CYNIC

Metal Related / Technical Death Metal / Progressive Metal / Thrash Metal / Technical Thrash Metal • 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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CYNIC Discography

CYNIC albums / top albums

CYNIC Focus album cover 4.07 | 66 ratings
Focus
Technical Death Metal 1993
CYNIC Traced in Air album cover 4.11 | 59 ratings
Traced in Air
Progressive Metal 2008
CYNIC Kindly Bent To Free Us album cover 3.68 | 16 ratings
Kindly Bent To Free Us
Metal Related 2014

CYNIC EPs & splits

CYNIC Re-Traced album cover 3.48 | 15 ratings
Re-Traced
Metal Related 2010
CYNIC Carbon-Based Anatomy album cover 3.77 | 21 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 2.11 | 5 ratings
Reflections of a Dying World
Technical Thrash Metal 1989
CYNIC '90 Demo album cover 2.50 | 4 ratings
'90 Demo
Technical Death Metal 1990
CYNIC Demo 1991 album cover 3.06 | 5 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 3.28 | 5 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 Carbon-Based Anatomy

EP · 2011 · Metal Related
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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.

CYNIC Traced in Air

Album · 2008 · Progressive Metal
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It’s hard to convey some two decades into the 21st century what a big deal CYNIC’s landmark album “Focus” was back in 1993 when it single-handedly shattered the playbook of death metal and took the fledgling genre into the world of jazz and electroncia. Part Morbid Angel, part Mahavishnu Orchestra and part Massive Attack, this Miami based band basically launched a whole new strain of what would be coined jazz-metal and then called it quits. The consequences of “Focus” being thrown into the limelight of underground extreme metalheads was that it upped the bar several notches in the proficiency department and while band’s like Death and Atheist were in the fusion game as well, CYNIC took progressive metal into a completely different dimension with “Focus” which remains a high mark to which technical metal music wizards still strive to emulate.

Despite dropping one of metal’s most revered albums onto on unsuspecting world, CYNIC quickly disbanded as they were working on a second studio album due to musical and personal differences. Jason Gobel (guitars), Paul Masvidal (guitars, vocals) and Sean Reinert (drums) continued together and formed a short-lived band called Portal (before the Australian band of the same name came around), bassist Sean Malone formed the fusion-metal band Gordian Knot and then Reinert and Masvidal formed yet another band called Aeon Spoke which was more of a pop album centered around an acoustic emo style. The former members of CYNIC happily went their own ways for almost 15 years but some of the members were starting to feel that they had unfinished business to take care of in the world of CYNIC and in 2006 Paul Masvidal announced that CYNIC would reunite to play at various metal and rock festivals. With no new album the band played songs from “Focus” the band Portal as well as a few covers and the new song “Evolutionary Sleeper.”

The new band minus Gobel decided the time was right to resurrect CYNIC and finish the material started for a sophomore album that never made it the first time around. With new guitarist Tymon Kruidenier, CYNIC finally released its second album TRACED IN AIR in 2008, fifteen long years after “Focus.” While expectations were cast upon that debut masterpiece as a reference point as to where the band might develop its new sounds, the fact that there was a 15 year delay and several other band experiences in between meant that TRACED IN AIR was more like the sum of all that came before and as the title indicates is more focused on an AIR-y feel as opposed to a knock your socks off death metal extravaganza. While still steeped in massive molten metal guitar antics, TRACED IN AIR was more of a light technical display of jazzy chord progression displayed in echoey arpeggios that set the tone for the eruptive heavier elements to follow and not the other way around. There were less dueling twin guitar leads and more focus to layering effects of polyrhythms and guitar tones.

