Decapitated

support Kataklysm + Man Must Die
author EW date 08/02/10 venue Islington Academy, London, UK

Following their tragic coach crash while on tour in Belarus in late 2007 in which drummer Vitek died from head wounds suffered and vocalist Covan is to this day still apparently in a serious condition, it is little surprise Polish death metallers Decapitated were put to rest for a while to allow guitarist Vogg (and Vitek's brother) to assess what to do. Thankfully for the world of death metal Vogg has found the strength to continue with an all-new line-up around him, and this trek through Europe, in which I caught the London date, is their first significant re-introduction to the live arena on the long road to recovery. One could say whatever comes for Vogg and his band now is a bonus compared to what could have been, and this was reflected in the feel of the occasion, which was tinged with celebration amongst the usual merriment that comes with a certifiably solid evening of extreme metal.

Man Must Die

First up were Scotsmen Man Must Die, a band whom gig-goers across the UK (and Europe too) will be seeing a lot of in the coming months with a very busy touring schedule lying ahead of them in support of latest album, "No Tolerance For Imperfection". To a Monday night audience little more than half-full upon beginning their set of brutal death metal, MMD never really got the crowd going despite the encouragements of vocalist Joe McGlynn for everyone to show the horns as well as form a circle pit or two (no such thing occurred). Watching MMD I did get the impression that without knowing songs like "Kill It, Skin It, Wear It", "This Day Is Black" and the title track of the last album I would not have been able to interpret any of the riffs being played out on stage through the dense sound that the band possess, a feeling that many others were having as I later questioned my friends of their opinions. With about acceptable levels of headbanging and movement on stage MMD closed out having hopefully made a few new friends, but not as many as one would've hoped. I hope the upcoming Machine Head/Hatebreed and Thrash & Burn tours will sort that out...
5

Kataklysm

There had been some confusion in the lead-up to the gig if Canada's Kataklysm were actually playing, having supposedly had a gig of their own scheduled in London in February too (I'm not sure if thats still going ahead). Of course in the end they did play, providing on paper a very solid top-support now that they have 9 full-lengths of their own and a fanbase spread far more liberally than Decapitated's (who, presumably through their history on Earache, have always been highly popular in Britain). Despite my only previous experience of Kataklysm in the live environment being a very successful one at With Full Force '05, Kataklysm have never really appealed to my senses, especially on record where I find their sound too colourless to be of any lasting interest. Dubious perceptions aside, many of Kataklysm's songs are purpose-built for live reproduction with head-nodding hooks aplenty and a great opportunity for all four bands members to make themselves well and truly heard.

From catching only the second half of their set following interviewing MMD, Kataklysm performed as I expected: professionally, diligently and enthusiastically, whilst never approaching the territories of greater emotional involvement needed to push the higher end marks. Regardless, Kataklysm live shows always provide ample opportunity for headbanging, a feat that should never be passed up, and despite my mixed sounding words, it is for this reason I would still embrace another opportunity to see them again.

Decapitated

Being not only the first proper death metal band I was ever exposed to, but also the possessors of one of last decade's true great DM records (2000's "Winds of Creation") Decapitated should be one of my favourite live entities, but they simply never have been. In the old days with vocalist Sauron they lacked a warm and engaging frontman; his successor Covan was better in that respect but the issue, for me at least, then became a lack of clarity in live performances and not enough time given to songs from "Winds..." and it's 2002 follow-up, "Nihility", two veritable classics of the last decade. And sadly that is the path they have continued walking down with the new incarnation of the band.

Performance-wise little can be faulted; for a new drummer at just 21 Krimh shows fantastic promise, and from what I could tell, bassist Heinrich held out admirably also. But with a set based predominantly around material from "Organic Hallucinosis" the band struggled to get the fires burning. Many of these songs don't retain the clinic and scientific brilliance of many of their earlier works, and in Rafal Piotrowski they have a new frontman who sits somewhere between Sauron and Covan on the charisma-scales, although I am confident this will improve greatly with time. Pleasingly I was awoken from my slumber later on in the Poles set with the delightful sounds of "Winds of Creation" and their undoubted classic, "Spheres Of Madness", a song that tugs, begs and pleads for you to be bang your head like a child does for a new toy when you go out shopping, and because of these at least the night ended on a musical high.

It's a delight to see Decapitated back in action again, and I wish them all the best, but forgetting about the tragic circumstances from which they have arisen, this wasn't the best show I've seen, something I guess they would be expecting while the new line-up still gels together.

7

Photos by Greg Readings except that of Kataklysm by Andy Bartlett

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