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Formed in Florida, United States in 1987, Cynic is a progressive metal band that recorded a few thrash metal demos before moving to a highly complex form of jazz-fusion influenced experimental/avant-garde death metal, manifested in their seminal album, 1993's Focus, which for over a decade was the band's only official release.

Cynic disbanded in 1994 due to artistic differences while working on their second album, but regrouped in 2007 to perform a series of shows. The reunion was successful, with the group also performing a new song, entitled Evolutionary Sleeper, a composition in the unique style of Focus. This was a harbinger of things to come, as the group recorded two additional tracks, Integral Birth and Adam's Murmur and then signed a contract with Season of Mist for two albums. Their second album, Traced in Air, was released on November 17, 2008 in Europe and November 25, 2008 in North
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CYNIC Discography

CYNIC albums / top albums

CYNIC Focus album cover 4.07 | 76 ratings
Technical Death Metal 1993
CYNIC Traced in Air album cover 4.11 | 67 ratings
Traced in Air
Progressive Metal 2008
CYNIC Kindly Bent To Free Us album cover 3.53 | 20 ratings
Kindly Bent To Free Us
Metal Related 2014
CYNIC Ascension Codes album cover 2.96 | 5 ratings
Ascension Codes
Metal Related 2021

CYNIC EPs & splits

CYNIC The Breed Beyond album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
The Breed Beyond
Technical Death Metal 1993
CYNIC Re-Traced album cover 3.52 | 17 ratings
Metal Related 2010
CYNIC Carbon-Based Anatomy album cover 3.73 | 24 ratings
Carbon-Based Anatomy
Metal Related 2011

CYNIC live albums

CYNIC demos, promos, fans club and other releases (no bootlegs)

CYNIC '88 Demo album cover 2.15 | 5 ratings
'88 Demo
Thrash Metal 1988
CYNIC Reflections of a Dying World album cover 2.23 | 7 ratings
Reflections of a Dying World
Technical Thrash Metal 1989
CYNIC '90 Demo album cover 2.86 | 6 ratings
'90 Demo
Technical Death Metal 1990
CYNIC Demo 1991 album cover 3.04 | 6 ratings
Demo 1991
Technical Death Metal 1991
CYNIC Promo 08 album cover 3.00 | 4 ratings
Promo 08
Progressive Metal 2008

CYNIC re-issues & compilations

CYNIC The Portal Tapes album cover 3.35 | 6 ratings
The Portal Tapes
Non-Metal 2012
CYNIC Uroboric Forms - The Complete Demo Recordings album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Uroboric Forms - The Complete Demo Recordings
Technical Death Metal 2017

CYNIC singles (2)

.. Album Cover
3.58 | 2 ratings
Progressive Metal 2018
.. Album Cover
0.00 | 0 ratings
Metal Related 2021

CYNIC movies (DVD, Blu-Ray or VHS)

CYNIC Reviews

CYNIC Demo 1991

Demo · 1991 · Technical Death Metal
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"Demo 1991" is the fourth demo recording by US technical/progressive metal act Cynic. The demo was recorded for and released by Roadrunner Records in 1991 and was initially only meant to be a promo for the label to decide wether or not they would sign Cynic (which they eventually did).

The demo features demo versions of "Uroboric Forms" and "The Eagle Nature", which would both be re-recorded and included on Cynic´s 1993 debut full-length studio album "Focus", and the third track "Pleading for Preservation", which is exclusive to this demo (although the outro section was used on "How Could I"). The demo versions of "Uroboric Forms" and "The Eagle Nature" sound a bit unfinished and doesn´t feature the vocoder vocals, which made them what they are on "Focus", but it´s still obvious how well playing Cynic are and how many intriguing songwriting ideas they had. They´ve moved from being a technical Bay Area thrash metal influenced act to being a technical/progressive death metal act and the style they play here is much more interesting and unique than what they had produced before. It´s interesting to note that guitarist/vocalist Paul Masvidal has also changed his vocal style and now delivers aggressive snarling semi-growling. This would be his one and only extreme vocal performance as he would stop performing extreme vocals after this demo, because he realised he was hurting his vocal cords.

"Demo 1991" is well produced, the performances are high level on all posts, and the songwriting is unique and intriguing. Cynic took the final step forward with this demo and cemented their position as one of the seminal technical/progressive death metal acts from the late 80s/early 90s. The demo is still a little rough around the edges, but you still get a good idea of the brilliance of Cynic. A 3 - 3.5 star (65%) rating is warranted.

