CYNIC

Progressive Metal / Death Metal / Technical Death Metal / Metal Related • United States
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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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Focus (Remaster)Focus (Remaster)
Remastered · Extra tracks
Roadrunner Records 2004
$11.21
$11.20 (used)
TRACED IN AIRTRACED IN AIR
Season of Mist 2012
$8.58
$4.68 (used)
Kindly Bent to Free UsKindly Bent to Free Us
Season of Mist 2014
$6.99
$7.99 (used)
Uroboric Forms - The Complete Demo RecordingsUroboric Forms - The Complete Demo Recordings
Special Edition
Century Media 2017
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CARBON BASED ANATOMYCARBON BASED ANATOMY
Season of Mist 2012
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Re-TracedRe-Traced
Season of Mist 2012
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$2.26 (used)
Portal TapesPortal Tapes
SEASON MIST AMERICA 2012
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DARK MILLENNIUM ASHORE THE CELESTIAL BURDEN 1992 MASSACRE PYOGENESIS DEATH CYNIC DARK MILLENNIUM ASHORE THE CELESTIAL BURDEN 1992 MASSACRE PYOGENESIS DEATH CYNIC USD $26.99 Buy It Now 4h
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CYNIC Discography

CYNIC albums / top albums

CYNIC Focus album cover 4.05 | 63 ratings
Focus
Technical Death Metal 1993
CYNIC Traced in Air album cover 4.07 | 55 ratings
Traced in Air
Progressive Metal 2008
CYNIC Kindly Bent To Free Us album cover 3.71 | 14 ratings
Kindly Bent To Free Us
Progressive Metal 2014

CYNIC EPs & splits

CYNIC Re-Traced album cover 3.60 | 14 ratings
Re-Traced
Metal Related 2010
CYNIC Carbon-Based Anatomy album cover 3.76 | 19 ratings
Carbon-Based Anatomy
Progressive Metal 2011

CYNIC live albums

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

CYNIC '88 Demo album cover 2.17 | 4 ratings
'88 Demo
Death Metal 1988
CYNIC Reflections of a Dying World album cover 2.12 | 4 ratings
Reflections of a Dying World
Death Metal 1989
CYNIC '90 Demo album cover 2.36 | 3 ratings
'90 Demo
Death Metal 1990
CYNIC Demo 1991 album cover 3.06 | 4 ratings
Demo 1991
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 2.83 | 3 ratings
The Portal Tapes
Non-Metal 2012

CYNIC singles (1)

.. Album Cover
3.58 | 2 ratings
Humanoid
Progressive Metal 2018

CYNIC movies (DVD, Blu-Ray or VHS)

CYNIC Reviews

CYNIC Humanoid

Single · 2018 · Progressive Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
UMUR
"Humanoid" is a digital one-track single release by US progressive metal act Cynic. The single was released through Season of Mist in January 2018. It´s the first release with new original material since the band´s third full-length studio album "Kindly Bent to Free Us" from 2014. I expected the single to be a successor to a new studio album in 2018 but at this point (January 2019) a full year later, Cynic still haven´t released their fourth full-length studio album. Since the release of "Kindly Bent to Free Us" there´s been a major lineup change as drummer and founding member Sean Reinert left in 2015. He is replaced here by Matt Lynch, who has some pretty big shoes to fill.

Stylistically "Humanoid" sounds a bit more like the progressive metal oriented material on "Traced in Air (2008)", than the more progressive rock oriented material on "Kindly Bent to Free Us (2014)", but it´s not a particularly heavy track. Paul Masvidal only sings using his clean voice, and his almost sedated and slightly melancholic vocal style is probably as much an aquired taste as always. He has the sort of voice and singing style which would fit perfectly on an alternative rock album.

