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Deathgrind is always a really risky genre for a band to play, as it can often be hit-or-miss even if you follow every single fundamental rule that makes bands of that genre great. That being said, even while simultaneously giving leniency for the arbitrary quality of a deathgrind album, I won't deny that this is one of the crappiest albums of the genre I've heard in a while.
It might be the fact that Denver doesn't seem like a very metal-loving city to me, but I get the feeling these guys had fuck's worth of a clue what they were aiming for on this album. Everything's a jumbled, incoherent mess, even by grind standards, and each musical element of this album may have as well been conceived by members in totally different bands. What I think the band was going for here was "slow, eerie goregrind in the style of Pathologist padded out with the occasional odd time signature, pinch harmonic, blast, and whatever else other grind bands use", but considering that's probably exactly how the band envisioned their music on this album, it's no wonder it's pretty much worthless.
For one, let me point out how long these songs are. Deathgrind is ideally a fast, yet concise genre - the songs say what they have to say in their two-minute running time. If one were to look at the track listing, they'd find that half of the songs here run for over four minutes. All I can say to that is: no. Four-minute songs already have a tendency to feel dragged-out in genres related to death metal; the listeners don't need you to make the songs feel feel even more unbearably long by adding grind riffs to that formula. And as one would expect, the songs never really have a sense of flow (even while giving leniency considering the genre Cephalic Carnage are playing), instead playing riffs here and riffs there and then suddenly stopping.
The grind parts of this release feel ridiculously amateurish ("Okay, can one of you two guitarists play pinch harmonics?" "Hey, I can! It's that thing where you make the note sound all whiny, right?" "Yeah, I think so. Drummer, show me how fast you can hit the snare over and over! Good! Let's combine those whiny notes and the blasts, and pad our release with those!") and unless you've never heard a blast beat in your life you'll quickly lose interest in them. The guitar tone is one of the most boring and stereotypical I've heard in a long time, sounding like your typical modern death metal guitars, downtuned and thick (but not to an idiosyncratic extent), and it suits neither the noisy, spastic grindcore riffs nor the slow goregrind passages (which is a shame, because if they had a thinner, more atmospheric production job in this release, I could easily pass it off as a decent Pathologist clone - the goregrind riffs really aren't that bad). Finally, for some inexplicable reason, there are these weird electronic beats - dubstep-reminiscient melodies and obviously programmed drums - put in this release at seemingly random points - and they may be the only thing on Conforming to Abnormality that's worse than the godawful grind passages.
The vocalist mostly uses these deep, natural growls that, once again, remind me of Pathologist, and they're not bad, but I don't think the best growls in the metal universe could save Cephalic Carnage from the hole they've dug themselves into on this release. He also uses these aggravatingly shriekish screams that sound like one of two things. Both are valid descriptions, so I'll list them both: 1) what would happen if a 12-year-old performed a vocal cover of a Carcass song, and 2) the screams used by the vocalist of The Number Twelve Looks Like You. They're not vicious, they're not raspy, and they're not evil. They're amateurish.
The reason Cephalic Carnage got signed for creating this piece of trash is an enigma that will haunt me for the rest of my days. If this is what passed for quality grind in 1998, then I'm glad I wasn't a metalhead (or anything but an infant, for that matter) at that time. Don't spend a dime on this; go blow your money on a late-90s goregrind release instead.
What we have here avid RF readers is complete insanity on this the re-release of Colorado's Cephalic Carnage's 1998 debut LP "Conforming to Abnormality". Ironic that title really, seeing as even in the world of 'hyper'-grind where to be successful requires having driven at least four psychologists to suicide in trying to work you out, CC are more bananas than ever that. 2007's "Xenosapien" was an off-the-wall outing, featuring a classic grind song in the making in "Touched By An Angel", but "Conforming to Abnormality" represents the band in it's youth at a time when evidently no idea for song improvisation was thrown out. Whether that is a good or bad thing I'll leave you to work out, however I'd like to think I still have the preserve of at least the majority of my sanity and so probably favour the latter.
