Metal Hammer (UK) - - Decapitate­d - WORDS: DOM LAW­SON


“When I see kids that are 12 and 15 now, I can’t be­lieve it… it’s hard to imag­ine that we were that young and try­ing to play death me­tal!” Where would we be with­out teenage dreams? When Poland’s death me­tal mas­ters De­cap­i­tated be­gan their now two-decade jour­ney, founder mem­bers Wacław ‘Vogg’ Kieł­tyka and his brother Wi­told (a.k.a. Vitek) were only 15 and 12 years of age, re­spec­tively. How­ever, any­one that heard the band’s de­but demo, Ceme­teral Gar­dens, back in the mid-90s, would have found it hard to be­lieve that the supremely con­fi­dent and com­plex mu­sic that the broth­ers were mak­ing had been cre­ated, in truth, by chil­dren.

“The bud­get for the first demo was €100!” Vogg chuck­les today. “That was a lot of money for us, and we had to sell a lot of cas­settes from our col­lec­tions, just to pay for the train tick­ets and the stu­dio. It was crazy. We knew a lit­tle bit about how to play. We had a big pas­sion for mu­sic, we were big metalheads, but we were very, very young.”

Formed in 1996 in the small south-westerly Pol­ish town of Krosno, De­cap­i­tated started as most young bands do, play­ing cov­ers and rev­el­ling in the new­found art of mak­ing a bru­tal racket. But there was al­ways some­thing spe­cial about this band, some­thing born from the chem­istry be­tween guitarist Vogg and his in­sanely gifted drum­mer sib­ling, and nur­tured via an in­tensely mu­si­cal en­vi­ron­ment.

“Some of my fam­ily mem­bers were con­nected with mu­sic, so we had mu­sic go­ing on around us at home,” Vogg re­calls. “Also, we all went to the same mu­sic school in Krosno, so we learned about mu­sic ev­ery day, and we all played other in­stru­ments, like pi­ano and ac­cor­dion. But the big­gest im­pact for Vitek and me was our cousin. He was 19 and a met­al­head. He showed us what me­tal was and he showed us bands like Au­topsy, Sepul­tura, Slayer, all the old-school stuff, so we had been pre­pared for it from a re­ally young age.”

Over­shad­owed by the more vis­ually strik­ing and con­tro­ver­sial black me­tal scene for the most of the 90s, death me­tal was in need of a kick up the arse by the time De­cap­i­tated re­leased their de­but al­bum, Winds Of Cre­ation, in the spring of 2000. Signed to Earache af­ter a con­sid­er­able flurry of of­fers from Eu­ro­pean me­tal la­bels, Vogg, Vitek and band­mates Marcin ‘Martin’ Ry­giel [bass] and Wo­j­ciech ‘Sau­ron’ Wa,sow­icz [vo­cals] were fresh-faced and naïve, but their mu­sic ex­uded class and power from day one. And it didn’t take long for the UK to catch on. Within a year of the first al­bum’s re­lease,



De­cap­i­tated had es­tab­lished them­selves as firm favourites on these shores, with reg­u­lar ap­pear­ances at the Un­der­world in Lon­don, in par­tic­u­lar, en­sur­ing that these teenage in­génues were head­ing on­wards and up­wards at speed – stud­ies per­mit­ting, of course.

“We played in the UK ev­ery year and it was like our sec­ond home. We played more shows in the UK than in Poland!” Vogg laughs. “It was re­ally cool. We had a re­ally good start. We didn’t do sum­mer fes­ti­vals be­cause we were still study­ing at school and we didn’t do much promotion, so maybe we didn’t take the chance 100%. On the other hand, we were all re­ally con­cen­trated on fin­ish­ing school, and that was im­por­tant, too, so it was a complicate­d time.”

De­spite ed­u­ca­tional com­mit­ments, De­cap­i­tated were gain­ing fe­ro­cious mo­men­tum. Both 2002’s Ni­hility al­bum and its 2004 fol­low-up, The Ne­ga­tion, earned ec­static re­views across the board. But it was the al­bum they made af­ter their first sig­nif­i­cant line-up change that would change ev­ery­thing for Vogg and his brother. The first, and only, De­cap­i­tated al­bum to fea­ture Adrian ‘Co­van’ Kowanek on vo­cals, Or­ganic Hal­lu­ci­nosis emerged early in 2006 and show­cased a band armed with a whole­sale re-imag­in­ing of death me­tal’s core val­ues. Al­though still firmly in deathly ter­ri­tory, Vogg and Vitek’s mas­tery of in­tri­cate grooves and Co­van’s less ortho­dox vo­cal style com­bined to cre­ate an un­prece­dented new strain of ex­treme me­tal, with sub­tle shades of Meshug­gah and Pan­tera bol­ster­ing the band’s oth­er­wise mer­ci­less as­sault. A mi­nor­ity of fans were not im­pressed by this de­vi­a­tion from the death me­tal blue­print, of course, but the ma­jor­ity were sim­ply blown away.

“It was a big change for us,” Vogg nods.

“It was the first time that I’d had any hate from any­one! I had a few emails from peo­ple say­ing, ‘I’m not your fan any­more!’ and stuff like that. We changed the sound, but I be­lieve it’s still the best-sell­ing De­cap­i­tated al­bum.