The musicianship is on a high level on all posts, and the sound production is professional and detailed, so while "Humanoid" to my ears isn´t a mind blowingly great track, as it brings little new to the Cynic palette, and therefore doesn´t stand out much in their discography, it´s still a good quality atmospheric progressive metal track like only Cynic can make them. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

CYNIC Kindly Bent To Free Us

Album · 2014 · Progressive Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
siLLy puPPy
CYNIC puts out exactly what i personally like in a band, namely quality over quantity and absolutely no one can accuse this unique band of flooding the market with throwaway filler. The mystery with CYNIC has always been since releasing their debut album “Focus” and then calling it a day if they would ever put out another bizarre hybrid recording. After 15 years the answer was yes! reappearing with a followup in 2008 with a new sound in with “Traced In Air” which shifted gears a bit but pretty much carried on a lot of what was expected from “Focus” with the unique death metal / jazz / space rock / ambient thing neatly assembled into a nice little package that only this band could create.

Luckily the world would not have to wait another decade and a half for a followup. The band was ready for some serious business and began releasing EPs. With “Re-Traced” we got a taste of CYNIC dropping a huge swath of their metal sound and then with “Carbon-Based Anatomy” where they cemented the toning things down in the metal department by going down an atmospheric post rock and ambient path.

That brings us to their much awaited third album KINDLY BENT TO SAVE US arriving 21 years after the debut and 6 years after their second. Anyone who follows CYNIC should expect the unexpected by now. The band has their influences dipped in so many cocktails that strangeness is guaranteed to emerge in unforeseen ways and ideas evolve as sporadically as their songs shifting from one complex time signature to another with as many tones and styles to match.

KINDLY BENT TO SAVE US may have jettisoned all traces of death metal growls and replaced them with indie rock type vocals but the musical compositions remain as complex if not more so than anything the band has released before. It’s too much to grasp on a single listen. This one has taken me a while to appreciate because it is so dense and, well, unique. Of course there is a lot of what came before but on top of the sci-fi and Buddhist inspired lyrics, we get plenty of progressive metal, clean guitars, lots of staccato, complex rhythms that fuse the world of rock and jazz so seamlessly that it deserves some kind of new designated style nomenclature.

Overall, this album is a mixed bag with me. I agree with all the others that this is not as memorable as the first two releases in its scope or intensity but i totally disagree with anyone who writes this off as mere crap. The sophisticated approach on this release is phenomenal. I enjoy every single track musically and the only reason i cannot rate this album higher is because of the vocals of Paul Masvidal which don’t have the inspiring effect that the music does. The consistency of the clean style of vocals just seems a bit weak in the mix. I do miss the growls for they added some much needed contrast that matches the music.

If there were to be a huge swath of vocal influences on top of the music maybe like that of bands like Darkology or Hell, then this could have been another full-fledged masterpiece of epic proportions, but that it is not, yet i really enjoy this album a lot despite the disappointment factor and my own desire to micro-manage the project to please myself. Despite it all i am certainly not sorry it was released but i hope they can improve upon this formula in the future.

CYNIC Focus

Album · 1993 · Technical Death Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
siLLy puPPy
This is an album that is guaranteed to piss off the purists. It's not death metal enough. It's not jazz enough. It's not progresesive enough. Waaa! Get over it. This album has taken me a long time to appreciate and not to come off as some BS elitist but geez. Such complex music doesn't hit you upon first listen or even the tenth. Yes. There exists music that takes multiple listens to fully take in to “get.” FOCUS, the debut album by CYNIC is one of those such albums. There are definitely hooks to be had on this album but they will surely rub you the wrong way as they unfold unless you are a fan of a multitude of genres of the musical spectrum.

Let's start with metal. They are indeed a metal band but only in amplification, death metal vocals and thrash metal performance of the chords. The chords themselves are firmly placed in the jazz-fusion branch of progressive rock. In fact dare I say that CYNIC is the Mahavishnu Orchestra of extreme metal? Perhaps so. Electronica. God forbid. What are these funky Floridians thinking for frack's sake? Yes, they use a strange electronic embellishment to enhance the vocals but there is also a sound of electronic music mingled in with the wholeness of this project. Sacrilegious? Perhaps. Satisfying because this band knows no arbitrary boundaries? Fer sure.

CYNIC were simply in their own world. They took their influences and put them together in a way they saw fit at the time. Would I have done things differently? Of course. But I am judging this album because this band simply did things their way in a time when that wasn't very popular to do so. This album has become much more popular over time as many a progressive rock album has since its release. What can I say? They melodies are a brilliant mix of melody, harmony, dissonance, brutality, tenderness, accessibility and avant-garde all jumbled together. Yes, it is easy to find faults with this album at first listen because it doesn't measure up to YOUR personal take on how this fusion should have arisen but did you do anything better? If taken on its own merits from the time it was released it is a musical masterpiece that not only takes many listens to fully comprehend but rewards greatly once those walls of “getting it” have fully been broken down.

Genres are simply nomenclature that someone else created to sort things into digestible arenas but when one realizes that music is a series of spectrums that demand careful assignment and occasionally tagged exceptionalism then it is easier to embrace albums such as FOCUS that don't easily fit into any. Upon first listen I liked this album. Upon quite a few I love it. This is not only a cornerstone in metal music but a brilliant piece of art that works on so many levels once a full comprehension of influences has fully been embraced. I hope you don't let your initial impressions impede you from letting this album grow on you. It is one of those rare pieces of music that can take your breath away after countless listens. Absolutely brilliant.

CYNIC Kindly Bent To Free Us

Album · 2014 · Progressive Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
UMUR
"Kindly Bent To Free Us" is the 3rd full-length studio album by US progressive rock/metal Cynic. The album was released through Season of Mist in February 2014. It´s been six years since the release of "Traced in Air (2008)", but in the intermediate time Cynic released the two EPs "Re-Traced (2010)" and "Carbon-Based Anatomy (2011)". They also put out an archival release in 2012 titled "The Portal Tapes", which is a re-release of the 1995 Portal demo. Portal was a shortlived project featuring the core members of Cynic, founded after the latter disbanded. In addition to working on those releases, Cynic have also toured. Probably more than they ever did when they were initially active. So in short there are several reasons for the long break between the two full-length studio albums. Another reason is probably the core philosophy of of the band. While they definitely don´t lack neither drive nor ambition, there has always been a tranquil and laid back vibe about them and a feeling that they will only release something when they are 100% satisfied with the material they´ve written. On this album they work as a trio consisting of Paul Masvidal (vocals, guitars), Sean Malone (bass, Chapman Stick) and Sean Reinert (drums, keyboards).

The music on "Kindly Bent To Free Us" is probably best described as progressive/alternative rock/metal with jazz/fusion elements and a psychadelic vibe. The latter is mostly due to the sometimes Beatlesque vocal lines and harmonies, but the whole atmosphere reeks incense smelling rooms and laid back days in the sun. Paul Masvidal has always been fascinated by spirituality and although some of the lyrics on "Kindly Bent To Free Us" make absolutely no sense, they still bring a smile to my face and they generally suit the tripped out atmosphere of the album well. The organic and warm sound production also supports that particular atmosphere perfectly. I´m not going to say we´re completely in hippie land, but the thought of peace loving hippies often cross my mind while listening to "Kindly Bent To Free Us". On the other hand there is a sweet melancholy to the music too, so it´s an album that explore different emotions.

The album features a sound that is very different from what we´ve heard from the band before, and yet again it sounds unmistakably like Cynic. The tracks are generally less metal oriented (only subdued clean and mellow vocals on this one. No growling) and less technical in nature and also a little more tightly structured and as a consequence more easily accessible compared to earlier material by the band. That´s not to say, that the music on "Kindly Bent To Free Us" is simple or that there aren´t technically challenging parts being played, because that is far from the truth. There is still fusion influenced drumming and a very busy fretless bass (chapman stick is used too) driving the music forward, but on top, the guitars, the vocals and the keyboards flow in an almost carefree atmospheric fashion. The material is greatly dynamic with both loud parts and more mellow subdued parts.

While the new musical direction probably comes as a surprise (or a shock) for some listeners, it really shouldn´t if you payed attention to the musical style on the two preceeding EPs, which both featured a mellow and pleasant sound with only few metal elements. Also if you´re familiar with Paul Masvidal´s and Sean Reinert´s alternative rock project Æon Spoke, the sound on "Kindly Bent To Free Us" might not be so surprising after all.

The 41:52 minutes long album features 8 tracks (9 if you own the deluxe CD book, which features the bonus track "Earth Is My Witness"). it´s an album with a great flow, and while the material is consistent in quality and style, there are still enough variation between tracks, to easily distinguish between them. Telling the tracks apart is also helped along by the melodic and quite memorable vocal melodies. At first they might not seem that memorable, but once they get in your mind, they stick. A good example is the opening melody line in the title track, which returns in various forms throughout that track.

So is it any good? Well...this is definitely one of those releases where the listener´s expectations and will to accept and embrace new musical ideas will be seriously tested. Cynic are still mostly known in progressive extreme metal circles and most of their fans probably come from that segment, and since they´ve considerably toned down the extreme metal elements here, the music on the album might not go down too well with the part of their fan base that still see them primarily as a metal act. On the other hand they´ve undeniably progressed and developed their sound in accordance with their creative muse, and it´s always fascinating when an artist pursue what they really feel for instead of trying to satisfy their more conservative fans. In other words this is a fan base divider. Personally I find the album incredibly charming. I don´t know what it is about Cynic, but with or without death growls, metal elements, furious fusion drumming, and blistering jazzy guitar solos, they always manage to transport me to a tranquil place and leave me in a completely relaxed state of mind. The music on "Kindly Bent To Free Us" is no exception. A 4.5 star (90%) rating is deserved.

CYNIC Kindly Bent To Free Us

Album · 2014 · Progressive Metal
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Gallifrey
Like Marshmallow

You know, I was thinking of starting this review by talking about something like Cynic’s past or their influence, or maybe how this album is being unnecessarily panned, or maybe the production or the vocals on this record, but I just can’t, because there really is just one thing to talk about here, something this entire album revolves around and something that is simultaneously absolutely amazing and incredibly irritating. It took me several listens to pay attention to anything that wasn’t this; I just couldn’t get past it at all. Without it, I’m sure I would have some comment on the actual music to begin, but I just can’t hear anything else.

BASS TONE BASS TONE BASS TONE BASS TONE

Jesus. I don’t know whether it’s flawless or terrible or neither but I hardly ever find an album that I can hear the bass in, let alone one when I’m constantly focusing on it. I don’t think I would know a single lyric or guitar riff to this whole album if I hadn’t forced myself to ignore the bass on the last few listens before I wrote about it. The bass is so prominent and so unique sounding that focusing on anything else is near impossible, it’s just shouting “DOESN’T THIS BASS SOUND FUNKY” at you for 42 straight minutes. When “The Lion’s Roar” first dropped as a single, I was enthralled with it as well, the sole comment I made to my friend was “New Cynic single. Bass tone.” The music was always second to the tone, and I still can’t really listen to this album without zoning out and just listening to the bass. Even when it isn’t prominent, because it’s playing actual bass notes in an actual bass range, it’ll come up for a high note every now and then and you’ll forget about the music because bass. Like during the middle solo of the title track. When I eventually listened to the guitar part, it’s actually a pretty great solo, but the bass is just too distracting to give it any attention, and the best part is when the bass gets a little solo near the end, playing right up in guitar range.

If I were to describe the tone, which of course isn’t possible, it would be something near a high-range tuba being patched through a synthesiser. It sounds like a sphere, although not quite like a sphere, like an ellipse or a sine wave. I just know it’s something round. The word ‘plump’ comes to mind a lot whilst listening to it, and I think that if John Petrucci’s guitar tone from Dream Theater was a slice of chocolate cake, then the fretless bass tone on Kindly Bent to Free Us is like a soft meringue. Not the shitty hard ones you buy in supermarkets, the stuff when it’s freshly made and the chef has just lightly blowtorched the top so the skin is ever so crisp, yet it’s closer to marshmallow than meringue. Actually, no, marshmallow is probably closer, since this doesn’t really have a crisp skin, it’s just pure roundness, but meringue tastes and feels so much better than marshmallow, and I’m trying to sound elegant and shit, so meringue it is. I’m rambling.

But to be honest, I’m not sure if this tone is beneficial to Kindly Bent to Free Us as a whole. Sure, there are times when it’s insanely cool and it really raises the music up a lot, like during “The Lion’s Roar”, when the bass is popping up and down under the lead riff, giving it this wonderfully bouncy and upbeat feeling, really making the song quite a happy and fun one to listen to. The same style comes back again in “Holy Fallout”, but there are other times, like during the opener, that I feel Cynic are trying to connect at an emotional level, and I just can’t feel anything when there’s a tuba fart constantly playing over everything.