Little of what is going on here makes much sense. How about telling your girlfriend your new favourite song is "Occular Penile Recepticle"? Or how about "Strung Out On Viagra?" or "Perversions And The Guilt After". Just you wait till she hears them as that'll be the last time you ever have pleasantries with her. Maniacal blasts of intense grind and guttural vocals of the lowest nature are the order of the day and if that alone wasn't enough "Conforming to Abnormality" features some of the most bizarre sampling and sound-FX I have ever heard. Personal favourites including the tongue-twister discussion of present-giving at the start of "Regalos de Mota" and the hilarious 'Sodomizer' advert in "Phantom Pharter", where those about to find themselves in jail can buy a 21" state-of-the-art fitness tool that'll "pump in your behind like nobody's business". To say it really needs to be heard is to tell you jumping in water will get you wet.
The first 8 songs of the 28 in total represent the original LP's contents and is where the majority of the 'music' is contained, as most of the 20 bonus tracks consist of little more than piss-taking and Napalm Death style song lengths. Amongst them are some good moments of Pig Destroyer and Nasum style grind, featuring stop-start riffs and blastbeats aplenty and an extremely down-tuned guitar sound for good measure, with "Jihad" and "Analytical" the highlights on a purely musical level. Even back in 1998 the level of musicianship was far from bad, with the drummer especially adding some nice but subtle touches underneath a wall of guitar and bass rumbling alongside the literally dozens of Suffocation patented blastbeats he delivers. Really though "Conforming To Abnormality" isn't going to satiate any musical needs of a listener as they can be catered for by "Xenosapien" or Nasum, and it is the memory of the chaos itself that will linger longest in the mind. For Cephalic Carnage diehards and/or self-confessed nutters only.
Originally written for Rockfreaks.net
Before they got addicted to suckling at the Relapse teat as though it dispensed pure THC and replaced actual musical intensity and creativity with the mere appearance of it to satisfy those who seek all the trappings of transgression without actually having to think about it, Cephalic Carnage was a quality band with solid music handicapped only by an idiotic aesthetic. It's not amazing music, but it's capable, entertaining, and most importantly, a hundred times more genuine than anything they produced later in their career.
Really it's not so much that this album is particularly impressive as much as it's so, so much better than their later material. Musically it's not a great deal different; it's spazzy technical death/grind with that 'everything plus the kitchen sink' method of songwriting designed to annoy people who need constant triplets to know where to headbang. Guitars are constant streams of stop/starting tremolo riffs, fills, and sweeps with little coherency or catchiness, and the rest of the instruments follow generally the same ideal. Vocals are a growl occasionally given a bit of digital distortion. The latter theme pops up frequently; tracks begin and end with intentionally annoying bursts of electronic noise or sequenced, dancey drum beats for no reason other than to piss off the listener. It's ordinarily something that irritates me, too, but this time I can sort of get behind it because the music is good enough to sustain it.
Granted, there's a lot of music like this, but this is a particularly well executed version of this particular death/grind style. In a lot of ways it's music for music's sake, but in this style of music it's good; it's only supposed to be about punishing the listener, and any greater meaning would get in the way of that. It reminds me of mid-era Cryptopsy; the songs are composed of essentially nothing but constant twists and turns with no real coherency, and it gets tiring after a while, but that's why the album is less than half an hour long anyway. There's little to say about this music; if you've heard other spastic death/grind, you've essentially heard this. If you like the style, you'll like this.
If nothing else, it's a GENUINE release, which is more than I can say for the cash-grab bullshit that Cephalic Carnage mastered later in their career. It's nothing amazing but it's worthwhile enough to warrant a look from brutal/tech death fans. It's moderately interesting and well executed, which is good enough for me.
Being a self-proclaimed straight-edger would usually imply a militant abhorrence to all glorifications of "vice". My response? Bongs are fuckin' artistry. Cephalic Carnage are a 4-piece "hydrogrind" unit stationed in Colorado, a state so devoid of interest the coalescence of a tHc messiah like C.C. is likely carved in a stone tablet somewhere.
Anyway, Anechoic Chamber begins with a synth intro reminiscent of your standard vocally propelled rap track before busting in with the chaotic blistering grind Cephalic Carnage would later become infamous for. The vocal pattern is completely ridiculous high-low tradeoffs until an unconventional breakdown kicks in, speeds up, and gets accented by a percussion segment reminiscent of a soup ladel careening with an aluminum trash can run through an amplifier. All that in 1:33.
