March 31, 2022

Photos: Ian Jenkinson/feature image Sebastian Vickers

It is very likely mixed with the fact that live music is really happening again but there is anticipation in the air for the return of Decapitated and even more so with one new song already released and a new album only a couple of months away. Naturally, the pandemic has curtailed plans and this tour is to celebrate a 25th anniversary of Decapitated – on the face of it is a night that has the potential to be nothing short of spectacular.

Sure enough, Decapitated is like a different band tonight. To give that statement context, the quartet played the same venue in February 2019 and were no less a great band – if somewhat subdued. As much as Waclaw ‘Vogg’ Kieltyka was still a demon on guitar and vocalist Rafal ‘Rasta’ Piotrowski was still a hulking presence, Vogg tended to stay rooted to the spot and Rasta said very little. There is no issue with letting the music doing the talking but the band were on the back of a traumatic experience and a stalled promotional campaign for their latest album Anti-Cult. It is this comparison that stands out as being stark; it could be that Sheffield is the second show on the tour, it could be that the new album is in the bag, or it could be the release of tension following a pandemic and the loss of live music for such a long time. Whatever it is, Decapitated are absolutely on fire and a boundless and vicious force to be reckoned with.

Following an intro, it is that new album that takes first bow with the already released title track Cancer Culture – the jagged drum patterns batter the front row senseless as Rasta barks into the microphone taking off a further facial layer. There has already been much discussion as to the lyrics and whether there is a theme or it is a play on words based on something else – no doubt all will be revealed in due course but, in the meantime, the live rendition rips Sheffield a new one and as far as opening salvos go, this one is seriously special. Pest is more familiar territory from the underrated Carnival Is Forever album and has Vogg grimacing in effort as he tears at his guitar, the short solo bleeding from his hands. This tour is a celebration of 25 years and therefore a deep dive into Decapitated’s discography with Mother War (from Nihilty) being something of a death metal classic and a rhythmic masterclass, Carnival Is Forever jumps forward while Lying And Weak takes us back to 2004 and The Negation album and at the point that Rasta growls “go!” as a signal to the pit to throw up its Sheffield best, there is a surge and bodies go flying stage right.  Rasta is more talkative tonight and it is more than thanking the crowd for its support, there is a mention of Ukraine as Poland’s neighbours and there is a cheer in support. Throughout the show, Rasta is encouraging to get down and dirty, start those pits, let off that steam and when he is not talking, he is waving his hand in a circling motion to keep that energy up. To watch Vogg’s fingers is an exercise in futility, but it is the gritted teeth determination in the man as if he were dredging his very soul; Vogg bangs his head, he moves to the front of stage, there is no simply being stood still. Drummer James Stewart is hardly visible beyond the blur of sticks, the lightning precision never missing a single beat. Earth Scar (from Anti-Cult) has a different tempo, it broods and breathes but has no less aggression and there is something hypnotic in Vogg’s soloing before that last third chug; Blood Mantra track The Blasphemous Psalm To The Dummy God Creation, the furious drum roll on the intro is heaven and hell colliding Post (?) Organic (from Organic Hallucinosis) is an Armageddon ride, the guitar crunch is breathless, Rasta leaning into the crowd with a diaphragm busting heft to his voice before throwing his head back and those body length dreads fly through the air. With a further trip to later material with Never and the pit starter that is Kill The Cult – the closest that Decapitated get to a “straight forward” song, momentum is never lost as Decapitated dig around in their catalogue. Finishing with a stunning Spheres Of Madness and an absolutely monstrous rendition of Nine Steps from their debut album Winds Of Creation, this is a band that wastes not a single moment in a sixteen song set list that slayed for 80 minutes of stage time. The one surprise and maybe disappointment was that no more new material was aired. On the other hand, it is genius too in keeping the album under wraps until its May release date which following this tour should ratchet up that tension and anticipation just a little bit more.

It has been interesting reading the reaction to the new song and the keyboard warriors never fail in their lamentation as to Decapitated’s (ahem) ‘change of direction’ to add more groove to their death metal sound. Clearly, some have not seen Decapitated of late and witnessed how the Polish masters handle the older material and really this show has been a lessen in the old school and mixed with newer material which shows growth and more than single vision. Decapitated has not forgotten who they are, they have transgressed tragedy and bad luck, they have progressed and moved forward. This is a band celebrating its 25 years and the twists and turns in their past.

What new album Cancer Culture has to offer – who knows until the album is released? Based on the new tune, Decapitated are hardly going soft; they are making their presence known. As far as tonight goes – this is a band that does not have anything to prove but they proved it anyway – an unmissable and heart pounding sonic assault that stayed with the audience as they made their way out into the balmy Sheffield night.

To witness a band at their devastating best is really something to behold. Long live Decapitated.