Cynic - _Traced in Air_
(Season of Mist, 2008)
by: Jeremy Ulrey (9.5 out of 10)
Talk about a long awaited comeback. Cynic burst upon the nascent death metal scene in 1993 with _Focus_, an album owing more to prog than death but with one foot firmly implanted in the extreme metal genre. When Roadrunner quietly allowed the album to slip out of print a few years later, the legend only grew as battered copies of the CD traded on eBay for inflated prices, and the MP3s became a prized commodity on file sharing networks. Sean Reinert and Sean Malone went on to make names for themselves as chops-packing guns for hire in ensembles as varied as Death and prog supergroup Gordian Knot.

Finally, in 2008 Cynic re-emerges in fairly unassuming, unheralded fashion, with most of the extreme metal trappings stripped away and a greater emphasis on cleanly played, yet even more technical, prog metal -- if comparisons must be made, Fates Warning and Spiral Architect are better benchmarks for the band's current barometer than the early Roadrunner / Atheist influences, although there is also an unhurried, melodic sensibility that harkens back to '70s progressive groups such as King Crimson (members of whom the two Seans and Cynic vocalist Paul Masvidal played with in Gordian Knot).

Most prog bands -- then and now -- are guilty of wielding their instrumental armaments as phallic bludgeons, beating your senses to pulp (no pun intended) beneath recurring waves of torrential riff patterns and complexity in the place of craft. Each of the eight tracks on _Traced in Air_ has a memorable sense of melody and a catchy chorus. Paul Masvidal's vocals, now scant of any death metal abrasion at all, layer a phased and processed sense of unworldliness over the whole album. From song titles like "Adam's Murmur" and "Integral Birth" to the embryonic vocals, there is a cosmic ambience of creation at work here. More complex than Dream Theater, catchier than anything Rush has done in over twenty years, Cynic have released a landmark prog album easily trumping their historic debut. With hope, this band will become -the- priority for its members instead of a once a decade side project.


(article published 15/1/2009)

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