When Cephalic Carnage released Anomalies in 2005 on an unsuspecting audience the reaction was mostly positive but the band remained one of Relapse Records’ best hidden secrets. Now, eleven years later, Anomalies still sounds unique and nobody has caught up with their unique mix of spastic and technical Grindcore mixed with Doom because, quite simply, it only made sense for these so-called « hydro grinder », which basically means people playing very fast while smoking the same quantity of weed than Sleep.
For fans of the band, finding out Cephalic Carnage were fans of Doom was not a revelation as the band always experimented quite a lot with their sound since their first album. In fact, that’s how they ended up on Relapse Records, a label known for hosting creative and original releases in Extreme Metal. The proportion of slow parts was about to change but only Black Metal Sabbath on Lucid interval and the twelve minute long EP Halls of Amenti with an epic song (and one of their best too) had really prepared everyone for songs such as Piecemaker and it’s Black Sabbath intro or Sleeprace and album closer, Ontogeny of behavior which brings the album to a crawl through a calming but a dark conclusion. In fact, when I saw them play in 2005 in the Parisian suburbs, the announcement from frontman Leonard Leal that the band was going to play a slow song was welcomed by a muted response from the audience, aside from an overtly enthusiastic idiot, me. However, the most possessed of all was definitely guitar player Zac Joe, a man without whom the band was never able to recover creatively, who was slaying the air the whole night with his axe while playing some extremely technical music that made The Dillinger Escape Plan blush.
Aside from the technical proficiency of each musician, what Cephalic Carnage did on Anomalies was to record with a more polished production to give more punch to the guitars, and focus their song writing to create more memorable hooks instead of going all over the place like on their previous album. The result was less weird and bug-eyed but almost more immediate and more importantly more memorable, even on faster songs such as The will or the way (featuring Barney Greenway from Napalm Death) or the absurd but awesome Kill for week (about a man who kills his drug dealer to steal his weed). Although quite imaginative, and more understandable than on previous albums, frontman Leonard Leal still uses a lot of pig vocals but choose to shout more to make his lyrics clearer. He even sings a bit on Dying will be the death of me, a parody of the overtly dramatic lyrics found on most Metalcore releases.
After all these years, Cephalic Carnage has never released another song like Halls of Amenti and never wrote another song with such heavy Doom riffs than those found on Anomalies. More surprising, no other band tried to go into the same direction and push what Cephalic Carnage and Brutal Truth, at their slowest, had tried to introduce. Anomalies remain therefore exactly what it says it is but should not just appreciated at such and celebrated by all.