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The First Damned - 86%

televiper11, November 14th, 2012

I've been availing myself lately of recordings released during the brief wilderness of my own personal exile from death metal. From late 1999 through to about early 2005, I basically stopped listening to any new death metal, my attention absorbed in other genres and interests. Thus, there are gaps in my knowledge: acclaimed albums that arose out of the dust of death metal's mid-90's collapse to reinvigorate the genre in my absence. Decapitated is a band whose name I've known but whose albums I never checked out despite their rep being well established upon my return. Part of this was personal bias: I have never cared for Vader and summarily dismissed Decapitated as Vader clones without giving them the benefit of a fair hearing. I am glad I have rectified my prejudice because Winds Of Creation is fuckin' awesome and I've gained something valuable from finally hearing it.

To start, I had no idea how young these guys were when this was recorded and didn't find out until after I'd given it a few spins. You'd think a band with this level of musical perspicacity, rhythmic density, and overall achievement would be a seasoned bunch approaching peak -- not a bunch of minors channeling their youth through a funnel of aggression that belies their ages and gives many well-matured bands of the era an intense run for their money. And second, they sound nothing like Vader: they're heavier, tighter, deeper, darker, and way more technical. Lastly, in an era I felt was bereft of excellent death metal, Winds Of Creation reminds me that there's always quality death metal out there, even if I wasn't finding it at the time.

Here is a record filled with pluck, daring, and youthful exuberance tipping over into abundance. Everything about this record shreds: Vogg's guitar work has a serrated knife feel, cleaving chunks of gristle to get straight at the bone marrow; the drums are airtight and quick-of-feet. Vitek plays the fuck out of his drums -- he's snappy, precise, and variable, keeping a loose feel while still hitting his mark. Only a teenager, he gives a veritable clinic and sounds closer to what a more mechanized Dave Lombardo would sound like backing death metal (that Slayer cover is no accident). Vocally, Sauron goes deep monotone, reminding me of Disincarnate's Bryan Cegon: clinical and efficient but perhaps not the most dramatic or sustained. He's not a weak link by any means, though I wonder what a more dynamic presence would bring. Sadly, the bass remains an achilles heel being low in a mix that is otherwise bright and powerful -- one of the better modern productions I have heard.

The songwriting is where Decapitated's youth presents a slight disadvantage. Not that the songs are bad at all. In fact, they are mostly quite good indeed with a fiery energy and palpable tension that smoothly masters the delicate balance between speed, heaviness, and technicality. Accessibility, on the other hand, is an issue. In their youthful enthusiasm, the band seems to throw a few too many ideas (and riffs) at the wall. Some songs whir by in a blur of high-octane acceleration that leaves my ears fatigued. When they nail the formula, as they do on the title track and the masterful "Eye Of Horus," it's an exhilarating listen. Sadly, Decapitated didn't seem to grow in their maturity. Subsequent albums lack this record's passion and variety while personal tragedy (RIP Vitek) has altered the band permanently leaving Winds Of Creation as a landmark debut whose potential remains sadly unfulfilled.