Cadian XXth is a song about the unit of Imperial Guard veterans from Cadia. It has a very militaristic feel, opening with a “one-two, one-two” marching tact count. This is reinforced by the instruments used being ones that were, historically, used to help the soldiers march in unison – the drums and the flute. Singer’s tone also carries an impression of a world-weary veteran who has “seen it all”. Instruments transition between a weary, slow tempo at the beginning and the end, and a very aggressive and fast approach in the middle, to keep with the theme of the song itself.
The song itself is highly ironic. This is made immediately obvious, with lines such as “remember which end the bullets come out of / and other, less important, lessons / I said I’d follow you through anything / hell or highwater / which is convenient now / that most days spent beside you are just hell”. As well as the lyrics, the manner in which the song is sung gives an impression of a tired and a cynical veteran. Song is literally dripping with military-grade dark humour (“our squad’s somewhere in between / a pending cluster bomb and a clusterfuck”). It also shows a very high degree of self-awareness that troops have about the desperate circumstances they are in, and their own expendability. Latter part of the song turns the blade of humour against the higher ups, who are apparently rather out of touch with troops on the ground: “It’s not insubordination, and it’s not having your back / but trusting your call is like waiting for a heart attack”, and then follows up with the self-aware acknowledgment of the black humour troops have to resort to in order to keep their sanity.