Cephalic Carnage – Misled by Certainty
Metal tends to be serious. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; in fact, one of the reasons metal is so powerful is because the artists are screaming their deepest held beliefs. Metal bands in the past have attempted to insert levity into their music, but have been a novelty at best and cartoonish at worst. Comedy and metal usually do not mix.
Cephalic Carnage, however, are buffoons and badass at the same time. Their affection for metal and mirth at its austerity have turned them into its jester, with one hand pointing to metal’s ridiculousness, and the other clenching a fist in praise of its awesomeness.
Thus, these jesters can pen songs about giant killer robots in league with C’thulu to destroy creation (“Warbots A.M.”) and traveling the multiverse during epic weed naps (“The Incorrigible Flame”) that are hilarious but not flippant. A slight adjustment of tone in the lyrics, and they become like The Red Chord or Nile, the only difference being perspective: Cephalic Carnage find nerdery funny. They satirize not only metal but also themselves, which is partly why they succeed where so many others have failed.
The other reason is that their technical death/grind is not a joke. The quick key change at the beginning of the record surprises me every time. When the breakdown at the end of “Warbots A.M.” drops, I feel like riding on the back of T-800 into the apocalypse. The band invested much more love and effort in their sprawling, progressive songs than simply exaggerating stereotypes would require. The pairing of incredible metal and ridiculous lyrics works both as juxtaposition and humor.
However, lameness does rear its head. The few missteps on Misled by Certainty (Relapse, 2010) are when the band takes cheap shots at NY hardcore and black metal (“P.G.A.D” and “Aeyeucgh!”). It’s too easy, like making fat jokes. Conversely, when Cephalic Carnage attempt more “serious” material, it’s difficult to decide whether or not they really mean it.
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“Ohrwurm” (official video, very NSFW)
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On Misled by Certainty‘s later tracks, the jester removes his floppy hat. Obvious jokes are replaced with seeming sincerity. “When I Arrive” and the twelve-minute, Mastodon-esque “Repangaea” are surprising in their apparent earnestness, though I’m not positive they aren’t still a joke. I keep waiting for a punch line. Are Cephalic Carnage winking at us, or are we being held at arm’s length to some inside joke? Maybe I just don’t get it, and the joke’s on me? It could also be that the jester is not the prophet or the king, and Cephalic Carnage attempted that of which they weren’t capable. Fortunately, for most of the record, the jester remains in balance, with hat in place.
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