CYNIC — Focus (review)

CYNIC — Focus album cover Album · 1993 · Technical Death Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
UMUR
"Focus" is the debut full-length studio album by US, Florida based progressive metal act Cynic. The album was released through Roadrunner Records in September 1993. Cynic had been around since 1987 though, and had been an integral part of the early Florida death metal scene, releasing no less than four demo cassette tapes in the years 1988-1991. It took a while to find the right label and get signed, and the release of "Focus" was further delayed by the session work/touring that the members of the band did for/with other acts in the early 90s. Original bassist Tony Choy (who was replaced by Sean Malone for the recording of "Focus") recorded with both Pestilence and Atheist (and eventually joined and toured with the latter), guitarist Jason Gobel recorded the "Imperial Doom (1992)" album with Monstrosity, and drummer Sean Reinert and lead vocalist/guitarist Paul Masvidal recorded the "Human (1991)" album with Death and subsequently toured with Death in support of the album. Masvidal also recorded guitars for the "On the Seventh Day God Created... Master (1991)" album by Master. So they were definitely a busy bunch in those years.

So Cynic were known as a death metal act and therefore the sound on "Focus" came as a bit of a surprise to the contemporary death metal community. Stylistically the album features occasional death metal heaviness and aggressive snarling vocals (courtesy of session vocalist Tony Teegarden from Epitaph as Masvidal had serious issues with his voice and couldn´t record the extreme type vocals for the album), but there is a major jazz/fusion influence in both the choice of notes/chords, the guitar solos, and the on the drumming style. Add to that Masvidal´s robotic vocoder delivered "clean" vocals and spiritual/philosophical lyrics and a generally ambient ethereal atmosphere to the music, and "Focus" is anything but a regular early 90s US death metal release. The fact that they were often refered to as a death metal act, when a label like technical/progressive metal would probably have been more appropriate, and they ended up touring in support of Cannibal Corpse and receiving quite a hostile reaction from many audiences at the time, were probably contributing factors when they decided to call it quits already in 1994. They did reach an audience who praised the bold originality of the album, but "Focus" has become more retrospectively recognized than it ever was upon release. Not completely unlike the story of "Spheres (1993)" by Pestilence. The contemporary metal scene apparently weren´t ready for that revolution yet.

"Focus" is an exceptionally strong and original sounding release though. The alien sounding vocoder vocals are probably an aquired taste, but they create an almost futuristic sounding counterweight to the raw snarling vocals, and provide the album with a very distinct vocal sound. Guitar synthesizers are also used (so what sounds like keyboards on the album are actually guitars played through synth effects) and further enhances the feeling that you are listening to something completely alien. The two guitarists play different guitar lines, chords, leads/rhythms constantly, and are complimented by the fretless bass playing, and the ever changing time signatures and rhythms. It´s multi harmony and rhythmically very complex music.

"Focus" was recorded at Morrisound Recording in Tampa, Florida with producer Scott Burns, and while he successfully captures the essence of heaviness, the album does feature a slightly thin sounding production job. It´s mostly the distorted guitars which could have prospered from a more meaty tone, but on the other hand, it is a sound production, where the listener is able to hear all details. Overall the sound production suits the music well.

The material on the 8 track, 36:13 minutes long album are well written, quite catchy and melodic for music as complex as this generally is. It´s a varied and dynamic album too, where each track stand out as something special and outstanding. Tracks like "Veil of Maya", "I'm but a Wave to...", and "How Could I" are all tracks featuring both atmospheric acoustic moments and more aggressive heavy moments (the latter also features one of the most beautiful guitar solos (the closing solo) I´ve ever heard), while tracks like "Sentiment" and "Textures" stand out for other reasons. "Sentiment" is an atmospheric track with spiritual lyrics and "Textures" is an instrumental jazz/fusion track (with some metal elements).

Upon conclusion "Focus" is a unique release. It was unique in 1993 and it´s unique today. Sure there had been other artists like Watchtower, Sieges Even, and Atheist, who before Cynic did, had incorporated jazz/fusion elements to their brand of metal, but Cynic still managed to create their own sound with a focus on atmosphere/spiritual ambience. It´s not only a unique release it´s also an outstanding one and a 5 star (100%) rating is deserved.
Share this review

Review Comments

Post a public comment below | Send private message to the reviewer
Please login to post a shout
No shouts posted yet. Be the first member to do so above!

Review Index

Member Zone

Username:
Password:
Stay signed in

Metal Subgenres

Artists Alpha-index

MMA TOP 5 Metal ALBUMS

Rating by members, ranked by custom algorithm
Albums with 30 ratings and more
Master of Puppets Thrash Metal
METALLICA
Buy this album from our partners
Rust in Peace Thrash Metal
MEGADETH
Buy this album from our partners
Moving Pictures Hard Rock
RUSH
Buy this album from our partners
Powerslave NWoBHM
IRON MAIDEN
Buy this album from our partners
Dirt Alternative Metal
ALICE IN CHAINS
Buy this album from our partners

New Metal Artists

New Metal Releases

Forever Wild Glam Metal
CRAZY LIXX
Buy this album from MMA partners
Static Apnea Stoner Metal
SERIAL HAWK
Buy this album from MMA partners
A Dawn To Fear Atmospheric Sludge Metal
CULT OF LUNA
Buy this album from MMA partners
From Chaos To Ashes Melodic Metalcore
PROTOGONOS
Buy this album from MMA partners
Encore: Live In Milano Hard Rock
TNT (NORWAY)
Buy this album from MMA partners
More new releases

New Metal Online Videos

More videos

New MMA Metal Forum Topics

More in the forums

New Site interactions

More...

Latest Metal News

members-submitted

More in the forums

Social Media

Follow us

Buy Metal Music Online