Vitek: 1984-2007 – Two years on

The death of Witold Kieltyka, better known by his stage name, Vitek was truly tragic. It is now only two years on from his passing on the 2nd November 2007. Vitek, only 23 years old, was the much esteemed drummer for Poland’s technical death metal outfit Decapitated.

On October 29th 2007, Decapitated, along with the band Crionics, were on tour in Eastern Europe and on en route to Gomel, Belarus, near the Russian border. Their tour bus collided with a truck transporting logs. The impact was devastating, wrecking the bus. Vitek, along with vocalist Adrian “Covan” Kowanek suffered severe head injuries and they were brought to a hospital in Nowozybkow, Russia. But after days of struggling for his life Vitek succumbed to his injuries and passed away. Covan meanwhile remained in a “very serious, but stable condition” but was stuck in intensive care for nearly a year afterwards. Still to this day Covan remains in a coma, whether or not he will ever make a full recovery is unknown.

Vitek’s brother and guitarist Wacław “Vogg” Kieltyka and bassist Marcin Rygiel survived the fatal crash.

Vitek began playing drums at a very young age and it immediately became his passion. When he joined Decapitated he was only 12 years old. The only thing that really mattered was that he was playing drums!

In 1997 and 1998 they released the primitive but sill crushingly intense demos Cemeteral Gardens and The Eyes Of Horus, which were quickly commended in the Polish underground scene and a fan base began to grow from there.

For a band of this nature to make any head way in Poland in the mid 90s was remarkable. Of course, they had their peers in Behemoth and death veterans Vader, who formed before the collapse of the Soviet Union. But Decapitated were in a league of their own. Metal bands in Poland are constantly under the scrutinising eye of the large Catholic population, and the church’s strongly conservative influence. To release albums and tour around the world was a feat for them that some bands from different origins may take for granted.

In 1999 they recorded their killer debut Winds Of Creations, however it took a year for it to be finally released. Regardless, its punishing tracks astounded death metal fans worldwide, especially considering Vitek was only 15 at its conception. Then 2002’s follow up, Nihility¸ was their vicious statement of intent, encompassing all that there is to love about technical death metal and shoving it down your throat.

Their third release The Negation was when Decapitated ensured us all that they were a force to be reckoned with and a very special band indeed. But after intense touring on the back of The Negation, Decapitated suffered a minor set back, original vocalist Wojciech “Sauron” Wasowicz parted ways with the band as a result of health issues. Maintaining a strong relationship with his band mates though, Sauron recruited Adrian “Covan” Kowanek as his replacement. The band then set about recording their fourth album.

A new but unremitting approach beckoned on Organic Hallucinosis, it was a battering, ferocious and near inhumane culmination of their strengths with tracks like the ever hammering “A Poem About An Old Prison Man”, “Flash-B(l)ack” and “Day 69”. Simply put, Organic Hallucinosis is a must have for any death metal fan.

But unfortunately the curtain was pulled far too early on this magnificent tale. The metal world lost a young and talented man to a horrific tragedy, leaving behind a wife and young daughter. But still, a legacy was carved out. Over the course of only four albums Decapitated became widely lauded for their punishing, relentless and technical dosage of bludgeoning death metal.

Many fans and other bands paid tribute to the man in their droves. In an interview with Metal Hammer following his death, fellow metal extremist and Akercocke front man, Jason Mendonca spoke about the band – “If there was any band in the world who didn’t deserve this to happen to them” it’s Decapitated.

Many respected drummers in metal had nothing but positive things to say about their drumming counterpart. Meshuggah’s Tomas Haake commented: “The metal community has lost one of the most talented and skillful drummers of our time! … Vitek was a true talent and drummer genius; the future will be a sadder place without his drumming!”

Raymond Herrera of Fear Factory fame further extolled Vitek’s abilities; “His drumming skills spoke volumes; he was an incredible talent and one can only guess as to what greatness was in store for him and his future endeavours.”

Fellow Poles, Vader: “This is another huge loss for the metal scene” and Behemoth: “It was so awesome to watch Decapitated growing bigger and bigger with every step they made; see you in the afterlife, Vitek.”

The eulogies go on and on. Vitek was not only a talented musician but a very easy to like person.

At the Underworld in London, Akercocke headlined a show along with Ted Maul, Corpsing, Matron and Hades Lab to raise funds for Vitek and Covan’s families. The show was hugely successful and paid a fitting tribute to a fallen friend. Similarly, black metal veterans Dimmu Borgir played tribute gig to him in Finland.

After respects were more than paid and Covan continued to recover, news of Decapitated began to dwindle.

Then, in March this year Vogg announced he was to recommence Decapitated and was searching for a new vocalist and drummer. This decision was greeted by much dismay from many fans and from yours truly. Granted, Vogg obviously has an urge to make music again (which is great). But, the Decapitated name should be allowed to rest in peace particularly as Vitek was such a staple in the band and frankly the most acclaimed member, musically. Vogg should set about starting a completely new band and with that satisfy his bug for playing and Decapitated should be laid to rest with Vitek. But that’s only one man’s opinion.

Regardless, during the summer Austrian drummer Kerim Lechner (formerly of Thorns Of Ivy) joined the new incarnation of the band and adopted the stage name Krimh.

Fans received some more news on the band at the end of October. In December, the line up will be made final and in April 2010 they will embark on their first shows in three years in Australia followed by summer festival appearances throughout Europe. After that work on a new album will commence.

Despite lacking the most vital component of Decapitated this new band will be greeted with much anticipation. It will be quite interesting to see what direction they take. That said, it will be rather difficult to imagine them being even remotely as great as they once were.

Only 2 years ago, metal tragically lost a sublime talent. Never again will a drum kit be pummelled into oblivion quite like Vitek did.

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