Decapitated + Kataklysm + Man Must Die @ Birmingham Academy 3, 1st February 2010


After witnessing my first show at the new Academy 2 on Sunday, it was time to make my visit to the smaller Academy 3 next door to break that particular cherry with a double dose of brutal death metal. First impressions of this venue were favourable with no issues with bar service, and the venue itself was nice and small — sorry — intimate, much reminiscent of the Dale End Academy 2.

With a broken tram conspiring to keep me from catching Scottish tech-death maestros Man Must Die, the first band on were self-styled ‘Northern Hyperblasters’ Kataklysm. Plying a coruscating blend of technical, clinical death metal, this was their first show in Birmingham, having been active on the worldwide scene since 1991.


They were welcomed onstage like homecoming heroes, as it seemed that a lot of the crowd had come to see them in particular. Having no prior experience of Kataklysm either live or on record, from the off they were aided in no small part to a really clear sound, making it easy to pick out the flourishes of melodic Scando-death and thrash metal liberally dotted around their sound. Amiable frontman Maurizio Iacono was either a master bullshitter, or genuinely happy to be here, wondering aloud whether he wanted more drugs, more alcohol or just more guitars in the monitors at one point, before introducing yet another barrage. Flanked by bassist Stephane Barbe and guitarist Jean-Francois Dagenais with their twin windmilling locks, Iacono looked like he was piloting a particularly hirsute bomber.

Whilst I didn’t quite agree with the ‘hyperblast’ tag they proudly display — although that’s probably more down to constant exposure to Anaal Nathrakh — the likes of ‘Ambassador of Pain’ and ‘Manipulator of Souls’ saw a punishing drum battery laid down as foundations, with the moodier ‘Centuries (Beneath The Dark Waters)’ showing an adept command of slower tempos, with many points during the set an enormous groove threatened to level this new venue to dust.


I’d argue that Kataklysm were twice as impressive when they concentrated on locking down such enormous, chuggier passages then when they let fly with the blastbeats, and certainly the crowd were more than happy to rhythmically and pneumatically pump the air with fists at the bidding of the band. At the conclusion of their set, the room was encouragingly busy at this point with no sign of the attendance troubles that blighted the recent Marduk show, perhaps confirming that in Birmingham at least, death is alive.

After bursting into the worldwide DM consciousness ten years ago with their ‘Winds of Creation’ debut album (recorded when some members were in their early teens), Decapitated swiftly signed to Earache records and released three more critically acclaimed albums and were continuing along their upwards career trajectory before tragedy befell them. In late 2007 the tour bus transporting the band collided with a truck on the Russian border, putting vocalist Covan into a coma and claiming the life of drummer and original member Vitek. In early 2009 the band decided to plough forward and continue Decapitated and with this tour being their first since the accident, it was as to be expected, quite a bittersweet performance.


Now featuring only one original member, guitarist Vogg, they were greeted with the sort of reception that would have surely brought a tear to his eye and a wobble to his lip, given all that they had gone through just to simply make it onstage. Any hesitancy was well-disguised, as they ploughed headlong into a chaotic vortex of technical DM, hellish death grunts and complex drum patterns.

Having only seen Decapitated once before in 2004, and without listening to any of their albums, I had always unfairly dismissed them as a numbingly average second-rate death metal outfit, although I have no qualms in declaring my error of judgement for the world to see, as for the most part they were fantastic and when they were on form they were blistering. Despite a few screeching feedback gremlins at points during the first few songs, they boasted a much murkier sound than the support — a rotting zombie in comparison to Kataklysm’s Terminator. Despite the constant chants for Vitek throughout the night, this affected the performance not one iota, with new vocalist RafaÅ‚ Piotrowski (who through squinted eyes could almost resemble a young Chris Barnes) spurring them on, and advising the crowd that “He’s still here with us”. Viteks replacement, Krimh performed with frenzied aplomb, with blurspeed blasting and slick fills proving a fitting tribute to his predecessor.


The banner behind the band, as well as a sizable portion of Decapitated’s merch bore the legend, ‘From Pain to Strength’, which seemed entirely fitting given the tribulations that this young band have had to endure so early in their lives. On the basis of this performance slash rebirth, the pain has been jettisoned, the grieving process completed and with a new album due to drop this year lets hope the band go from strength to strength.

Review Duncan Wilkins
Photos Steve Gerrard

About Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *