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Cynic: Traced In Air

I've always felt that Cynic's early 90's debut Focus, though an important technical jazz/death metal release, was a tad overrated. Sure, that album has some daring elements of jazz and prog rock fused with ferocious, technical death metal, but to these ears the production and questionable vocal styles kept it from being as groundbreaking as most of Death's 90's output, but sitting right there alongside some of the material from Watchtower, Atheist, and Pestilence, all bands that took that initial step from death metal to extreme music that had so much more to offer. Now, 15 years later, the band is back with a brand new opus, titled Traced In Air. Though there are certainly similarities to Focus, it almost seems like Traced In Air was recorded by a different band. Cynic is now made up of original members Paul Masvidal (Guitar and clean vocals), Sean Reinert (drums), Sean Malone (Bass, Chapman Stick), and new guy Tymon Kruidenier (Guitar and death growls), so for the most part the essence of the band is intact. First thing you notice when making your way through this CD is that Masvidal has dropped the effects laden vocals from the first album (though they do pop up on occasion), and opted for a more Steven Wilson type of approach this time around, giving passages on this album an almost Porcupine Tree sound. Of course, Cynic are heavier and much more technical than Porcupine Tree, but oddly enough, there's almost very little death metal here. Sure, Kruidenier injects some growls from time to time that mix well with Masvidal's melodic singing, but the arrangements are rarely crushingly heavy, more so in a prog-metal vein, featuring complex interplay between the guitars and bass, and Reinert's fusion laced drum work skipping around the mix. Rarely does the band lurch into any sort of riff-o-rama, instead opting for intelligent & crafty arrangements that keep the listener constantly in his or her toes.

"The Unknown Guest" is a perfect example of how masterful these guys are, Malone's bubbling grooves weaving around the intricate lines of both Masvidal & Kruidenier, while clean vocals and growls fight for supremacy. It's very complex yet highly melodic at the same time. Other tracks that work in this same fashion, offering plenty for prog heads, fusion nuts, as well as the prog-metal and extreme crowds, are "The Space For This", "Adam's Murmur", and the Allan Holdworth-meets-Dream Theater-meets-Death of "King of those Who Know", a blistering concoction of jazz-fusion and technical metal. Other winners here include the catchy "Integral Birth" and the stop/start mania that is "Evolutionary Sleeper".

Honestly, there's not a weak track here, but I'm holding back from giving this a perfect score due to the overall shortness of the CD (after all this time and planning, I'm surprised we didn't get a few more songs from these guys), but otherwise Traced In Air is superb stuff, possibly even surpassing their debut. Though the metal world has changed quite a bit since 1993, I think there is still a place for Cynic, and with material like this, if they stick around this time, they can easily rise to the top of the technical progressive metal heap.


Track Listing
1. Nunc Fluens
2. The Space For This
3. Evolutionary Sleeper
4. Integral Birth
5. The Unknown Guest
6. Adam's Murmur
7. King of those Who Know
8. Nunc Stans

Added: November 1st 2008
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Score:
Related Link: Band's MySpace Page
Hits: 2779
Language: english

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