From the chaotic swirls of “Nunc Fluens” that sound like the band acting as a receiver channeling the ethers to like a radio station, the rhythmic chaos slowly coalesces into the jazzed up guitar riffs that reassure that the band was still in the metal camp however brief they may be before the unadulterated jazz guitar intro of “The Space For This” sets an overall tone for TRACED IN AIR as Masavidal delivers his tender clean vocals in a subdued passionate plea, a style that he implements throughout the album that only harkens back to “Focus” with Kruidenier’s growly vocal accompaniments limited to backing supplement contrasting effects. The beauty of TRACED IN AIR is how it effortlessly transmogrifies from placid spaced out jazz guitar runs to blistering jazzy fusion metal with Reinert’s drumming virtuosity often taking center stage. As with focus, a feminine vocal counterpoint finds its way into key moments as to soften the raging rampages of the metal aspects as Amy Correia takes the place of SAonia Otey.

While “Focus” was fairly scattered, TRACED IN AIR is actually the more “focused” album of the two as the album displays a perfect mix of disparate elements which finds each track running into the next and the softness and bombastic playing together like well behaved children at a Christmas play. It’s clear that the chemistry was on fire once again and CYNIC crated an unbelievable successful comeback with this menagerie of technically infused jazz-metal that while not as revolutionary as the band’s first album was unbelievably relevant for the time of its release. Gone are the vocoder effects and thus this album is less alienating and more intimate but the bursts of angularity are steered into jazzy harmonies and melodies that keep the entire album feeling unified. This is one that may disappoint upon the first listen if you have already gone gaga over “Focus” but as i’ve listened to this many times over the years, it’s one that grows on you in a completely different way. Drop the comparisons and meditate on TRACED IN AIR on its own terms and it quickly becomes clear that this is a flawless album that delivers another magic moment in the world of progressive metal and the production is flawless.

CYNIC Focus

Album · 1993 · Technical Death Metal
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"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.

CYNIC The Portal Tapes

Boxset / Compilation · 2012 · Non-Metal
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"The Portal Tapes" is a full-length studio album by US progressive metal act Cynic. The album was released through Season of Mist in March 2012. It´s not really a Cynic album though and it was probably only released under the Cynic monicker to capitalize on the wave of success that Cynic were riding after their comeback in 2006. The material featured on "The Portal Tapes" were originally recorded under the Portal monicker after Cynic disbanded in 1994. Although Cynic split-up Paul Masvidal (guitars, vocals), Sean Reinert (drums), and Jason Gobel (guitars) opted to continue playing together and formed Portal with Cris Kringel (bass), and female vocalist/keyboard player Aruna Abrams. Portal recorded enough material for a full album, but the project ended up shelved until 2012 when Season of Mist picked it up and released it under the Cynic monicker.

Stylistically there are many similarities between Cynic and Portal, but there are also some fundamental differences. First off Portal features female clean vocals as well as male clean vocals, and no extreme distorted vocals. Next there are no hard edged riffing or anything remotely aggressive about the music. The material on "The Portal Tapes" is a dreamy atmospheric/new age type of music with fusion oriented rhythms as the foundation (maybe new age fusion isn´t the worst description). There´s an almost ethereal spiritual quality to the proceedings, which song titles like "Karma´s Plight", "Cosmos", and "Mirror Child" also suggest.

The musicianship is on a high level on all posts. Aruna Abrams is a skilled vocalist, and Paul Masvidal´s sedated dreamy vocals compliment her well. It´s all very pleasant sounding and relaxing but by no means simple or easily accessible. You´ll have to dig for hooks and the tracks aren´t instantly easy to tell apart either. The latter is a slight issue to my ears, and the songwriting could have prospered from a bit more variation and more catchy moments. The album is very well produced, featuring a clean, clear, and detailed sound, which suits the atmospheric music well. So while the music doens´t make as much impact as it could have, "The Portal Tapes" is still a pretty interesting release for fans of atmospheric music with fusion rhythms and clean female/male singing, and the high level musicianship and professional sounding production pull in a positive direction too. A 3 - 3.5 star (65%) rating is deserved.

CYNIC Humanoid

Single · 2018 · Progressive Metal
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"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.

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