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DECAPITATED – Scarring The Earth
Anthony Morgan
July 2017

Decapitated (l-r): Michał Łysejko, Rafał ‘Rasta’ Piotrowski, Wacław ‘Vogg’ Kiełtyka and Hubert Więcek

In authoring compositions for July 2017 outing Anticult – the seventh full-length studio album from Polish death metal outfit Decapitated – guitarist Wacław ‘Vogg’ Kiełtyka crafted parts in much the same fashion, bring together musical ideas for riffs, melodies, and the like. Anticult marked the first occasion Vogg worked in collaboration with drummer Michał Łysejko, whose stepping behind the kit was revealed on March 13th, 2014.

“He helped me a lot with the arrangements for the songs,” Vogg credits. “As I said though, I came up with all of the ideas for the album, and then we added the bass lines and the vocal arrangements for the lyrics. It took us quite long; it took us about nine months to create all of the stuff before the studio. We worked in my home studio; we put all the riffs into the programme, and then we programmed the drums. Then after that, we practised all of the stuff in the rehearsal room to check if everything was right, and then we just entered the studio. And yeah, studio recording was done in the classic way; first the drums, then the guitars, bass, and vocals. That was it.”

Extremity isn’t solely at the heart of Anticult. “We thought the album should be a very extreme metal album, but at the same time with lots of melodies – like a crossover album for Decapitated,” the axeman describes. “We connected lots of different styles of metal into one piece, and also we thought about making this album not too long. That’s why it’s 38 minutes, which in my opinion is enough time to deliver all of the interesting ideas we had in order to make this album interesting, and not too long. It’s kind of hard to write more than 40 minutes of interesting stuff. That was the main goal, trying to make the songs a bit shorter. Yeah, that was the main thing that we thought about.”

Past Decapitated tracks were too great in length, Vogg reckons. “Most of the songs from the previous album Blood Mantra (September 2014) were like six minutes long, or even more,” he cites. “That was the problem during live shows. If you have a setlist that includes six-minute long songs, it’s kind of… I don’t know. It’s just hard to set up. It’s cool to also have some shorter songs, and that’s why every song off of this album is way shorter – at least one minute shorter than those on the Blood Mantra album. We just made different arrangements; you don’t have to wait that long for the vocals or the solo, and everything strikes you a little bit before. I think the arrangements are much better for this album than Blood Mantra.”

Sporting shorter cuts arguably hearkens back more to the LP days of the music landscape. “I just think that for Decapitated and for my tastes, 40 minutes is long enough for a metal album – for a Decapitated album,” the musician clarifies. “If someone wants to do a longer album, that’s no problem of course, but it’s really hard in my opinion to make an hour of interesting music. You need to be some kind of genius, like maybe Devin Townsend, or I don’t know. I know of a few albums, like for example the first album from Machine Head (Burn My Eyes, August 1994), or Sepultura’s Arise (March 1991), or Pantera’s Cowboys From Hell (July 1990), and those kinds of albums. They were quite long, but at the same quite interesting and never boring. These days though, it’s hard for me to find a long and interesting metal album.”

In a quest to continually spawn an ‘interesting metal album’, Decapitated has evolved their musical sound through the years. “Decapitated is a band that evolves all the time,” Vogg feels. “Every album is different. It just happens naturally, without any thought behind it. I just play what I like to play; I just play what I feel. I’ve changed, and my life has changed since I was 15, and then with the first album Winds Of Creation back in the day (April 2000). I’ve changed a lot; I have kids right now, and I drink a lot. Lots of things have happened in the history of the band, like accidents, and experiences with people from labels. What I would say is that life is changing and the music is changing together with me, and that’s a natural process. I cannot be the same person as I was 20 years ago. I think I’m more open-minded right now; I’m not afraid to add some new elements to Decapitated’s music.”

Wacław ‘Vogg’ Kiełtyka

As the axe-slinger acknowledges, he is a different individual in 2017 compared to Decapitated’s earlier years. “If you look at yourself 20 years ago and how you were 20 years ago, you are for sure not the same person as you were 20 years ago,” he muses. “Everything changes. The ways of things influence me, like lots of happenings. Lots of things influence changes in my life. Every day, I’m a different man. It’s hard to mention a few particular moments in my life that changed my life. It just changes. Every day, you wake up from the bad news. You think differently, and you’re different. You look different; you wear different clothes, you eat different food, and stuff like that. You read different newspapers, and different news and TV. I don’t know.”

A difference can be pinpointed within the material itself; Decapitated was predominantly death metal in its earlier years, but has more musical influences now. “It does, but I cannot find a particular reason for that,” Vogg observes. “I just feel free to play. I listen to not only death metal. 20 years ago, I was a death metal kid. I was listening to Morbid Angel, Deicide, and Cannibal Corpse all the time, so my music was inspired by those kinds of bands. These days, I listen to all kinds of music. I tried to find my own language in the music, and for me, only playing technical stuff these days isn’t possible.

“I’m 35-years-old, not 15. When I was 15, I tried to show the world how good I was on the guitar and tried to write the most difficult riffs, because I was 15-years-old and had tons of energy. I wanted to show all of the girls that it was cool that I was so fucking perfect on the guitar. These days, I don’t care any more about these things. I think about having a good sound from the guitar, and making some nice, catchy riffs and a crushing sound. Everything in my opinion that is sounding good I put into Decapitated albums, and that’s the only way I can see right now for this band.”

Speaking of riffs, not all that the co-founder penned surfaced within Anticult’s material. “There were a bunch of riffs that I didn’t use, but I don’t have any finished songs that I didn’t use – only a few riffs,” he notes. “I just completed the songs that I put on the album, but yeah, I have a few riffs. I will use them maybe for the next album, or whatever. I have a few interesting riffs. It’s just those riffs didn’t fit for the songs, and that’s why I didn’t use them.”

Anticult cements the 2016 arrival of bassist Hubert Więcek, and the departure of Paweł Pasek. “Paweł our previous bass player left the band because he had personal problems, family problems,” Vogg informs. “That’s why he decided to leave the band. We found Hubert, who is our new bass player. I was asking my friends on Facebook. I posted that we were looking for a new bass player, and Hubert sent me a video of him playing to one of our songs. It was all good, all great. He’s a good guy, and he brings some new, fresh blood and fresh energy into the band. Also, what’s interesting is that he is also a guitar player and all this stuff, so he’s always helpful with bringing in new elements into the band. Yeah, he brings good things into the band. He recorded the bass for the Anticult album, which has changed our sound a little bit. This is actually an album where you can really hear the bass sound, which is great.”

The greater presence of the bass on Anticult was an intentional stance. “It just sounded good with lots of bass, so we decided to leave lots of breaks in the riffs because it just sounded great,” the performer views. “We have a really great bass guitar doing some great instrumental things, which adds something great and special. So yeah, it’s great. You can hear three instruments plus vocals on it. It’s how Decapitated sounds in 2017. I’m very proud and satisfied about the final sound of the record.”

The band dynamic within Decapitated during 2017 contrasts with the days immediately following its formation, Vogg adopting more of a leadership role nowadays given his length of service. “There have been a lot of changes in the band’s history, yeah, in terms of the line-up,” he recognises. “I don’t know. I’m the leader of the band right now. In the beginning of the band in 1996 and in 2007, I was kind of the leader, but there was a more democratic system in the band I would say. It was Vitek my brother who also created some songs with me, and we created the sound of Decapitated together. Right now though, I’m the only original member of the band. I’ve become the leader of the band, and the backbone of the band (laughs). So yeah, that comes from the changes within the band.”

November 2nd, 2017 will mark ten years since the passing of Vitek at the age of 23, Decapitated having been involved in a vehicle accident on October 28th that year – their tour bus colliding with a truck carrying wood in Gomel, near the border from Russia to Belarus. A commemorative show to mark Vitek’s passing would arguably seem apt. “I’m not sure,” the entertainer ponders. “I’m not that kind of guy. I don’t really like to mention any anniversaries, especially when it comes to the death of my brother. I don’t know. I like to celebrate things like birthdays, or maybe… Some good things, some positive things, like the start of the band, and stuff like that. I don’t know. We’ll see. I remember it every day, and I remember all of the days with Vitek when we played together, and when we started the band together. We’ll see. I don’t have any plans right now to commemorate it at all. Maybe the band will play together. If this would make the fans happy, then we will go for it, but we’ll see.”

Not all Decapitated fanatics were fortunate enough to meet the sticksman, although the man’s brother is happy to share specific memories. “He was a down to earth guy, the most down to earth guy I knew in my life,” Vogg enthuses. “He was a real friend. Even though he was only 23 when he died, he was so measured as a person, like a real natural person. He never got into any problems with other people, and he was always smart with every situation – on tours, or whatever in life. He was a really down to earth guy that you would like from the first talk with him.

“He was always smiling, and he was also such a great drummer. I cannot imagine how good he would have been these days. After 20 years, oh my God, he would have been like number one, or at least one of the best drummers on the planet. He was 23, but he was like, oh my God, such a great drummer. He was in musical school playing piano at 12-years-old. He got a feel for music, and his playing and drumming was different; very dynamic and very musical.”

Freedom happens to be one lyrical preoccupation prevalent on Anticult. “The lyrics talk about being free from the political or religious system,” the guitarist expands. “They rule the humans on our planet. For me, this album talks about being free, about having freedom. There are situations going on in the world right now, in Europe especially. There are terrorist attacks, and immigration from Syria. This was influential for the lyrical aspect of the album. Rafał (‘Rasta’ Piotrowski, vocals) wrote the lyrics, and I think he was kind of pissed off about what’s going on in the world these days. And also the cover artwork for the album, there is a correspondence between what’s going on and how some are telling others what to do and what to think, and it’s kind of a terrible thing.

“The lyrics don’t only talk about that, though. For example, we have the ‘Earth Scar’ song, talking about us as a band. We are travelling all over the world, and we are going to different countries and seeing different cultures. It’s written in a metaphoric way; it describes us as musicians travelling and making scars on the planet, which is probably a good thing.”

