f genre is a ghetto, Decapitated strolls its soiled streets as eagerly as anyone since Jake Brown, the protagonist of Claude McKay’s 1928 novel Home to Harlem. The genre-ghetto here is death metal, and like the best community activists Decapitated strive not to escape it but to improve it, and on Organic Hallucinosis the one-time Polish child prodigies lead by example: Gone is longtime singer Sauron, replaced by the equally commanding yet less gravel-throated Covan, but still present is the unrelenting aural assault that vaulted Decapitated to the top of the genre.
Organic Hallucinosis seems to be a concept album, following a prisoner as his captors implant computerized mechanisms in his head to create “a post organic form of life.” As narratives go, it’s hardly revolutionary. But if it falls short of the philosophical intricacies of a Philip K. Dick novel (or even of label-mate Ewigkeit’s recent Conspiritus), it still transcends the overdone gore emphasis of the average death metal band, and it even achieves a certain claustrophobic intensity at times. “Sodium sunrise burns my eyes / Electric charged reanimation / I must combine my (scattered) mind / After techno-crucifixion” may not win any poetry awards, but I’ll easily take it over the latest free-verse New Yorker poem detailing a middle-aged professor reminiscing about that year at Dartmouth while opening Christmas presents.
Many metal fans surely consider the words subsidiary to the music, and on that front Decapitated deliver harsh, brittle riffs over unflappably accelerated drumbeats. Drummer Witek sounds pretty post-organic himself, rolling out downbeats with machine-like exactitude. He could use a few new ideas; for his breakdown on “Day 69” he mostly shows us his calves instead of flexing the creative muscles, but still, speed counts for much in this game, and Witek brings it. Guitarist Vogg’s riffs remain piercingly effective, with a sliding line on “Invisible Control” that constantly threatens to spiral into chaos but stays tenuously held in check by Witek and bassist Martin.
The band produced itself, knowing exactly what it wanted. Decapitated play amelodic death metal, so when a brief burst of guitar melody streaks across “Day 69” it almost sounds like part of the album’s narrative, as if the prisoner were accidentally recalling fonder days spent listening to Slaughter of the Soul before the rat-like electrodes affixed to his skull fire off to shut down that synaptic safari and restore the song’s harsh clatter. On “Revelation of Existence (The Trip)” a bottled-up, distantly psychedelic sound unexpectedly announces the onset of transcendental dream epiphanies, until the harsh guitar distortion cuts back in like razor wire.
On “Post(?)Organic” Decapitated move past mere riffing to employ some staccato stabs of white noise that Merzbow himself could work with. The album ends quite quickly, its seven tracks running just over a half hour; the story ends on a defeatist note of invisible and inexorable social control, but things draw to a close with a furious guitar solo redolent of rebellion. For this, too, Decapitated merits praise: yes, a CD can accommodate 80 minutes of music, but why wank through extraneous, outtake-quality filler when 32 minutes is all you need? Brevity being the soul of wit, the band was clever to render their work concise, digestible, and easily assimilable.
If genre can make for a pretty cozy ghetto, it can also crop its skyline. Organic Hallucinosis provides good, crafty death metal, but even in its protagonist’s feverish tripping the album never dreams of greatness—not for any nagging flaws, but simply because the aspirations here did not include the expansive vision of an Opeth. There’s a pleasure to be had, for those who find pleasure there, in death metal done well, and Decapitated continues to do just that. In the Polish metal scene they may not have taken Vader’s crown yet, but at this rate they’re likely to hold up the whole damn head soon enough.
Reviewed by: Whitney Strub
Reviewed on: 2006-03-22