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Class 6(66)

Cynic: Focus

23/11/10  ||  Altmer

Introduction

That other other other band from Florida. Death, Morbid Angel, Obituary, Atheist, we all know about them. But the fifth band from that area, steeped in swampy, gory death metal, went a different route. Cynic are still a death metal band of course (well not as much as any of the others), but they were the most original and musically skilled of the scene, along with Atheist (who had a similar set of influences, but remained closer to the original death metal sound). Cynic broke up after this, their only actual album at that point (they reunited a few years ago and released the brilliant “Traced in Air”). But with the one album they released, they set a benchmark for musicianship, technicality, and jazz wankery. This album is almost unequaled by any of its peers: “Human” had two of these guys playing on it, but Chuck’s focus was less music-based and more song-based, so it sounds quite different. This is a classic from the early 90s that a lot of people have forgotten about, to their own shame and loss.

Songwriting

8. The songwriting is great, but it does lay a very heavy emphasis on solos, time changes, and other skill-associated things. If you are not prepared for that kind of stuff, don’t go into this album because it’s quite jazzy and pretentious. However, the band were also master craftsman in keeping the songs together, and giving them a unique flow despite them being hardly catchy or anything. There’s a unique way in which they make the jazzy guitars, off-the-wall drums and staccato crazy rhythms work despite the fact that they don’t actually sound like songs in the way we know them. There’s something to be said for that, but be warned – if you don’t have patience, this album won’t reward you as much as it can (it requires more spins).

Production

7. Dated, but good – the drums sound great, although they do have that typical Floridian sound that makes them resemble Death. Bass is audible which is great since the bass playing on this album rules everything. The only thing that brings the production down is the thin guitar sound – it is a staple of its time, but “Traced in Air” showed that with a thicker guitar sound, you can achieve more with this kind of music. That is lacking unfortunately. Other than that, everything is clearly and well mixed.

Guitars

8. The guitars are actually not the most striking aspect of this release (the rhythm section is) but Masvidal and his companion on this album, Gobel, lay down some fluid riffs anyway. They aren’t focused on heaviness, though – most of them are more fluid and jazzy, yet still distorted. They kind of ensure that the songs still work and keep themselves on the ground, but they fit in with the odd rhythmical nature of the album. The guitars are tight as fuck though and there is zero fault in the actual playing. But if you want super groove – not your album.

Vocals

7. Growls and weird android-robot vocals. The growls are okay, the android-robot vocals work for me but they put a lot of people off the album. I personally think they add to the charm of this album, which is rather detached and musical in nature (there isn’t any of the emotional playing here, this is quite a musicians’ piece of work). It’s said that Masvidal used them because he can’t sing really well – if so, it’s a creative way around their flaws. The vocals work in the context of this album, but they can’t be used to carry it – the band realized well how they should mesh their flaws with their strengths. This is a very clever way of getting around the frontman question, since for this band, the vocals are actually the least important part of the band. They serve their function.

Bass

10. The bass playing is nothing but stellar and parts of the album sound like Dream Theater ripped them off for later works. Sean Malone is a monster and a beast and there’s nothing else to say. You have to fucken listen to the guy rule absolutely everything on bass because he does shit that no man will ever copy. Not unless you are fucken Dream Theater (and even they will have problems with this, since it requires delicate timing and odd grooves) will you come close. Utterly splendid and magnificent.

Drums

10. Sean Reinert is a god, the spiritual penis of drums. He is the Yin and the Yang. Alpha and Omega. Penis and Vagina. God and Satan. He is everything. Even in the band’s craziest moments he is better than everyone because he keeps everything together. He has groove, timing, delicacy, details, skills, he’s got everything. He’s got a way of making every beat click in 21/8 time if he must. And that’s not given to many drummers whatsoever – he might be one of the few capable. I remember a friend once saying when I saw this band live:

“And they started to play, and my jaw dropped to the floor”.

This man is so good, if you check out his work, you will stop playing drums for a year out of sheer demotivation. Fucking A, B, C all the way through Z and back. Christ this guy rules.

Lyrics

6. Weird metaphysical and spiritual vagueness from Masvidal. The lyrics aren’t very important to the music, but they do serve the overall “spaced out wackiness” concept very well and they work with that. I guess if you get stoned in India a lot that they might be your favourite lyrics. Or something, fuck if I know.

Cover art

7. It’s extremely weird and vague. I like the cover art, but

Logo

6. Looks mechanical and standard. Fits the sound of the band, but there’s no “rat puke” logos here.

Booklet

N/A. I don’t own the booklet and that’s that. Go suck a cock if you disagree with me. Or find me the bloody booklet. Now.

Or something.

Overall and ending rant

If you don’t own this, go find it now. It’s a slightly hidden gem among the more obvious Florida death metal records, and it has a different focus (har har), but it’s a classic of its time that doesn’t deserve to be forgotten by the general populace. They were (and are) an amazingly creative band that has less regard for brutality, but replacing it with innovation is never a bad thing, and these guys showed that to the fullest extent. They are the secret legends of this scene and this is a record anyone ought to own if they have ever tried playing an instrument. Unbelievable.

9

  • Information
  • Released: 1993
  • Label: Roadrunner
  • Website: www.cyniconline.com
  • Band
  • Paul Masvidal: robot vocals, guitars
  • Jason Gobel: guitars
  • Sean Malone: bass
  • Tony Teegarden: keyboards, death growls
  • Sean Reinert: drums
  • Tracklist
  • 01. Veil of Maya
  • 02. Celestial Voyage
  • 03. The Eagle Nature
  • 04. Sentiment
  • 05. I’m But a Wave To…
  • 06. Uroboric Forms
  • 07. Textures
  • 08. How Could I?