Cephalic Carnage - _Xenosapien_
(Relapse, 2007)
by: Jeremy Ulrey (9 out of 10)
Although _Anomalies_ is widely considered the band's breakthrough release, I always found it a bit of a transitional record, a little less grind and spastic jazz and a bit more conventional death metal as well as the blighted doom of the (bewildering at the time) _Halls of Amenti_ EP. Well, in that regard, _Xenosapien_ is another gateway album, consisting largely of mid-paced death with the occasional noodly riff thrown in, and increasingly frequent forays into doomy breakdowns (most notably at the tail end of the otherwise blinding "Divination & Violation"); but where Cephalic Carnage have come up empty in terms of further innovation, they've unquestioningly written their best album's worth of songs yet.

In a way, _Xenosapien_ is a divisive album, in that the grind influences are utilized to establish color and character within the death metal songs themselves rather than existing for their own sake. Even _Anomalies_ had its fair share of stand alone grind and experimental instrumentals, but in all honesty those indulgent moments were just as responsible for making prior albums patchy and inconsistent as they were in positioning Cephalic Carnage as an inventive, all-over-the-place ensemble. They've really reeled it in this time, trimming the fat off their muse to maximum extent, focusing primarily on song craft, whereas in the past they've got by on an effortless, breathtaking energy. Here they've traded off a certain amount of that sustained, pedal-to-the-metal momentum for a more structured, often melodic approach.

Songs like "Heptarchy" accentuate the subtlety of their experimentation compared to the old days, with a brazen, rubbery bass solo imprinting itself on the dome with the first listen -- like nearly all older material -- but other, less noticeable departures, such as Lenzig Leal's dabbling in clean vocals, may not hit until repeated listenings. Those clean vocals continue more prominently on the follow-up slow doom ditty, "Global Overhaul Device". The latter is almost black metal-esque in its sheer cold hopelessness. Even when they squeeze a filtered sax solo in there midway, it fails to cheer things up any. And that's the main difference between 2007 Cephalic Carnage and the late-'90s vintage: instead of using (and abusing) grind and extreme metal for their cheeky amusement, they've begun to take it almost dead seriously. Whether this is what any given fan is looking for out of this proud quartet is debatable, but whatever skepticism may confront the band's motives will be found highly inappropriate to the actual quality of the material.

Contact: http://www.cephaliccarnage.net

(article published 27/7/2007)


ALBUMS
12/7/2010 A El Naby 7.5 Cephalic Carnage - Misled by Certainty
4/7/2005 J Smit 9 Cephalic Carnage - Anomalies
10/30/2003 X Hoose 9 Cephalic Carnage - Lucid Interval
4/5/2003 X Hoose 7.5 Cephalic Carnage - Halls of Amenti
5/25/2000 A Bromley 8 Cephalic Carnage - Exploiting Dysfunction
GIGS
10/13/2003 A McKay Hatebreed / Madball / Hate Eternal / Terror / Cephalic Carnage Hemp Heaven? No, It's Iowa!
4/21/2003 A Magers Shadows Fall / Shai Hulud / Unearth / Cephalic Carnage Shadows Fall Over Columbus, Ohio
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