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Deliberately making an album eclectic is an interesting idea, but one that is difficult to execute properly. Splitting it conceptually is often the more logical choice, which results in double, sometimes triple albums. Cephalic Carnage, however, go for the more difficult approach and attempt to incorporate a wide variety of influences, while keeping a fairly straightforward album/song structure.
Naturally, the whole thing is built on a death/grind foundation, but there is some variation in song type and execution that differs from the usual approach one expects from the genre. Generally, there are two types of songs found on "Xenosapien": short 1-2 minute fast-paced thrashers which follow a more traditional grindcore format and 3-4 minute songs with dynamic variations in tempo that represent the more experimental side of the album. They're arranged in no particular order, the transition from song to song is quite smooth though. It's interesting that glancing over the run time of the individual tracks and the album as a whole, one would expect fairly standard song structure and flow. As mentioned above, that's not the case. When it comes to overall flow, pacing and presentation, "Xenosapien" performs marvelously.
The album has a wall of sound type production, but the individual instruments are easy to distinguish from one another, it reminds of Devin Townsend's production style, albeit a lot heavier on the bass. Speaking of which, there are some pretty good Suffocation-esque bass solos. The breakdowns (which are executed very well) also rely heavily on the bass guitar. Now, I don't mean to say Cephalic Carnage's approach isn't original, I simply can't find a better way to describe how the bass sounds, so I turn to comparison. The sound overall is very chaotic, yet mechanical and organized.
One song I have to mention is "G.O.D." - the highlight of the album, it deviates from the formula I tried to describe before. The easiest way for me to describe it would be death/doom (with jazz fusion elements?). It works surprisingly well. From what I gathered it also features guest musicians as well, though I'm not familiar with them, unfortunately.
While this is a very good album overall, it does have several shortcomings I'd like to point out. For one, the tempo changes and lead sections are sometimes inserted very suddenly where you wouldn't expect them to be. It's quite strange, since the breakdowns all happen very naturally, while normally those sections suffer from the problem I mentioned above. Also, the way the drums sound seems a bit off to me. Don't get me wrong, the drumming itself is spot on and the production, as I already mentioned, is top notch, but there's just something missing, like the bass drum lacks punch ( I apologize for the poor choice of words, but as any potential reader would probably have guessed by now, I'm not musically qualified in any way whatsoever.) Another complaint I have (a pretty minor one) is the bonus track, which is essentially filler. It could have been shortened and used as an outro for the previous song.
There are countless bands out there playing death/grind and similarly diluted genres nowadays. Due to this, it takes something quite special to stand out from the crowd. Cephalic Carnage drew me in unsuspectingly with “Xenosapien”. Most of the bands playing this style of metal are forgettable, as almost all of them sound the same. This album is a rare example of innovation, breathing new life into stale music.
To start with, this album is heavy, even more so than Whitechapel or Belay My Last. Thankfully, the death metal influence is strong here, with incredibly deep growls and relentless drums, urgently pacing the furious music. Speed and technicality seems to be the order of the day for all the instruments, and none of them let up. The pace on “Xenosapien” is pummeling, making it a retardedly heavy onslaught throughout its duration.
The drums are simply fantastic, standing out amongst already impressive examples found elsewhere in death metal. With immensely fast blasts and interludes, breaking into weird off-beats and time signatures, it is truly an incredible delivery. The drums are alone in depicting tempo, however, since the bass has taken on an entirely different role on “Xenosapien”. This album features the most complex and technical bass I’ve heard in this or any genre, executed at breakneck speed. It almost matches the searing guitars note for note, ensuring tremendous fretwork all round on the album.
With all the members being so talented, you’re bound to end up with excellent composition. The songs on “Xenosapien” are very well-written, and each one is unique, which is more than can be said for most others in this genre. This album never gets boring, as all the tracks are immensely layered and complex, never easing into a rhythm or anything remotely comfortable. Many interesting elements are incorporated here, and yet the music doesn’t seem experimental. Cephalic Carnage know what they are, and this album is direct and focused as a result. All the progressions feel natural, albeit very bewildering. The instruments are incredibly tight in all the chaos, so the album comes across as maturely harmonious.
Cephalic Carnage is very deserving of its “stoner” label, in spite of the amazing instrumental work. This music is random, with constant paradox and change, never settling. As a result, this album only really shines after 4 or 5 listens, and by this time, you’ll love it. “Xenosapien” is certainly worth hearing, even if it’s just to hear great musicianship. Cephalic Carnage are definitely leaders of their genre despite popular opinion. The best tracks are “Divination and Volition”, “Ov Vicissitude” and “Touched by an Angel”, all very heavy and memorable. A surprise gem is “G.lobal O.verhaul D.evice”, a slower song which builds and eventually breaks wonderfully. Forget all other death/grind bands until you’ve heard this, because Cephalic Carnage are the true innovators, with more talent than any of the others could hope for. Blaze on!
The title says it all. This is my first Cephalic Carnage album, and I don’t know how else to explain why I didn’t get turned on to them earlier. I’ve heard about them many times from friends and on forums, but upon hearing "Endless Cycle of Violence" on their myspace page one night, I grew hair on my fingertips and promptly bought Xenosapien the following weekend.
The majority of the album sounds like bloody combat between vicious man-eating squid. A churning pool of violence between technicality and brutality, almost as is each struggles for control over the listener's ears throughout the course of each song. Grindcore and Death metal fans, you'll feel right at home here.
"Divination & Violation" is a good example of this. It starts off with fast, light technical riffage before adopting a seemingly schizophrenic personality with rough chugging rumbles. This escalates as the song progresses, eventually reaching a menacing climax consisting of a nasty riff played over and over like a recurring nightmare ... and that’s just one of the songs. This musical style seems to stretch over the 44 minutes of Xenosapien, drenching songs like "Megacosm Of The Aquaphobics" and, my favorite song on the album "Touched By An Angel". Strangely, "Global Overhaul Device", the one song that lacks the musical style omnipresent throughout the album fits right in with its peers. Less frantic, but just as menacing.
Out of all the musicians in the band, I’d have to say the vocalist Lenzig Leal takes the cake for star of the show. From enraged roars to echoing shrieks to haunting moans, his vocal style compliments the tunes perfectly, working with the guitars to provide a good soundtrack for drowning in a maelstrom. The guitarists are efficient at whatever the song calls for, pulling off the malicious riffs and chaotic solos that have come to represent death metal. Moody undertones are brought to the table by the bassist Nick Schendzielos, not to mention the uber-quick blast beats of drummer John Merryman. These guys are real fucking pros, and this album proves it.
This being my first Cephalic Carnage album, I may not know what their past efforts are like or if they have gone down the shitter with Xenosapien, but I know this is some mighty fuckin' fine music, and I recommend it with all of my seventeen tentacles. I'm going to have to get more albums by Cephalic Carnage now, to cure my terrible case of dumbness.