular fixture in VADER, Stewart is simply one of the greatest drummers in death metal today, and his instant chemistry with Vogg is both obvious and exhilarating. The opening title track says it all: super brutal and technically devastating, but full of smart melodic ideas and structural curveballs. The track showcases DECAPITATED's next evolutionary leap, while still packing enough murderous groove to appease fans of route-one aggression. Similarly, recent singles "Hello Death" and "Just a Cigarette" both exhibit blinding flashes of a more progressive and experimental mindset, while also delivering neck-snapping bursts of speed and intensity. The use of ghostly keyboards midway through "Just a Cigarette" is one of several clever embellishments that add dazzling color to the song's core of excoriating blasts and DEATH-like melodic riffing, while a closing, melodic refrain pulls off the startling trick of being both visceral and weirdly beautiful. Similarly, "Hello Death" features a stunning guest appearance from JINJER's Tatiana Shmalyuk that makes perfect sense, both musically and geographically, and brings yet more new textures to DECAPITATED's unrelenting attack. Even better, MACHINE HEAD's Robb Flynn graces "Iconoclast" with, it has to be said, one of his finest vocals in years. The song is a high-octane eruption of catchy-but-warped extremity, with frontman Rasta's scabrous roar providing classy contrast with Flynn's melancholy cameo.

Pleasingly, "Cancer Culture" is stuffed to the gills with songs of similar quality. From the 77-second "Locked", which is utterly insane and absolutely guaranteed to become a live favorite, to the stately grind of closer "Last Supper", everything about DECAPITATED's eighth album points to levels of artistry, technique and rabid enthusiasm that, even now, few can match.

Author: Dom Lawson
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