Poland’s Decapitated speak to Heavy Music Artwork
The sonic transformation of Poland’s Decapitated over several devastating albums reflects, in some ways, their tumultuous personal journey as a band. Centered around sole guitarist Vogg, who gives them their brutal sonic identity, the band have endured the tragic loss of Vogg’s brother (original drummer Vitek) in a 2007 car accident. Second vocalist Covan slipped into a coma following the accident, and after a long hiatus, Vogg announced the decision to carry on with new band members to honour and grow what Decapitated had already created.
Formed in Krosno in 1996 while still teenagers, the band immediately displayed jaw-dropping musical prowess on technically relentless albums like ‘Winds of Creation’ and ‘Nihility’. Their ambitious fourth album, ‘Organic Hallucinosis,’ (2006) saw them truly spread their creative wings as they embraced a groove-heavy sound that was more bludgeoning yet somehow more memorable and insidious.
Third vocalist “Rasta” Piotrowski proved the perfect foil for Vogg’s menacingly dense yet hooky riffs and the band’s progressive arrangements, which are as seductive as they are punishing. This evolution was streamlined to deadly perfection on their last release, ‘Carnival is Forever’ (2011), featuring instant pit classics such as ‘Homo Sum’ and ‘404.’ A stream of fierce, intelligent music, ‘Carnival…’ combines dark guitar grooves that recall Pantera with stark, Sepultura-like textures and the mind-melting rhythmic trickery of Meshuggah to create a style of death metal that’s all their own. Completed by a bleakly effective cover image, ‘Carnival is Forever’ is an album that merges desolate atmospheres with addictive riffs and rhythms to somehow mirror some of society’s darker undercurrents.
Adam Stanley of Heavy Music Artwork met with Vogg for a (very) brief chat prior to their Brixton Academy gig as main support to Lamb of God on their January tour, trying to discover a little of what makes Decapitated tick and where they’re headed with their sound and vision.
HMA: Looking at the lyrics on your last album, ‘Carnival is Forever,’ is seems like you’re expressing some disillusionment with society, and even the title seems to deal with people pretending things are alright but not really facing up to how things are. Can you talk about this idea and the lyrics for the song?
VOGG: Yeah, I mean, the idea with the lyrics for ‘Carnival is Forever’ is kind of to show that people don’t really want to change what they do. I mean they’ve changed since the Middle Ages a little bit of course, but they’re still making the same mistakes and there’s still so much bullshit going on in the world, in different parts of the world. Maybe not here in Europe, but it’s all the same shit we do all the time, I mean, we people. So it [‘Carnival is Forever’] is pretty much all about that. There are many things going on in various areas that are pretty crazy. You know, my friend who wrote those lyrics, he is always using this interesting style of writing, like a theatre kind of style. Decapitated as a band does try to show how fucked up people are.
HMA: Talking about the sound of this album, compared to your last two albums and your early more technical stuff, it seems like you’re kind of using a more, not simplistic, but a more brutal approach. The riffs are more memorable and solid.
VOGG: Yeah, for me it’s more meaty, meaty riffs. I don’t know, it’s kind of [down to] experience. When you play on a certain guitar amp and something is sounding better [than something else you have tried], you can learn from playing live, from tours. You take this experience and then you substitute the riffs. You discover for some reason it’s just sounding better, you know, and sometimes you’ll do something maybe a little bit slower even, or sometimes a little bit easier, then it’s sounding better than, like, one million things [in one song]. It goes together with your age. As you are getting older, you pay attention to don’t do too many fireworks and concentrate on having some taste.
HMA: So basically song-based ideas.
VOGG: Yes, better songs.
HMA: It almost sounds like Pantera, but if they carried on getting heavier and then listened to some Meshuggah, then it would come out like Decapitated.
VOGG: Maybe, yes, maybe. You see, this is the example, like all bands, are going in this same kind of direction with this [more direct riffs and songwriting].
HMA: Would you say you’re taking more inspiration from classic riff writers, not just Dimebag but people who write riffs that you really remember? Would you say you listen more for that kind of ideas?
VOGG: I think maybe you will get towards middle age, and maybe you don’t have time and energy for one million notes. I don’t know. It has to be simple. Black Sabbath is simple. All that band’s riffs are [essentially] very simple, just a few notes…
HMA: You’re the lone guitarist in Decapitated, so what kind of things do you have to do to fill out the sound, because it sounds huge?
VOGG: It’s all to experience, taken from years of playing you know. It’s hard to describe. We could talk about that, how to play and how to take your fingers and how to do with your hands and stuff, but it’s all about experience and taking years of playing and good equipment too, of course.
HMA: Just finding the sounds that totally work.
VOGG: Yes. I use Ibanez guitars and EVH amps which sound incredible and help define my sound.
HMA: ‘Homo Sum’ for me really stands out as a song, it’s been in my head all week. The riffs and arrangements really seem to reflect the kind of bleak lyrics. Would you say you’re thinking about the lyrics more now when you’re writing arrangements?
VOGG: No, no. It’s not connected, not really. When I do riffs I think about just doing some good riffs, you know! If it’s sounding cool and has a good flow, and is really heavy, that’s what I think about, mostly (laughs).
HMA: I like all the covers you’ve had throughout your career, there seems to be a very high standard of imagery you’ve had since you started, and they seem to reflect a stronger theme as you go along. You know what I mean?
HMA: From the early albums to now it seems the artwork ties in to the feeling of the album. On the ‘Carnival’ album is looks like a girl removing an animal mask. Is this tied to the lyrical theme and any thoughts you might have about things as they stand?
VOGG: I mean, the cover is very much connected with the lyrics, and the guy who wrote the lyrics for us, he came up with the idea for the cover too. So this concept actually fits the idea – the person with the mask and the title of the album, the lyrics I think fit with these well. It’s about hiding something behind any kind of mask, which is probably about the fact that we are all putting on a mask to live and to show to the world and other people.
HMA: I really like it, because again if you go back to the title track [‘Carnival is Forever’] and ‘Homo Sum’, it has a very bleak feel and some of the solos are very creepy-sounding. To me it all just really fits together.
VOGG: It’s sometimes like that, you create sounds and you create lyrics and covers separately, and then you connect the raw sounds, and then somehow the lyrics, music and artwork all fit together.
HMA: Since Poland is the birthplace of so many great extreme metal bands like Behemoth, Vader and Dies Irae, what do you think is the reason behind the metal scene being so strong?
VOGG: (flexing muscles theatrically) We are very pissed off! Polish people are very pissed off, so you know (claps hands for emphasis), we have taken these raw feelings and put them inside the music. No one compares with us, so watch out! (laughs)
HMA: Could you say what we could expect from Decapitated’s next album and what you’ve been taking inspiration from?
VOGG: Something new, something fresh. A little bit of Meshuggah, for instance, because we’ve done so many tours with those guys. We start to play a little bit like those guys technically and stuff… but something fresh too, something which no one will expect from Decapitated. Big change, big change!
HMA: Vogg, thanks for your time and have a good gig.
VOGG: Cool I go, I’ll see you after the show!
Interview and photos by Adam Stanley – Copyright 2014 © Heavy Music Artwork. All Rights Reserved.