Saturday, November 03, 2007


Decapitated drummer Witold "Vitek" Kieltyka died in a Russian hospital from injuries sustained in a recent road collision. He was 23 years old.

Vitek and the band's singer, Covan (real name: Adrian Kowanek), sustained serious head injuries when Decapitated's tour bus collided with a truck carrying wood in Gomel, on the Russia/Belarus border.

According to the Polish Internet portal, Vitek underwent trepanation, a form of surgery in which a hole is drilled or scraped into the skull, and was due to be transported to a hospital in Krakow, Poland for further treatment. Covan's family released a statement Thursday, November 1 that the vocalist's condition had improved. At the time, he was still said to be at a hospital in Novozybkov, Russia, where he and Vitek were taken following the accident.

This really, really sucks. Decapitated are (were?) one of the best death metal bands in the world, to my ear, and Vitek's drumming was a huge part of that sound. His work on their most recent album, 2006's Organic Hallucinosis, was simply unreal - he shifted between blast beats, hardcore pounding and intricate rhythmic exercises better than almost anyone in the genre right now, really propelling the band forward. I can't recommend their studio work highly enough. Their debut, Winds Of Creation, was just reissued by Earache with a live DVD appended. It's not nearly as breathtaking as everything afterward - they were still in debt to older acts (the album included a cover of Slayer's "Mandatory Suicide") - but Vitek was only 15 when it was made, and his playing is already the equal of peers twice his age. I recommend starting with 2002's Nihility, though - it's one of the most unique statements in 21st Century death metal, from its eerily beautiful cover art to the throttled, almost industrial guitar tone. The riffs are intricate and brutal at once, frequently coming from unexpected directions to hook you right through the guts. 2004's The Negation - which includes another nod to forefathers, a cover of Deicide's "Lunatic Of God's Creation" - is even more compressed and assaultive. Indeed, Decapitated seemed to be finding ways to say as much as possible in the shortest amount of time with each album - Winds Of Creation was nearly 41 minutes long, but Nihility only hit the 35-minute mark, The Negation was just under 33, and Organic Hallucinosis barely over 32. Even so, they were getting heavier and heavier, and more and more progressive, in their knuckle-poppingly brutal fashion.

I saw Decapitated at BB King's in 2005; they were the band on the bill I was most excited to catch live. It was their first tour with Covan, who'd just replaced original vocalist Sauron. They weren't the most thrilling sight in the world, honestly (and the single-camera recording of the performance, offered as a bonus DVD with some editions of Organic Hallucinosis, did them no favors). A technical death metal song is about as easy to play as an Elliott Carter string quartet, so they were focused on their instruments to the exclusion of jumping around and making faces for the crowd's amusement. But seeing that music performed live was a kick in the ass all by itself, and they've toured the U.S. a few times since then. In fact, they were going to be one of the opening acts on the upcoming Amon Amarth tour, alongside Himsa and Sonic Syndicate. I'm still going to that show (NYC, 12/3) because I love Amon Amarth, but not having Decapitated on that bill, and knowing why they're not there, is gonna be kinda depressing.

Every member of Decapitated is an astonishing instrumentalist, so I'm halfway hoping they continue, but at the same time I really don't know where they're gonna find another drummer that's gonna take my breath away like Vitek did.

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