DECAPITATED – United
On October 28th, 2007, the tour bus of Polish death metal outfit Decapitated collided with a truck carrying wood in Gomel, near the border from Russia to Belarus. Drummer Witold ‘Vitek’ Kiełtyka sadly passed away on November 2nd at the age of 23 in a Russian hospital, while vocalist Adrian ‘Covan’ Kowanek slipped into a coma. Founder, guitarist, and principal songwriter Wacław ‘Vogg’ Kiełtyka – brother of Vitek – naturally opted to place Decapitated on indefinite hiatus. The departure of guitarist Maurycy ‘Mauser’ Stefanowicz from fellow Polish death metallers Vader created a vacant slot in that group, a slot which Vogg temporarily filled for several months.
“I knew that Mauser left the band, so I called the manager of Vader and I told him that if they wanted me onboard, I was ready and they accepted my proposition,” Vogg explains, guitarist and founder of Decapitated. “They were happy about that. It was quick, very fast because I knew the guys for a few years and I knew all the songs because I listen to Vader – they’re one of my favourite death metal bands. I’m sure they kept me for as long as I was good to stay there because I think they were happy about my playing, but at the same time they knew that after some time I would pursue Decapitated. They just felt it, and they knew about it. We spoke about it, and Peter didn’t have a problem with that. That was cool. I did 150 shows with them; that was a good time, I did a good job for the guys and everybody was happy about it. Before the last tour in the US, I told Peter that I would leave after that tour. I left the band, and there was no problem. Peter understood my reasons.”
Vogg began advertising for a new drummer and vocalist to join Decapitated on March 9th, 2009, the auditionees required to learn the compositions ‘Day 69’, ‘Post Organic’, ‘Invisible Control’, and ‘Long Desired Dementia’ and send their respective auditions via audio / video format. “It was a long process making this decision,” the axeman confides. “It took a long time for me to have a decision ready inside of me, to decide to continue with the band and come back with Decapitated. It was a very hard decision to make, especially after that tragic accident, after Vitek passed away and after what Covan badly endured. A couple of months after the accident I started to work in a music store, and after ten months of working there I received a proposition to join Vader. I decided to join them, and after a couple of months spent in Vader I figured that I could form a new band. That maybe I could try to find new musicians and try to come back, and try to pursue a new beginning for the band. All this took place over more than two years, and of course my girl and my family support me and pushed me to make this decision. I did make that decision and even that was very difficult for me, playing with a new line-up and having new people on the stage, in the rehearsal room, in the tour bus and stuff. But anyway, right now I feel good and I’m happy that we have this new record out. Everything is starting to be okay again.”
Decapitated’s resurrection was far from being a certainty, however. “Straight after the accident I was sure that that was the end for the band, because actually that was the end of Decapitated,” Vogg admits. “Decapitated without Vitek and Covan was just not possible to me, not possible at all. These days I still feel weird with the new line-up when we are on tour, when we are on our tour bus, or up there playing or rehearsing. When I don’t see Vitek and Covan I feel very weird. I have to fight these feelings; I have to try to understand what happened, and try to understand that it will never be the same as before. I accept all what happened, but yeah, it was very, very hard in the beginning. Anyway, I tried to accept what happened and pursued this band again. This is a new band, but with the same name. I wanted to continue with the band because I felt that it was a good thing to do.”
It was publicly announced on November 20th that completing the Decapitated line-up would be vocalist Rafal Piotrowski (Ketha / Forgotten Souls), bassist Filip ‘Heinrich’ Halucha (Vesenia / Rootwater / Unsun / Masachist), and drummer Kerim ‘Krimh’ Lechner (Thorns Of Ivy / Tone Intimacy). “I started to find new members by beginning with looking for a drummer,” the band’s founder reveals. “The drummer was the most important member to find to me because the new member was to replace Vitek, and for me that was a hard decision. It was a harder choice because he was so good and such a talented drummer, and to replace him wasn’t possible. I accepted the fact that I couldn’t find somebody who’s the same as Vitek though, but I could find somebody who was a good drummer and could play with me. I decided to take Kerim ‘Krimh’ Lechner, a drummer from Austria, and I’m sure that I made a very good choice. He’s a very talented drummer, a very cool guy. He just plays amazing, and he’s an amazing dude on tour. I’m 100% sure that I chose well, so that was the first member.
“The second member was Rafał ‘Rasta’ Piotrowski, and this guy is also very, very talented. He’s got a great voice, an excellent voice for new Decapitated songs. He just sounds great with the riffs, and he’s also a very cool dude. When I held auditions I invited two guys, and he was the second one. He just destroyed me; I didn’t expect him to be so good, but he has such a good vocal and that vocal’s from a guy who is really, really young. If he’s on the stage it sounds as though he’s been singing for a couple of years. He doesn’t have too much experience, but he’s such a talented guy that his voice is very, very strong – this is what I was looking for. The bass player was the quickest to find because I knew Heinrich from before; he was my friend, and we had done a couple of tours together. He just called me, and declared that he was ready to play in Decapitated and go on tour. I just took him into the band and knew that he was a good bass player, so that was really fast and easy.”
