01. Endless Cycle of Violence
02. Divination and Volition
04. Touched by an Angel
07. G.lobal O.verhaul D.evice
08. Let Them Hate So Long As They Fear
09. The Omega Point
10. Megacosm of the Aquaphobics
11. Ov Vicissitude
2007 Relapse Records
With fifteen years of making music under their belts, Cephalic Carnage has had the opportunity to explore far more genres and styles than the average metal band. Their combination of death metal, grind, and doom with sporadic touches of experimentalism and humor has built the band quite a reputation and secured them a place among the extreme music world's list of heavy hitters. And with the release of their fifth full-length, Xenosapien, Cephalic Carnage has continued to look for more musical territory to explore, and the result is a worthy follow-up to the success of 2005's Anomalies.
Although Xenosapien displays the same wide range of styles for which Cephalic Carnage has been known, a strong technical death metal lean is front and center amongst the disc's carefully calculated mayhem. "Touched by an Angel" is the CD's most relevant example of this, as its unrelenting drumming and straightforward song progression are reminiscent of 90s death metal. "Divination and Volition" showcases the band's technical aptitude as the track begins with swirling dual leads over a slightly spastic rhythm section before returning the focus to more crushing, low-end riffs. The convulsive tendencies of "Heptarchy" pull the listener in countless directions as the song hops between technical displays of instrumentation, seemingly devoid of any guiding rhythm. And just like Cephalic Carnage has done in the past, they continue to execute these demanding feats with the utmost of precision.
Yet Xenosapien isn't completely missing the band's trademark anything-goes combination of genres. "Let Them Hate So Long As They Fear" is a return to the grind side of the game, and the roughly 70 second long song remembers the band's earlier days. "G.lobal O.verhaul D.evice" proves that experimentation still runs deep in Cephalic Carnage's blood, as the track's crushing mid-tempo riffs are complemented by subdued melody, a bit of clean singing, and a brief saxophone appearance. And along the lines of 2002's Halls of Amenti comes an untitled hidden track firmly rooted in slow-paced, doomy heaviness.
So what's the downside of Xenosapien Well, simply put, Cephalic Carnage has done better. There is nothing inherently wrong with Xenosapien, and its technical death lean definitely sets it apart from the rest of the band's discography, but their extreme and unpredictable elements are no longer as fresh and inventive as they were back on Lucid Interval. Call it desensitization. Call it an oversaturation of the genre with imitators of lesser skill and vision. But whatever the case may be, Cephalic Carnage's prior work just makes it impossible for this release to be a major breakthrough in a style of music that banks on surprising listeners with unusual and unconventional musical approaches. Fans of the band's previous work will certainly find much to enjoy in Xenosapien, but the wow factor just isn't as prevalent as it once was.
Bottom Line: Impressive technical skills Check. Crushing heaviness Check. Innovative songwriting Check. While the overall technical death metal lean of Xenosapien might be a slight surprise, it is no shock that all of the elements that have made past Cephalic Carnage releases great have found their way onto this album. Because of this, Xenosapien may be lacking in its ability to astound those already familiar with the group, but that still doesn't take away from the fact that this disc is yet another solid release in Cephalic Carnage's career.