But I guess I should actually talk about the music a bit, since the bass tone doesn’t really cover the reasons why so many people are disappointed in this. But first, let’s get some context. Cynic were once a death metal band in the 90’s, then for some odd reason they decided to reunite 20 years later as a not death metal band. Although Traced in Air was hardly similar to their sole tech death release, Focus, it was just as well-received, due to the ambitious and inventive take on progressive metal they played with that record, bringing elements of avant-garde and electronic to a very unique style of metal. But let’s not forget that Cynic didn’t really break up. For quite a few years during their hiatus, Cynic, or most of the members of it, existed as alternative/pop rock band Æon Spoke, playing trendy tunes that could fit the radio perfectly, a far cry from the death metal of their past. So when Cynic reunited, especially when they dropped their less-than-metal 2011 EP Carbon-Based Anatomy, many people accused of Cynic just making Æon Spoke music under the Cynic name for the sake of selling more, because the name was more renowned.

Of course, the fact that it was melodic and accessible doesn’t exactly mean it was pop music in the vein of Æon Spoke, many of these criticisms ignored the fact that Carbon-Based Anatomy was an insanely technical and progressive EP, with incredibly unique riffs and production, some great ambient tracks, and some really cool vocal lines. And that sound most certainly has followed onto Kindly Bent to Free Us, to the disdain of many fans. This record has been getting a good slapping since it leaked a couple of weeks ago, being called “hipsterish” and “indie prog”, saying that this is basically the Sunbather of progressive metal, however ridiculous that statement might be.

A lot of the criticisms and wild claims made about Kindly Bent to Free Us may certainly stem from both the shoddy and compressed production and the fact that vocalist Paul Masvidal doesn’t sing a single note on this album that isn’t filtered through a mass of effects and vocal changing software, making him sound rather generic and unemotive. It’s nothing new for Cynic, both Traced in Air and Carbon-Based Anatomy had him singing through a vocoder-like effect that made some really cool tones (although sometimes sounding a lot like autotune), but here on Kindly Bent to Free Us, this new effect makes him sound rather drained and lifeless, I could even compare it to bands like Linkin Park or My Chemical Romance, as much as that would look like a bad thing (check my ratings). Most of this album is sung in a high range, regularly going into falsetto, but it often feels like he’s straining, like during the bridge of “True Hallucination Speak”, when he’s singing mostly falsetto lines nearly a cappella. Another problem with the vocals is, because they’re in an uncomfortable range for him, they regularly sound weak and without power. The melodies here are fantastic, but the voice behind them just feels average at best, like during “Moon Heart Sun Head”, which has one of my favourite choruses on the album, but it feels it could be so much more epic if it was sung by someone with a more powerful voice, and who is more comfortable within that range.

But I think aside from the vocals and production here, there is little reason to complain. The riffs are just as ambitious and interesting as the Cynic riffs of the past, even if some of them border on a bit wanky for my taste, but people who were fans of their first two albums really shouldn’t be complaining. Although the bass and its marshmallowness control a lot of the groove on this album, some of the guitar parts are equally catchy, the lead riff from opener “True Hallucination Speak” being a favourite, pushing a really interesting phrasing of 4/4, which sounds like it’s running an odd signature, but the loop back at the end brings it back into 32 in a really neat fashion. There are other consistent good riffs here, and Cynic even begin to play their own style of riff that I’ve never heard before, like the riff after the chorus of “Holy Fallout”, which sounds kinda similar to the lead riffs in the first three songs, but still different. Cynic have created a new sort of sound with the riffing that I can see bands emulating in the future, something that most modern bands strive for in composing.

In the end, I guess I can kinda level with the people who are disappointed in this. It’s nowhere near as unique and spellbinding as Traced In Air or as well-produced as Carbon-Based Anatomy, but I feel the melodies, interesting influences, and of course the bass tone make up for this, creating a pretty decent album and an enjoyable listen. It’s no masterpiece, and it’s certainly not as good as I wanted it to be, but I can’t say that it’s bad.

7.2/10

Originally written for my Facebook page/blog: www.facebook.com/neoprogisbestprog

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