Their first since February 2006’s Organic Hallucinosis, Decapitated entered RG Studio in Gdansk, Poland on February 9th, 2011 to record its fifth studio full-length outing: Carnival Is Forever. “I created all the riffs for the new album, and almost all of the ideas were my ideas,” Vogg discloses. “I composed songs during the last couple of rehearsals in the last couple of months just before entering the studio. I wrote with Kerim and we arranged all the songs together, but they are my riffs and my ideas on the album. Also, what is very important about this record is that almost every song has some ideas for riffs I created together with Vitek. Before the accident, me and Vitek had started to make a new album after Organic Hallucinosis. We started to make new songs, and those songs are on the new album. They’re finished because before the accident we had four to five ideas for songs, and all of those ideas I finished with Kerim. I think that’s what’s very, very cool about this album, and I’m very happy about that because we finished what I started with Vitek. We didn’t lose those ideas, and they were great ideas. Actually the best riffs – the best ideas on the album – were the ones I created with Vitek.”
“I think it’s the most mature album in my career,” he continues. “It’s another different album for Decapitated, and even the second album Nihility (February 2002) was different than the previous one. It’s a characteristic thing for this band; I never want to record a same-sounding album, and that’s the idea for the band. I wanna continue this idea and I hope I never do the same kind of album, the same-sounding or with very similar songs. Also, this album has new ideas in terms of the sound; I put some clean channel on my guitar, which has never happened before in Decapitated. There are more progressive parts, like some solos. I think it’s just a more mature album – you can hear that I’m more experienced. The production was another new thing; we chose a new studio for this album, a new engineer and a new guy to mix the album. Let me introduce the engineer: Arkadiusz ‘Malta’ Malczewski, who’s Behemoth’s sound engineer. He did a great job. He’s such a great metal engineer; he knows how metal should sound because he has this feeling, he has a knack for this. The mixing for this whole album we did in Sweden, and the guy who mixed the album is Daniel Bergstrand. Maybe you know this guy, who’s worked with Meshuggah, Behemoth and on a couple of In Flames’ albums. He’s a very good producer, and such a smart guy. That’s another new thing about this album, the production. It’s more organic… I could talk more about the production, but there are a lot of things to talk about. In general though, these are the most important differences.”
To pen lyrics for Carnival Is Forever’s tracks, Jarosław Szubrycht was recruited. “We chose Jarosław Szubrycht because nobody from the new line-up can write really good lyrics – I can’t”, the guitarist confesses. “We felt that for this album, every detail had to be very, very good without any bullshit. We thought that we don’t have to do any bullshit. Nobody in the band can write good lyrics like I said, so we weren’t gonna write any. We found a guy who’s a good writer as well as a good journalist in Poland; he just knows how to write them, and and he’s good with that – he has a knack for writing lyrics. For example, this guy wrote the first Polish biography of Slayer entitled No Mercy and this is a very good book, a very good biography. Also, this guy was my bandmate in Lux Occulta. That was a black occult metal band, and I did two albums (1999’s My Guardian Anger and 2001’s The Mother And The Enemy) with them a couple of years ago. He was also the man in the band who wrote the lyrics, so I was thinking that it wasn’t a bad idea to ask him. We had to ask somebody outside the band who would write the lyrics, and the lyrics are so cool in my opinion.
“I spoke with him a little bit about how the lyrics should be, but in general I left the lyrics to him because I just knew that he was a great writer and had good ideas for the lyrics. I just told him that they should be lyrics talking about what’s going on in the world right now, and what we can see on TV on the news. Slightly aggressive, slightly ironic, metaphorical lyrics. He did a great job. Also, he came up with the idea for the album title and cover art and I welcomed this because it fits with the songs, it fits with the music. Maybe I consider the lyrics to be a little bit like Slayer’s lyrics, but not too much about war and religion. The lyrics also touch on war and religion, but they’re more about other things, about some interesting yet very bad things that are going on in the world right now. Decapitated’s lyrics were always about something different. On the previous albums, they were more mythological, and then philosophical. Right now our lyrics are about what’s going on in the world, and a little bit more serious. About reality, about human life.”
The title Carnival Is Forever suggests the world itself is a circus, but obviously this is just one interpretation. “The title is pretty much an ironic one because carnival means all those things, like for example what’s on the news as well as war, fights between people,” Vogg notes. “We christened all this shit a carnival, and it’s forever. It just means that it happens all the time – it happens all the time, and people don’t really wanna change. It’s just an ironic, metaphorical title, though I’m not the best person to talk to about the lyrics. I’m better talking about the music, but if you have the lyrics in front of you you’ll have a good time when you read them I think. They have a cool style, and they’re written in a more spontaneous style. They’re not about just one idea, because there are so many things going on. I’m sure it would be best to open the booklet and read the lyrics.”