CYNIC '90 Demo

Demo · 1990 · Technical Death Metal
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"Demo 1990" is the third demo recording by US technical/progressive metal act Cynic. The demo was released through Epidemic Records in January 1990. It´s the successor to the 1989 "Reflections of a Dying World" demo and features one lineup change since the predecessor as bassist Mark Van Erp has been replaced by Tony Choy.

The demo features three tracks, which are exclusive to this demo (meaning they wouldn´t make it unto Cynic´s 1993 debut full-length studio album "Focus"). Although still rooted in the Bay Area thrash metal style, Cynic show a lot of progression on this demo compared to the first two demos. The technical aspect of their sound is in focus here, and this is generally a highly technical thrash metal release featuring tempo changes and toying with time signatures, and fusion influenced drumming (and guitar solos). Masvidal´s vocals are still raw staccato delivered thrash metal vocals, which get the job done, but not much more than that.

In terms of production values "Demo 1990" was recorded at Morrisound Studios, Tampa, Florida, and it was produced by Scott Burns and Cynic, which means that the demo features a heavier and more meaty sounding production, than most thrash metal demos from those days. Burns had already worked on some of the early death metal recordings by artists like Obituary and Amon (later Deicide), and had a good idea on how to create heavy sounding recordings and the massive production job suits Cynic´s music well.

Upon conclusion "Demo 1990" is a big leap forward for Cynic, but because of the thrash metal riffs and songwriting ideas this still doesn´t sound much like Cynic would just a few years down the line. A 3 star (60%) rating is warranted.

CYNIC Reflections of a Dying World

Demo · 1989 · Technical Thrash Metal
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"Reflections of a Dying World" is the second demo recording by US techncial/progressive metal act Cynic. The demo was independently released in 1989. There have been a couple of lineup changes since the release of Cynic´s 1988 demo, as lead vocalist Jack Kelly has jumped ship. Guitarist Paul Masvidal therefore performs vocals on "Reflections of a Dying World" in addition to playing guitar and Jason Gobel has been added as a second guitarist. The rhythm section of bassist Mark Van Erp and drummer Sean Reinert remain from the first demo.

Stylistically Cynic continue to play a technical version of Bay Area thrash metal (aggressive acts like Vio-Lence and Dark Angel), just like they did on the first demo and although especially the drumming by Reinert is on a high technical level, the relatively generic thrash metal songwriting and Masvidal´s raw staccato delivered thrash meetal vocals keep things grounded and there´s little here which sticks after the demo has ended playing.

The sound production is decent considering that "Reflections of a Dying World" is a 1989 thrash metal demo, and you can easily hear all instruments and vocals in the mix. I don´t hear great development since the first demo though and that goes for both the sound production values, the performances, and the songwriting, and this is still far away from what Cynic would evolve into in just a few years. A 2 - 2.5 star (45%) rating is warranted.

CYNIC Ascension Codes

Album · 2021 · Metal Related
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"Ascension Codes" is the 4th full-length studio album by US progressive rock/metal act Cynic. The album was released through Season of Mist in November 2021. It´s the successor to "Kindly Bent To Free Us" from 2014, although the "Uroboric Forms - The Complete Demo Recordings" compilation album was released in 2017, and Cynic also released the "Humanoid" single in 2018 (the first new music from the band since 2014), and the "Integral" single in 2021.

It´s safe to say that Cynic have been through some years of turmoil and tragedy since the release of "Kindly Bent To Free Us" (2014) as drummer/original member Sean Reinert left in 2015 and subsequently tragically died of a heart attack in January 2020. A few years after he left and some disputes over the continued use of the Cynic name later, Reinert was replaced by Matt Lynch in 2017, who plays on "Ascension Codes". Bassist Sean Malone stuck with lead vocalist/guitarist Paul Masvidal, but another tragedy struck as he chose to end his own life in December 2020. Masvidal opted not to recruit a new bassist, and "Ascension Codes" actually doesn´t feature bass at all. Instead Masvidal hired keyboard player Dave Mackay to record the bass parts using a bass synthesizer.