For lots of peo­ple, it’s our best record. I hear things from bands like Meshug­gah and the guys from Lamb Of God, these re­ally cool mu­si­cians, and they’re re­ally big fans of that al­bum and hold it in great re­spect. Later on, we had the chance to play on huge tours with those guys, be­cause they were big fans of Or­ganic…”

From bright-eyed en­thu­si­asts to gamechang­ing pioneers, De­cap­i­tated were poised to be­come one of the break­through me­tal acts of the 00s. But then dis­as­ter struck. While trav­el­ling to the fi­nal show on their tour of Rus­sia in au­tumn 2007, the band’s tour bus was in­volved in a hor­rific col­li­sion with a truck as they neared the bor­der with Be­larus. Both

Vitek and Co­van sus­tained life-threat­en­ing in­juries: the drum­mer passed away a few days later in a Rus­sian hos­pi­tal, while Co­van slipped into a coma and, a decade on, is still un­der­go­ing re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and is un­likely to ever fully re­cover. For Vogg, the loss of his brother eclipsed any con­cerns about his mu­si­cal ca­reer and, for a while, the fu­ture of De­cap­i­tated was in doubt.

“You never ex­pect some­thing like that,” he sighs. “In one day, your whole life changes and you’re spun round 360˚. I lost my brother, but Vitek was also my best friend. Ev­ery­one knows what a cool guy he was, what a great per­son he was. No one could say any­thing bad about him, and that’s very dif­fer­ent from me, ha ha ha!

But of course it was dev­as­tat­ing. De­cap­i­tated was me and my brother be­fore any­thing else.”

Nearly two years passed be­fore Vogg felt able to res­ur­rect his band and start a new chap­ter in their story. Dur­ing that quiet pe­riod, he guested with fel­low Poles Vader and worked as a guitar tech, but the lure of mak­ing mu­sic in­evitably proved too great. In spite of the ob­vi­ous emo­tional tur­moil in­volved in per­form­ing as De­cap­i­tated with­out his beloved sib­ling, Vogg even­tu­ally de­cided that the best way to hon­our his brother’s legacy was to get back out there and keep that teenage dream alive.

“It was a tough de­ci­sion,” he notes. “We were broth­ers and we cre­ated a broth­ers’ sound, like Vin­nie and Dime in Pan­tera or Joe and Mario in Go­jira. It al­ways cre­ates some­thing spe­cial. But my wife and my fam­ily all said that I should con­tinue with the band and that there were still a lot of things to do with De­cap­i­tated.”

The De­cap­i­tated re­u­nion burst into life in 2010. Now fronted by Rafal ‘Rasta’ Piotrowski, the new line-up hit the road with a vengeance. What Vogg hadn’t ex­pected, how­ever, was the un­bri­dled hys­te­ria that met them at ev­ery venue on that tour. Fans were chant­ing Vitek’s name even be­fore the band hit the stage ev­ery night, and it was clear that their fan­base had grown ex­po­nen­tially dur­ing their ab­sence. For Rasta, in par­tic­u­lar, what had ini­tially seemed a daunt­ing task swiftly evolved into a tri­umphant, cel­e­bra­tory re­birth.

“At first I felt it was hard to be­come the new vo­cal­ist,” Rasta tells Ham­mer. “Ev­ery­one was ner­vous. There was a big ques­tion mark over us. It was judge­ment day for De­cap­i­tated. At the be­gin­ning it was hard; some­one asked me to sign CDs I didn’t sing on, and I felt guilty! But the more we trav­elled, the more I saw the en­thu­si­asm and how much peo­ple care about this band. It drives you on and makes you want to do it even more.”

In 2017, De­cap­i­tated are now rou­tinely ac­knowl­edged as one of the most in­flu­en­tial me­tal bands of the 21st cen­tury. You can hear echoes of their genre-twist­ing cre­ativ­ity and breath­tak­ing pre­ci­sion in all man­ner of cur­rent bands, from main­stream met­al­core acts through to the en­tire tech/djent scene and count­less more left-field ex­trem­ists. 2011’s come­back al­bum Car­ni­val Is For­ever and 2014’s Blood Mantra have re­stored the band to the po­si­tion they en­joyed be­fore 2007’s tragedies, and forth­com­ing sev­enth al­bum An­tic­ult seems cer­tain to pro­pel the band ever fur­ther up the me­tal peck­ing order. An ir­re­sistible blend of death me­tal fury and ground­break­ing in­ge­nu­ity, it’s ex­actly the kind of for­ward-think­ing but ar­dently ob­du­rate me­tal record that today’s over­pop­u­lated scene needs. Once again, De­cap­i­tated are giv­ing heavy mu­sic a kick up the arse, and as Vogg cel­e­brates the start of his band’s third decade, he sounds very much like a man pur­su­ing the same mis­sion that con­sumed his teenage heart all those years ago.

“Twenty years? What the hell? I don’t know how it’s pos­si­ble to be in a band for that long, but it’s re­ally cool,” he grins. “I’m 35 now and feel that this is still only the be­gin­ning. I have so much pas­sion for creat­ing riffs and play­ing the guitar. I love tour­ing, I love play­ing mu­sic. Twenty years on, noth­ing has changed.”




Wi­told ‘Vitek’ Kieł­tyka, Marcin ‘Martin’ Ry­giel, Adrian ‘Co­van’ Kowanek, Wa­claw ‘Vogg’ Kieł­tyka in 2005, just two years be­fore tragedy would rip them apart

for­ever live Vitek, who will mu­sic De­cap­i­tated’s on in

1996: Vogg, Vitek on a and Martin train en route to Ceme­teral record Gar­dens

De­cap­i­tated today: Hu­bert Wie,cek, Rafał ‘Rasta’ Piotrowski, Wacław ‘Vogg’ Kieł­tyka, Michał Ły­se­jko

Vogg, Mar tin, Vitek their and Sau­ron, with fr iend Cinek, sec­ond lef t, in 2000, just be­fore their first UK tour

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