“Xenosapien”

Love them or hate them, Cephalic Carnage always pushes the boundaries of its genre. The band incorporates more jazz, doom, and sludge influences than most technical death/grind bands. When was the last time you heard Dying Fetus or Cryptopsy play a genuine doom metal song? When was the last time you heard a saxophone solo in a Cattle Decapitation song? But, as with all bands willing to experiment or change styles, there is a increased chance of falling flat on one’s face.

While anyone who has listened to this album will agree that Cephalic Carnage have hardly fallen on their faces, “Xenosapien,” their most experimental album to date, succeeds more in concept than in execution. What we have here is a collection of songs that range from amazing to pretty good to extremely boring.

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The underlying idea of death/grind meets technical jazz meets doom diversity is excellent, but “Xenosapien” does not seem like a step forward.

Although it’s varied, there isn’t much cohesion, and all but a few songs leave no lasting impression.

“Xenosapien” is destined to be a release that I find listenable, but not an album I care to listen to multiple times, and not one that I admire. The album opens with a little soft guitar before blasting into the traditional death/grind madness of “Endless Cycle of Violence.”

The next track, “Divination & Volition,” gets pretty boring pretty fast, despite the constantly changing tempos and riffs. “Heptarchy (In The UK)” is a definite step up. I could listen to this song many times and it wouldn’t bore me.

“G. Lobal O. Verhaul D. Evice” is my favorite track on the album. It’s a slow, doomy song with some clean vocals, and though they seem a bit odd at first, they actually fit really well. The song breaks, and there is a soft saxophone solo, and then it returns to its sludgy, doomy goodness.

Overall, this album tries to pass off a handful of good or decent songs spread out between merely adequate grind tunes. Luckily for us, “Xenosapien” ends on a pretty good note. “Megacosm of the Aquaphobics” is a cool tune. The album closes with “Ov Vicissitude,” a great slower song that I really dig. My edition has a hidden, untitled track. This is by far the sludgiest song and is really great to chill to.

So, overall this album isn’t awful. But because Cephalic Carnage insists on including a wide spectrum of styles, the album suffers. If one took “Heptarchy (In The UK),” “G. Lobal O. Verhaul D. Evice,” “Megacosm of the Aquaphobics,” “Ov Vicissitude,” and the hidden track, this would be one heck of a great EP, one that is pretty much as experimental and varied as the album is probably intended to be.

“Xenosapien” has great ideas, but the execution is flawed. It’s worth owning if you find it cheap, but if I were you, I’d save your money and wait for their next one.

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