CYNIC
Death Metal / Progressive 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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Traced in AirTraced in Air
Season of Mist 2009
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Season of Mist 2011
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Season of Mist 2014
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FocusFocus
Red Distribution, in 1993
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Season of Mist 2010
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Season Of Mist
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SEASON MIST AMERICA 2012
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CYNIC Discography

CYNIC albums / top albums

.. Album Cover 3.98 | 56 ratings
Focus
Death Metal 1993
.. Album Cover 4.03 | 48 ratings
Traced in Air
Progressive Metal 2008
.. Album Cover 3.31 | 7 ratings
Kindly Bent To Free Us
Progressive Metal 2014

CYNIC EPs & splits

.. Album Cover 3.41 | 13 ratings
Re-Traced
Metal Related 2010
.. Album Cover 3.56 | 15 ratings
Carbon-Based Anatomy
Progressive Metal 2011

CYNIC live albums

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

.. Album Cover 2.03 | 4 ratings
'88 Demo
Death Metal 1988
.. Album Cover 1.85 | 4 ratings
Reflections of a Dying World
Death Metal 1989
.. Album Cover 2.06 | 3 ratings
'90 Demo
Death Metal 1990
.. Album Cover 2.85 | 4 ratings
Demo 1991
Death Metal 1991
.. Album Cover 2.84 | 4 ratings
Promo 08
Progressive Metal 2008

CYNIC boxset & compilations

.. Album Cover 2.50 | 2 ratings
The Portal Tapes
Metal Related 2012

CYNIC singles (0)

CYNIC movies (DVD, Blu-Ray or VHS)

CYNIC Reviews

CYNIC Focus

Album · 1993 · 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
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
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

CYNIC '88 Demo

Demo · 1988 · Death Metal
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UMUR
"'88 Demo" is, just as the name suggests, an 1988 cassette demo tape by US technical/progressive death metal act Cynic. While it wouldn´t be until 1993 that Cynic released their debut full-length studio album "Focus", they were rather busy in the intermediate years. Cynic recorded 4 demos and played as session musicians on many metal albums by other artists (Death, Pestilence, Master, Monstrosity, Atheist) before getting a record contract with Roadrunner Records. The last demo was recorded for Roadrunner Records in 1991. This demo from 1988 is the first demo Cynic released.

The music is on the demo is in the vein of Bay Area mid- to late eighties thrash metal ala Forbidden, Vio-Lence and Testament. The technical/progressive death metal influences that are present on "Focus", are not a part of the band´s sound yet and wouldn´t be until the third demo. The thrash metal sound are mostly due to Jack Kelly´s raw voice and his singing style, but the guitar riffs also point in a thrash metal direction. The tracks aren´t that memorable and the songwriting is obviously a bit imature at this point.

The musicians are not that accomplished yet, which is probably due to their young age. Sean Reinert sticks out a bit though as his drumming is pretty competent even this early on.

The sound production is pretty noisy and lo-fi. It´s very typical for eighties metal cassette demos, so it´s really no surprise. Especially the bass has an odd sound, that are really distracting when trying to figure out what Cynic want to do with their music. The guitar sounds very weak too.

I´d say this demo is only for the really hardcore fans and even some of those fans probably won´t be able to appreciate the demo. Personally I like the bay Area thrash metal style and enjoy this demo moderately and I´ll rate it with a 2 star (40%) rating.

CYNIC Carbon-Based Anatomy

EP · 2011 · Progressive Metal
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Sinkadotentree
This EP was released three years after their second full length album "Traced In Air". A definite change in their sound here as they tone things down big time. In fact they seem to be following the lead of bands like MAUDLIN OF THE WELL and KAYO DOT. Still we get lots of dynamics here and the title track rocks pretty hard. They are down to the core three of Reinert, Masvidal and Malone. A female singer helps out by the name of Amy Correia who is a Folk singer and a good friend of the band. She's someone who totally gets what the band is trying to accomplish according to Masvidal. Speaking of Masvidal he relates in an interview that he felt like a conduit everytime he showed up at the studio when they were recording this. He volunteers at a hospice and certainly has experienced many emotions in caring for these people and being there for them as they pass from life to death. This is quite a dark and atmospheric record and Paul says he aimed for an "under-world, haunting dark sense" with the versus but a "child-like,lullaby-esque chorus". So yeah this does sound different for sure from previous records by the band. I must admit the enjoyment factor has never been really high when it comes to CYNIC recordings but man these guys are so talented and inspired and it's always interesting to spend some time in their world.

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