The next track Jihad is a little more digestible without sacrificing any of the ridiculous elements that make it campily off-kilter. The thing that has amazed me about Cephalic Carnage from the beginning is the group's sadly unique talent of fusing just about every style they could translate into extreme music with a sense of humour to result in a sound that could be described as miraculous pseudo-improv. The song structures and time changes feel so head scratchingly right, and yet on paper seem like such retardedly bad ideas. Seriously, if someone were to come up to you and discuss just how they wanted to compose a track in the vein of Wither, you'd probably spit down their bud-pungent Exit-13 shirt and call them fucktarded. It's a good thing habitual drugs users are on a different plane of risk awareness. Serious fucking business.
Over the eight present tracks, everything from jazz, grind, death metal, hardcore, black metal, noisecore, and touches of doom are ground together and presented in such a manner that the style is cohesive and distinctly a product of the same circuit. Standouts include Analytical, Extreme Of Paranoia, and the closer Waiting For The Millenium, but really, the album is best digested in one sitting. Or biking. I need action, bitches. Bottom line is: this shit is solid; tight, precise, hard-hitting, and catchier than you'd expect, especially from a style as eclectic and uncommon as the material Cephalic Carnage churns out here.
Whether you're an expert in the field of cannabis sativa, or a dedicated ethicist like myself, you should have no problem finding something of interest here. Just give it a few spins and hit me back. Nah, I kid. I don't give a shit what you think.
Some bands, despite an honest effort to put out good, listenable music, just end up sucking, either from lack of talent or lack of inspiration. Other bands suck on purpose. Cephalic Carnage, based on the material presented on their debut, are most certainly among the latter. The band is skilled, their craft is complex, but their music is abominable.
Perhaps it’s my intolerance for what passes for technical music these days, but this shit is pretty hard to swallow. There are innumerable time signature changes per song, lots of experimental elements (the sound sampling; the variety of vocal effects), and more than a fair share of difficult instrumentation, but all to no avail. Rather than sounding innovative, the songs merely sound chaotic. Granted, the perceived chaos of composition is perfectly controlled and intentional, but it sounds terribly unorganized. This is the antithesis of “catchy,” trying its damnedest to confuse and alienate its hapless listeners. Neither death nor grind elements are presented well in the process, so there’s not a whole lot going for the album.
Now in order to isolate specific problems that recur throughout this album, I’m going to forego generalities and start dissecting the individual ‘songs.’ Opener “Anechoic Chamber” immediately casts aside any doubt that this might not suck by opening with what sounds like a MIDI techno beat, a sampled phone ring, and then an explosion of noise that persists until the brief song ends. After a track of only 1:33 in length, several things are already apparent. The drummer is very good, the vocalist is very bad, and the band is rife with terrible ideas. Followup “Jihad” would be pretty heavy if it weren’t so phony. Isn’t that the “Meat Hook Sodomy” riff? The vocals are pretty bad up to this point (Chris Barnes would be proud) but at 1:35 in the song, they get a digital effect over them that’s even worse. Generic death/grind follows until the song’s end, after which it comes back with a weak doomy riff and gurgled vocals. “Analytical” opens with a long sample (probably from a movie) before continuing in the same fashion as the previous song: slow boring riffs interjected with spontaneous blasts of grind. The vocalist also starts doing an awful high pitched shrieking, best described as the sound that comedian Dane Cook makes when imitating screeching car brakes. “Wither” is generic grind, only notable because of its generally faster tempo. The intro to “Regalos de Mota” caught my attention with its absurdity, but the song itself proved to be devoid of interesting riffs, just like everything else on here. “Extreme of Paranoia” has that weird mellow riff in it, but the whisper grunts are pretty terrible, as well as the slicer effect abuse on the guitars (1:41). This song ends with a terrible synthetic hip-hop beat, adding yet another demerit to a long list. “A.Z.T.” is the best song here, as it’s the only true grind song (0:47 in length) and punishes the listener for its entirety. “Waiting for the Millennium” shows off the bassist’s skills in the intro, but then sucks for its remainder in the same fashion as the album’s first half. Note one more sampled vocal track to insult the listener before the song ends, as well as a pointless steel drum hidden track. 32:40 of my free time wasted, never to be returned to me.
Grindcore faithful, please take into account that my favorite grind runs along the lines of old Napalm Death and Carcass and that I fucking despise the ‘math metal’ contingent of the modern hardcore scene, of which this release frequently reminds me. There's just too many dumb ideas (sweet Lucifer, the sampling!) for this to be tolerable. Fans of the Dillinger Escape Plan and such nonsense might like this. Everyone else, stay away.