Arkadiusz ‘Malta’ Malczewski acted as sound engineer on the record, while Daniel Bergstrand mixed the whole effort as well as producing the drum parts. “I chose Arkadiusz because the last three albums we recorded in Hertz Studio with the Wieslawski brothers (Sławek and Wojtek),” the axeman divulges. “Those guys are very good at what they do and they’re popular right now in Poland, and not just Poland. They’re really professional and really cool dudes. I love to work with them, but this time I decided to change everything so that the new Decapitated would sound different than before. I decided to call Arkadiusz Malczewski because I felt that we share the same feelings about how to record a metal band these days. We have the same point of view, so I called him and he was very, very happy about my proposition. He was excellent in the studio, and has a very good feel for the music; for how the music should sound, for which equipment we should record with, which head we should use, and all this stuff. Also, this guy is so cool. He’s always on tour; he’s spent the last ten years on a tour bus with Behemoth, so this guy knows what’s going on. He’s just a maniac of metal music; I was looking for somebody like him, and for me someone who’s spent the last ten years inside a tour bus and makes sounds for so many bands – especially Behemoth – knows how metal bands should sound. He has huge experience, and of course not just with making sounds but also with creating a good atmosphere in the studio.
“With Daniel Bergstrand the Swedish producer, I’ve just seen the name of this guy on so many cool albums so I decided to ask him about the production and also because Malta felt that we should invite Bergstrand to our sessions. He prepared the drums and mixed the album, and was also pretty much excited about our band. He’s a master of the drum sound – he really knows what to do to make the best possible drum sound. We invited him to the studio, and he knew the studio because he was there twice because of sessions with Behemoth. He knew the place, came from Sweden and spent about five days to prepare the drum sound. We then recorded the rest of the instruments and the vocals with Malta, sent the recordings to him and he did the final mixes. That was a very important reason why he came to produce the drums, because he prepared the drums for his eventual mix and also he had so much great ideas for the sound. Because of him, we didn’t record the bass drums using a drum trigger. We had a nice, natural sound and that was a fantastic idea, an excellent idea. He did so many interesting, crazy things to make the drums sound the best they possibly could. He just did a great job for the drums – the drums sound very, very good. That’s why we asked him to help us with this album.”
Connoting 1973 British horror movie The Wicker Man, a photograph by Łukasz Jaszak adorns Carnival Is Forever’s cover. “This is very simple artwork – it’s photographic,” Vogg deems. “I was thinking about hiring somebody to do a painting, but we just didn’t find the right person. We were concentrating more on creating music, and then Jarosław Szubrycht the lyricist sent me this photo because since he had written the lyrics, I asked him if he possibly had an idea for the cover. He sent me this picture, and this picture was made by Łukasz Jaszak, a Polish artist. He does pictures. he does artworks for bands and he’s also a journalist . This photo makes me a little bit… I was thinking ‘What the fuck is this man? With the rabbit mask and this person?’ I wasn’t sure about that, but after a couple of days I felt that it fits greatly with the lyrics. It looks good because it’s a picture, and it’s dark and it’s simple – I like simple things. When you look at this picture it captures your attention, so you think ‘What is this? Why is it like this?’ It isn’t our style. It creates some weird feelings and that’s why I decided to use the photo, because I knew this cover would piss off a lot of people probably (laughs). Also, I want to say that this time the cover isn’t computer-generated because I was pretty much bored with computer designs, and I was really looking for something that was more natural. The same with the production – it’s more natural. The album shows what condition the band is in right now, and somehow fits with the cover art because it’s a simple production and it kicks ass. It’s dark, simple and photographic. For me, it’s just cool. I like it.”
And finally, the metal community has Covan in their thoughts. “Covan isn’t doing so good,” the outfit’s founder sadly concedes. “Unfortunately, he still needs a lot of time to make a full recovery. He’s still recovering, but it’s still a long way to go. He’s waiting for surgery; it’s very tough surgery, and hopefully that surgery can quicken the process of recovery. Hopefully in a couple of years, we can see Covan in a good condition – he’s still fighting for his comeback to normal life. If someone is interested in helping Covan to recover, there are two websites they can check: www.adrian.org.pl and www.wakeupcovan.com.”
Are you able to have a conversation with him then Vogg? “No, not really. He looks like he understands when you talk to him. His parents spend all their time with him; they told me that he can understand and he feels what’s going on, but he actually cannot talk and he cannot move as well. He’s more or less a prisoner of his own body, unfortunately. That’s his condition at the moment, but hopefully he can make progress in the future.”
The metal community wishes Covan a healthy recovery. “I hope he recovers too,” Vogg agrees. “I know some people who were in the same situation as Covan and right now they can do things by themselves, but I have to say that it’s a long, long way away for him. A couple of years.”
Carnival Is Forever was released on July 12th, 2011 in Poland through Riffs Factory / Mystic Production. The album was released that same day in North America and subsequently on the 15th in Europe, all through Nuclear Blast Records.
Interview published in July 2011