Misled By Certainty
posted on 8/2010 By:
Like many bands which possess both a high level of instrumental talent and the desire to deviate from music’s expected norms, Cephalic Carnage’s albums have always been balancing acts between the outfit's flashes of genuinely brilliant songcraft and their frustrating tendency to let their cleverness take focus away from constructing listenable material. Random genre-hopping, insane bursts of flashy technical wizardry, and highly unorthodox and unpredictable song structures have long been hallmarks of the Cephalic sound, but as Misled By Certainty proves, this band is capable of more than just confusing and amusing the listener. They can also kick your ass pretty damn heartily as well.
Misled By Certainty manages to be heavier and more accessible than its predecessors largely due to the more straightforward methods of songwriting the band employs at this juncture. Much of the jumpy, spasmodic riff-stacking of past works has been replaced by a thunderously heavy death metal hybrid; grind and death metal have provided the base for the band’s experimentation since their inception, but on Misled By Certainty, this base becomes most of the entire whole. Sure, there’s the odd Southern-styled clean chorus or spiraling, hyper speed riff segment, but by and large Cephalic Carnage has dialed back the absurdity to produce music more stable and serious, less concerned with frying the listener’s brain with complexity and more concerned with bludgeoning their skull in until the little brain that’s left to fry is utterly defenseless.
As someone who's always preferred the band’s heavier moments over their frantic techy elements, Misled By Certainty is mostly a very satisfying offering. On that note, the first track “The Incorrigible Flame” gets things off to kind of a shaky start; despite containing some flashy licks, the track harbors back to the band’s habit on Xenosapien of stringing together zany riffs in odd time signatures with no real further purpose behind them. “Warbots A.M” starts the album in proper, with a devastating array of chunky death metal riffs and intricate grooves, and this song sets the tone admirably for the rest of the record. There are still flashes of the band’s spastic side in most of the tracks, but Cephalic Carnage primarily sticks to their guns with this heavier approach, and the increased focus on lumbering riffs and slower drumbeats leads to a darker and more menacing tone than anything the band has released before. The mix on Misled By Certainty suits this slight shift in style perfectly; the guitars sound hefty and powerful while John Merryman’s exquisite drumming is clean and snappy without sounding overly digitalized.
Unsurprisingly, the weakest moments of Misled By Certainty surface when the band tries to splice some of their past genre-defying antics into an album that doesn’t harbor as much space for them. The slow, haunting dirge of the epic “Repangaea” actually closes things on a very fitting note, but the shorter, more grind-inspired songs in “P.G.A.D.” and “Power and Force” feel aimless next to their more fully fledged companions, and the band’s attempts at sneaking in little flourishes of technicality into the crushing riffs are often annoying and out of place (a good example being the pointless tech intro to "Abraxas of Filth"). However, the bulk of the material feels much sturdier and more listenable than past efforts, and while the underwhelming or distracting moments are there, the album doesn’t suffer from them nearly as much as past albums have from similar embellishments.
I didn’t think I’d ever say this, but it feels like Cephalic Carnage are finally growing up on us. This is in many ways a positive development, but at the same time its hard not to miss some of the batshit insanity that helped define this band in their earlier days. While the music on Misled By Certainty is heavier and more focused than previous outings, it comes at the expense of some originality; there’s no getting around the fact that Cephalic Carnage now sounds much more like other contemporary bands than on their other albums. In the past, these guys have been able to synthesize a huge variety of extreme metal sounds into something that somehow felt unified because of how disjointed it was (well, sometimes). On Misled By Certainty, they’ve narrowed the scope of their music into something grittier and harder hitting, and while it may not stand out from the pack as much as the off-the-wall feel of Anomalies and its predecessors, Cephalic Carnage’s increased focus on atmosphere and songcraft over showmanship makes the trade-off worthwhile.
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