Cynic

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Focus

Cynic - Focus ©1993 Roadrunner
1. Veil Of Maya
2. Celestial Voyage
3. The Eagle Nature
4. Sentiment
5. I'm But A Wave To...
6. Uroboric Forms
7. Textures
8. How Could I

Cynic was one of the many great bands signed unto Roadrunner Records in the early 90s, grinding their way from obscurity alongside the likes of Believer, Solitude Aeturnus, Solus et al. So why is this significant? The aforementioned acts were subsequently (and unceremoniously) forsaken as the label stumbled over itself to capitalize on hardcore's growing popularity. But whatever the factors involved in the band's demise, one thing is certain: metal will surely never know a band like Cynic again. To call this act 'technical' would be a cruel understatement; Focus sounds like three Dream Theater discs playing simultaneously, if John Petrucci had six arms and a four-neck guitar (okay that's not entirely fair - Cynic have TWO guitars). There are polyrhythms and time-changes shooting about everywhere, stabilized by a healthy jazz/fusion influence and an obvious understanding on how to blend these clashing styles into a coherent intellectual trip even the musical layman can appreciate. The vocals alternate between death, female, clean male, and processed Max Headroom/Transformers 'more than meets the eye' synths that are unique to my ears. But the entire experience is almost unfathomable, really. I mean, I doubt any level headed human can assimilate all the ingredients of Focus in their entire friggin' lives, let alone the five years since its release. No, of course it doesn't hold much appeal in today's stone-cold musical climate, but you'd do well in hearing this. Better have your thinking cap on, though.

Review by Lee Steadham

Review date: 11/1998

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Traced in Air

Cynic - Traced in Air ©2008 Season of Mist
1. Nunc Fluens
2. The Space For This
3. Evolutionary Sleeper
4. Integral Birth
5. The Unknown Guest
6. Adam's Murmur
7. King Of Those Who Know
8. Nunc Stans

It's easy to be resentful of Cynic. They released a landmark album, Focus, in the mid-1990s, and then went on to do absolutely nothing of note for fifteen years. Sure, some of them did a few things here and there, most notably bassist Sean Malone, Ph.D., although the quality and interestingness of his own output have been hit-or-miss. But by and large, it feels a bit like having a fantastic first date with your soulmate and see him/her drop off the face of the planet right after dessert.

Well, they're back from wherever they spent their self-imposed exile, and they brought back a shiny round souvenir titled Traced in Air, with purty artwork and mystical song titles. That souvenir also happens to be one of the best metal albums ever released by any band, period. Not only is it a worthy successor to Focus, it's twenty times better.

That's right.

What we have here is another landmark album that's so stunning in its songwriting, so cohesive in its flow, so emotionally deep, so completely devoid of filler and mediocrity, so completely perfect and brilliant you want to buy 100 copies and give them to strangers on the street, and then buy 100 CD players to give those strangers just in case they're those young "digital music" types who have forgotten what a CD is. It's so good it was described as "flamboyantly, outrageously beautiful" by the New York Times' jazz critic. It's so good you're a lesser person the longer you wait to listen to it. It's so good I'm not going to describe any of the music other than say it's clearly Cynic, complete with castrato robot vocals, it's melodic, it's gorgeous, it's essential.

A lot of folks will remember 2008 as the year Metallica came back from the dead with their mostly excellent Death Magnetic. I'll remember 2008 as the year Traced in Air made beautiful.

Review by Rog The Frog Billerey-Mosier

Review date: 03/2009

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