CYNIC — Carbon-Based Anatomy (review)

CYNIC — Carbon-Based Anatomy album cover EP · 2011 · Metal Related Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
siLLy puPPy
After giving the metal world a huge boost of more technically dazzling jazz-fusion workouts on its debut album “Focus” which remains an undisputed classic in the proggy metal section of the supermarket, CYNIC quickly called it quits and went on a 15 year hiatus at least as a brand name. Founding members guitarist / vocalist Paul Masvidal and drummer Sean Reinert immediately went in the direction of ambient laced alternative pop in the indie rock band Æon Spoke while bassist Sean Malone went the opposite direction into the proggy jazz-fusion instrumental band Gordian Knot. Both bands released a few albums in the 90s and all was amicable with both Reinert and Masvidal appearing on Gordian Knot albums however the creative differences were vast.

Come 2006 and Masvidal decided to reform CYNIC and played a few gigs around Europe. The magic was rekindled which led to a new album that resulted in the lauded late but finally there followup “Traced In Air” which pretty much provided the perfect triumvirate effect of “Focus” era CYNIC merged with the atmospheric spiciness of Æon Spoke and the gnarled technical jazzy workouts as heard from Gordian Knot. While the death metal had been toned down several notches, several moments reminisced of the early days when the Tampa scene was still smoking hot. After “Traced In Air” things got a little weird. Instead of releasing another album, two years later the “new” CYNIC instead released an EP titled “Re-Traced” which reinterpreted four tracks from “Traced In Air” that took the bands sound closer to the world of Æon Spoke than early CYNIC but since this was just considered a little experimental blip between albums, metal fans just shook it off as one of those things.

Still awaiting a new album with the hopes of revisiting the “Focus” years, CYNIC surprised again with yet another EP titled CARBON-BASED ANATOMY to emerge in 2011 (11/11/11 actually) with only six tracks that amounted to only a mere 23 minutes of playing time. It was clear that the Æon Spoke side of the equation was here to stay when an unused track (“Homo Sapiens”) from that band resurfaced as the title track. Out of the six tracks only three pick up where “Traced In Air” left off with the remaining three tracks sounding nothing like CYNIC at all, well at least not in such a way as they are presented. “Amidst The Coals” begins the playlist and upon first listen you wonder if you popped in the wrong disc as this sounds like some sort of ambient new age music! Yes, an ambient airy melody takes you into the ethers accompanied by Amy Correia from previous CYNIC albums offering a traditional icaro which is a magic song performed by Amazonian indigenous tribes in order to provide medicinal healing sessions.

The ambient prayer circle of the intro slowly fades into the more upbeat title track which instantly shows an uncanny production job of how each track seamlessly flows into the next on this EP which essentially makes this a six act suite of sorts. Along with the ambient synth sounds Reinert’s jazzy drumming attacks slowly ushers in the vocals which find Masvidal’s unique vocal style somewhere between U2’s Bono in his passionate delivery and Toby Driver from Kayo Dot in eccentricity which in tandem finds a wider range of softer tones that bring the CYNIC sound into higher dimensions but still no metal! Well, that’s what you begin to think until the four minute mark and then suddenly some heavy chord stomps and sizzling guitar solos remind you that CYNIC is, well at least WAS a metal band! Perhaps an ambient ethno-metal band at this point but enough to squeak into metal databases anyways!

The track is followed by the Ravi Shankar sounding “Bija!” which finds a sitar and tablas in conversation with female vocal chants however the melody is the same as the bridge of the title track and thus the subliminal connections have been made and then it sinks in on what a magnificent journey CARBON-BASED ANATOMY is for all its brevity! The next two tracks “Box Up My Bones” and “Elves Beam Out” both deliver the metal goods at last but are in no hurry to do so. Like the other tracks they begin with slow clean guitar arpeggios and atmospheric bliss before breaking out the bass grooves, percussive jazz lessons and guitar distortion. If you’re looking for a connection to the “Traced In Air” album then you’ve found it at last and it does not disappoint however remember that you are in a cloud city now and that metal is just an after thought. Outbursts of heavy riffs and guitar solos crank out in full bombast but all in all this EP has demoted them to side notes rather than the star of the show.

As the EP ends with some kind of new age tribute to Enya with “Hieroglyph,” Correia now recites a poem of cosmic grandeur as the atmospheric ambience swirls around her words as if zephyr winds were caressing Isis in mid-flight. And then a couple of minutes later the whole shebang is over. No doubt this may come off as a disappointment for those expecting a headbanging experience and that was even my initial reaction however this is a work of subtleties and sort of grows on you once you just bathe yourself in all its glory. While the metal bombast is set to simmer, the technical prowess of the musicians is on high although it does alternate between Brian Eno ambient textures and sounds more like Gordian Knot than early CYNIC. From a progressive rock perspective, this is an excellent album but for those who aren’t so forgiving when the metal has been forbidden from making contact with the pedal then you will have to go back to “Focus” to get that fix. While admittedly a step down from the magnanimous masterpiece that resulted in “Traced In Air,” CARBON-BASED ANATOMY is still very much a compelling piece of work in its own right.
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UMUR wrote:
6 months ago
I actually remember now that I wrote a review of the show here on MMA back then. Here´s the link if you´d like to read it: http://www.metalmusicarchives.com/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=2782&PID=59182
UMUR wrote:
6 months ago
Yeah it was great. Cynic played at local venue in the town where I live (in a suburb to Copenhagen). The venue only has room for 150-200 people so it was quite the intimate show. The perfect setting for their type of music.
siLLy puPPy wrote:
6 months ago
Cool. That must've been a great show!
UMUR wrote:
6 months ago
I love this one. An almost ethereal release. I saw them on the tour supporting this EP.

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