Although Masvidal was always the main composer in Cynic, losing 2/3 of the lineup who have recorded most of the band´s previous material is bound to be a big loss and to have an impact on future material. Anyone familiar with Cynic knows how skilled, unique, and important for the band´s sound both Reinert and Malone were, and "Ascension Codes" is therefore in many ways a new beginning for Cynic.

Stylistically there is no doubt that you´re listening to a Cynic album though. Although Max Phelps is creadited for performing additional vocals, the extreme metal vocals are very few and far between. When they occur they are layered with the clean vocals and buried in the mix, which means they sound more like rough whispers than anything else. Masvidal performs his usual effect laden and futuristic sounding clean vocals. The atmosphere of the music is tranquil, spiritual, and mellow, although the album does feature more heavy parts. The complex heavy riffs aren´t the primary focus of the music though, so it´s the fusion influenced rhythms, futuristic synths, and mellow atmospheres which the band have opted to make their focal point. "Ascension Codes" is generally a layered and very busy album, but the great dynamics in the music make it a slightly more accessible release than what it may appear upon initial listens (at least in terms of being a pleasant listen).

"Ascension Codes" features 18 tracks and a total playing time of 49:09 minutes. Only half of the tracks are regular length (3-5 minutes long) songs though and the remaining tracks are short intros, transitions, or outros. Very few would probably despute that Masvidal is a musical genius and that his approach to writing and performing music is very unique, but even after repeated listens "Ascension Codes" is an album which is hard to crack. For all it´s technical finesse, gorgeous melancholic melodies, and multible layers of intruments and vocals, the tracks seem to melt together into one long flowing listening experience, and a few more memorable hooks would have been welcome. The album has a tendency to become a little too ambient and atmospheric, and just a little more attitude or edge could have made the album a more interesting listen. The whole UFO, celestial beings, ethereal spritual lyrics/imagery isn´t a surprise and fits with the general impression of how Masvidal appears as a person, but again the whole thing ends up a little light weight new age tinged. It´s proabably exactly what Masvidal is aiming for, but a few darker moments wouldn´t have hurt.

Upon conclusion "Ascension Codes" is still a quality release by Cynic, but it´s audible that it´s now the work of only one man, and the lack of Malone´s fretless bass playing and Reinert´s creative virtuosic drumming (although Lynch is definitely a capable replacement) do have a slightly negative impact on the music. Masvidal is also credited for producing "Ascension Codes" and therefore there are simply no one left to make a constructive (and sometimes necessary) criticism of his songwriting ideas or song arrangements. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved, although "Ascension Codes" is the type of album which may (or may not) grow on repeated listens, and therefore my rating is prone to change.


Album · 1993 · Technical Death Metal
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A wild ride of an album rife with technical prowess and atmospheric beauty. Easily the first of it’s kind, in 1993 there were no (to my knowledge) Death Metal albums purposefully trying to sound “pretty” or peaceful” juxtaposed with all the other elements of extreme music. Death Metal bands were all trying to predict or be the next development in the genre; usually this was defined by Death (the band) and their constant evolution and progression of the genre, but a few bands like Cynic still managed to stand out and make it to still undiscovered frontiers.

When talking about Cynic, one has to address the elephant in the room – those vocoded vocals. Because they’re definitely there, on just about every track. When I first heard those open track 1, I thought for sure they were just being used to intro the album. Then they consistently appeared throughout the song, and I’d hoped they were a one song gimmick… no luck. They are prevalent throughout the whole album. Eventually I was able to tolerate them, and I do appreciate the futuristic aesthetic they bring to the album. I understand the purpose, and it was certainly a bold move to put in a Death Metal album. That aside, I will probably never enjoy them, and they definitely keep this otherwise flawless record from a higher rating.

But what a masterpiece this is otherwise. The Tech Death aspects of this record are very melodic and riff-driven, with noodling never overtaking the primary goal of creating fantastic and memorable melodies. Like all the best albums, every instrument is playing lead; rhythm instruments are varied and powerful, bass is very audible and melodic itself. Then there are the keys and various other atmospherics and electronics, which add wonderfully to this album. They are worked tastefully between catchy leads and adding lush backing sound. Overall the album sounds incredibly futuristic and spacey, an incredible feat for 1993. It still sounds very fresh decades later.

One very great aspect of this album is there is never a dull moment. In fact, it’s so insanely layered you could listen to it over and over and always find something new. Even the slower, more peaceful parts have so much going on, it really is an “experience” without being overly pretentious. Just fantastic music here.

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