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Cynic (USA) - 1993/2004 - "Focus"
TRACK LIST: 1. Veil of Maya 5:20 2. Celestial Voyage 3:37 3. The Eagle Nature 3:28 4. Sentiment 4:25 5. I'm But a Wave to 5:28 6. Uroboric Forms 3:30 7. Textures 4:40 8. How Could I 5:28 Bonus tracks: 9. Veil of Maya (2004 remix) 5:22 10. I'm But a Wave to: (=) 5:21 11. How Could I (=) 6:20 12. Cosmos (1994 Portal) 4:21 13. The Circle's Gone (=) 5:20 14. Endless Endeavors (=) 9:55 All tracks: Cynic. Engineered by S. Burns. Produced by Cynic, S. Burns, & T. Burleigh. LINE-UP: Paul Masvidal - guitar, g-synth; vocals Sean Malone - bass, Chapman Stick Sean Reinert - drums; keyboards Jason Gobel - guitar, g-synth With (12 to 14): Aruna Abrams - keyboards; vocals Chris Kringel - bass
Prolusion. Roadrunner Records continues to reissue masterworks from the glorious past of Prog-Metal. Here is the new version of one of the greatest pearls ever released in the history of the genre, CYNIC's "Focus", which includes enlarged booklet with lots of photographs, additional artwork and new liner notes. The CD is packaged in a pasteboard box and features bonus tracks never before available, which I would have renamed "Focus Expanded". (Roadrunner Remasters series)
Synopsis. This update turned out to be abundant in positive reviews, and I am really happy about this, even though, as I mentioned once before, it's not that easy to properly depict music, which possesses a lot of values and is free of any flaws, like in this very case, several days running, so some reiterations are inevitable. "Focus" is a completely unique album, the stylistics of which represents a mobile blend of Techno Metal, Thrash, and Jazz-Fusion with elements of Art-Rock and the bits of Grindcore (in some vocal parts only) and is both highly innovative and progressive. The musical world of Cynic is a test for anyone considering himself a connoisseur in Prog-Metal. This is an exceptionally eccentric music, the construction of which is beyond the common forms typical, say, for academic Prog-Metal. Cynic's "Focus" is that rare case when, while listening to music, I recall non-Euclidean spheres. Where parallel lines can easily cross each other, and discords create an amazingly coherent harmony. The arrangements are very eclectic and are completely unpredictable, filled with cascades of unusual, rapid, fantastically virtuosi solos and riffs of electric and semi-acoustic guitars, often via guitar synth, bass and Stick, crossing each other by seemingly impossible parabolas to the accompaniment of highly intricate drumming. A wide-variety of different musical directions: familiar, quasi-virtual and surrealistic, all being totally progressive, intermix with each other to form a mosaic, which is both queer and perfect, the alternation of reasonably brutal (black rather than death) and melodic vocals of various colors and shades by Masvidal, who is a true chameleon singer. Kaleidoscope is the word. All this is typical for each of the eight songs on the album. Regarding stylistics, however, there are some particularities, and they concern the last two of them. On Textures Jazz-Fusion prevails, as a result of which this composition sounds softer, yet, not the least bit less intricate than the others. Thanks to the active use of keyboards, How Could I is rich in symphonic elements in addition. Just listen to the lush synthesizer intro to the song and the excellent fast Hammond-like solo done in the context of the band's joint arrangements at the end of it. By the way, on the 2004 remix of How Could I that solo is vastly prolonged, the factual outro features excellent improvisations on Stick, and the intro is changed as well. Interesting. There are some changes on the other two remixes, but they aren't striking, save the sound. After Sean Malone left Cynic, Paul Masvidal decided to rename the band to Portal, and also to change a musical direction. So as to the last three tracks on the CD, they present our heroes being joined by new bassist Chris Kringel and Aruna Abrams on vocals and keyboards. The music is a blend of Cathedral Metal and Art-Rock with two, female and male, lead singers usually alternating each other, with more keyboards, and with some 'modern' sense in places. The best among these is the 10-minute Endless Endeavors, richly flavored with the Eastern motifs. The new material has little in common with Cynic, which is just logical, but while it's less intricate, this is still a high-quality Progressive, equally original and interesting, and its addition to the CD is essential in my view.
Conclusion. Cynic is one of those few brilliant bands and performers who pioneered uniting such seemingly incompatible styles as Prog-Metal and Jazz-Fusion: Sieges Even, Watchtower, Atheist, John Zorn, to name just a few. Besides, Cynic reached the heights that none of the other artists working in this genre had set foot on before them. Don't miss this masterpiece on any account. Finally, if you like "Focus", I strongly urge you to pay your attention to King Diamond, starting with his famous dilogy "Them" and "Conspiracy". You'll love it!
VM: October 21, 2004
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