Mixing and drum production for Anticult fell to Daniel Bergstrand, as was the case with July 2011 platter Carnival Is Forever. “He set up the drums for the record, and also did the mix,” Vogg lists. “He’s an amazing producer, and an amazing guy. We recorded with a new guy – Tomasz Zalewski – who recorded the guitars, bass and vocals. He did an amazing job as well, so we did this record in three different places. We recorded the drums at Custom34 Studios in Gdansk, then we recorded the guitars and the rest of the stuff at ZED Studios in Chechło, which is a small village in Poland.

“Then we sent all of the stuff to Sweden for Daniel Bergstrand to do all of the mixing and mastering, so yeah. Daniel has worked with In Flames and Meshuggah. He did a lot of Meshuggah records; he did Koloss for Meshuggah (March 2012), he did Chaosphere (November 1998), and yeah, a few more Meshuggah records. The bands are so different, from In Flames, to Dimmu Borgir, to lots of bands. He mixed the album in the studio alone for two weeks, and then he sent us the final results. We just made a little bit of corrections to the sound, and that was it. It was pretty hard to work with him at the end of this, because he was fighting for his mix and we were fighting for ours. There were a couple of days of fighting between us, but we finally got to a point where we had some great results.

“We changed the team for recording and mixing and the studios, and the results are great. It sounds different, and really good. It has a very organic, raw sound, which I really like.”

As was the case with many of Decapitated’s previous full-lengths, Anticult was a self-production. “It was, yeah,” the axeman confirms. “We didn’t have a producer for the record. I’m the main producer for Decapitated; I know how I want to play and what I want to do with my songs, so for this album, we didn’t use any producer. I make the songs, and we record by ourselves. I don’t know how it would be with a producer maybe, but I feel good about producing stuff. For now, I don’t know if we need someone to help us out with the production. Maybe in the future. We’ll see. If we have a better budget for recording so we can ask some of the greatest producers for help, then why not? I also think this is a band that knows what it wants though, and knows how to play. I don’t think that a producer is an important person, but I think a producer is helpful for a band who aren’t sure what to do.”

The prospect of producing other artists has yet to be entertained. “No, I don’t think so,” Vogg considers. “It’s a different thing. I don’t think I have the time right now to do things like that. I just produce my band, and I try to make my band the best. I try to take care of my band members and give them my 20 years experience of music, or even more experience. It’s really been my whole life, so it’s more like 30 years of experience. No, I think I will concentrate on only playing guitar for now. Maybe in the future, but not right now. I’m too busy.

Decapitated (l-r): Hubert Więcek, Rafał ‘Rasta’ Piotrowski, Wacław ‘Vogg’
Kiełtyka and Michał Łysejko

Engineering is a prospect not being entertained, on the other hand. “I don’t think I have enough experience to be an engineer in the studio,” the musician figures. “Maybe I could be a producer, like telling bands and telling people how to play or something like that. I could be a producer, but not for now – maybe in the future when I have a little bit more time. I’m such a busy guy right now; I have a band, I have two kids, I have a family. I have tons of things to set up every day, and that’s taking all of my time for now.”

Albeit not engineer-minded, Vogg favours a specific guitar sound. “I’m looking for a deep and full sound,” he shares. “I don’t know. I just know how to do it – I don’t know how to explain it (laughs). It’s good when you have a crisp, huge and heavy sound. Yeah, I’m looking for something like that, a heavy and clear sound. Looking for a guitar sound takes two things; it’s equipment, and it’s your own sound from the hands. I think I have my own sound from the hands, which satisfies me a lot. The other things are microphones, speakers, and amplifiers. I’m always looking to make different sounds, and sounds which are better and better of course. I think I have that, and I’m really satisfied with the guitar sound on Anticult. I was using my Ibanez custom guitar and EVH amps, and it sounded great. It’s about the technique to record, and I’ve discovered a new technique with Tomasz Zalewski the new engineer. It’s really killer to record with this guy, but I won’t say how he did it because it’s a top secret thing (laughs).”

The Decapitated co-founder favours Ibanez for several reasons. “I went for it because they offer me a very good deal for the guitars,” he tells. “To be a part of LA Custom Shop guitars, it’s kind of an honour to be in the same team as Steve Vai, Fredrik Thordendal (Meshuggah), Paul Gilbert (Mr. Big), and other great guitar players on the planet. They offer me a really, really good deal for the guitars, so I don’t have to worry about having bad guitars right now. Yeah, I just love the sound. I’ve already recorded two albums with this Ibanez LA Custom model from them, and I’m totally, 100% satisfied with all of their gear, so that’s why.”

Cutting albums aside, a live DVD release from Decapitated in 2017 would seem timely, previous live offering Human’s Dust having arrived in June 2008. “It would be killer to do it,” Vogg surmises. “Maybe we would have to set up things with Earache Records to have the rights to record a live DVD with the older songs on it, but yeah. We just need to play a little bit more shows to prepare a very good show – like the light show, and stuff like that – and find the time for that, and find good circumstances to make this killer DVD. We’ll think about it, for sure.”

Anticult was released on July 7th, 2017 via Nuclear Blast.

Interview published in July 2017. All promotional photographs by Oscar Szramka.

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