Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Album Review: Cynic - Carbon-Based Anatomy

 Well guys, for the sake of something different, I decided that I shall start doing album reviews. I mainly listen to 70's and 80's rock/metal and also a lot of grunge related music. However, my recent dabbling in Pink Floyd's music has lead me to this death metal/jazz fusion/psychedelic/ambient band (I know, sounds hipster as fuck), Cynic. Don't ask me how Pink Floyd leads to Cynic, I really don't know what happened. At first I was a cynic (pun intended). I never fancied the harsh growls and deep screams of death metal. But this band was different. It's light and airy jazz riffs seem to balance the dark sounds and gave an air of 'spirituality' which fit in with their lyrical themes quite well. Also the ambient sounds serve to create a soothing atmosphere amid the grinding riffs. Its hard to explain but it feels 'balanced'. Anyways, I found myself liking the band a lot (especially after their "Traced in Air") and when they announced a new EP, I was pretty damn excited. Anyways, lets get on with the review!

Sound: An oddity if there ever was one, Cynic have been keeping busy since their enthralling comeback album "Traced In Air". While creative output has been minimal since then, they’ve hit the road hard, showcasing their discography, flinging business cards every which way, getting stuck into life as working artists again.  "Carbon-Based Anatomy" feels like a story being told about humankind. Its a journey of rediscovering ourselves. But somehow, I just don't get it. The meditative, spiritualist side to eccentric frontman Paul Masvidal has really come to the fore on this, their third major collection of original material. While the size is light and the style even lighter – you can forget about this EP sounding much like "Traced In Air", yet alone 90s death metal gem "Focus" – the placement of unusual mood tracks makes it a serious listen. Exotic washes of ambience mark the beginning, middle and end of this 23-minute affair and are coloured by, among other things, spoken word ("Hieroglyph") and tribal chants ("Amidst The Coals"). What may be decoration on most full-lengths (and superfluous decoration at that) becomes an important factor in a short release, and these three tracks give the EP a prevailing air of peace, despite the harder hitting stuff elsewhere.

The bulk of the material though, and the material most recognisable as Cynic, is explorative prog rock. While most metal elements are toned down, the technical exuberance of the band actually comes through in a new way, emanating more psychedelia than the jazz fusion they built their name on. Without compromising identity, this slickly and commendably bridges the gap between the space-rock wastrels and the drugged-up academics that shared a stage in the 1970s. To forge such a sound through technical and meticulous playing is a credit in particular to drummer Sean Reinert, whose contributions are as much a trademark of the band as their vocals or glistening guitar tone. // 8

Lyrics and Singing: Perhaps due to the weirdness being dialed up elsewhere, Masvidal has slimmed down on the vocoders and other processing effects put on his voice. Coupled with the absence of death growls, this marks a fairly significant change in the way Cynic’s lyrics are communicated, and it pays dividends on "Box Up My Bones". The song exercises all that’s good about the band in the 21st century, and the human quality of the voice adds to its euphoria, delivering Masvidal’s story of self-realisation with more potency than he could ever have dreamed of before. // 8

Impression: Despite the stylistic framing that tracks like "Hieroglyph" provide, "Carbon-Based Anatomy" does feel incredibly short, and not necessarily because we don’t want it to be over. Perhaps it’s that the tales of transcendence are not mirrored by a clear sense of direction over the course of the record; in fact the alien territory covered can leave you with the feeling that you don’t know where you’ve ended up, and that you don’t really know where you started either. That is this EP’s only major flaw, but one that is easily overlooked when so immersed in its positive glow. Whether it’s an isolated adventure or just the tip of the iceberg remains to be seen, but either way the future is bright for Cynic. // 8


  1. Not a bad idea at all to mix it up a bit. great review as always.

  2. I will now seek out some cynic to listen with my cynical death meatal-loving ear(the right one). Great review!

  3. Its a good idea for you to review albums! Your very good at it!

  4. I like your new album reviewing!

  5. This might be a good change of pace for your blog. :)