Cynic United States

A54 Prog39
[Solidly Awesome Musicianship8, Solidly Awesome Production7, Beyond Great Songwriting7, Excellent Composition7 and Great Coverart6]
added by lordoflight
Review by Mike published
Refocus 2023
A Prog Metal

This is essentially a new mix of the classic Focus album, but with a different and much less dominant guitar sound. A double edged sword - on one hand this leaves more space for the (excellent) rhythm section to shine. On the other hand the album loses much of its punch. Recommended for fans of the band or all those who aren't that much into extreme metal.

Review by Time_Signature published
A Prog Rock

After last year's experimental "Re-Traced", Cynic are back with another EP, and this time a more integrated conceptual one containing all original tracks. The overall style is softer than on both the legendary "Focus" and the equally legendary "Traced in Air", but more metal-relevant than "Re-Traced", as the style of the three major tracks on "Carbon-Based Anatomy" are more in the vein of 'Wheels Within Wheels' - the only original track on "Re-Traced".

The three tracks in question are 'Carbon-Based Anatomy', 'Box Up My Bones', and 'Elves Beam Out', all of which have the usual rich texture that characterizes Cynic's music in general, combining Sean Reinert's dynamic drumming with Paul Masvidal and Sean Malone's technically advanced and expressive playing. Unlike "Focus" and "Traced in Air", which are more on the metal-side, these three tracks fall somewhere in between rock and metal, but still have the unmistakable Cynic sound. Adding to the already rich soundscape of the album, electronic elements pop up every now and then (an example being the effects applied to the drums in sections of 'Elves Beam Out', which also appears to involve guitar synths in one of the solos).

The title track is probably the mellowest of the three but features some heavy guitars towards the end, while 'Box Up My Bones' has a big epic sound with choral arrangements, atmospheric synths, female spoken word and a Dizzy Mizz Lizzy-ishly distorted guitar, and 'Elves Beam Out' is more of a progressive hard rocker with many interesting details and some cool riffing.

The remaining tracks 'Amidst the Coals', 'Bija!' and 'Hieroglyph' are atmospheric pieces which include Native American chants and spoken word, sweeping synth arrangements, atmospheric effects and so on, and, while they definitely are beautiful and fit into the overall picture, I think they might strike some people as just being fillers.

In its own right, "Carbon-Based Anatomy" is a fine relase of very high quality (no surprise, since the Cynic guys are amazing musicians), but it does impress me as much as "Focus" and "Traced in Air" did, as "Carbon-Based Anatomy" lacks a lot of the elements that made me think that "Focus" and "Traced in Air" were really special and unique, groundbreaking releases - not just in metal, or in progressive music, but in the world of music in general. And, I do hope that the next full-length release from Cynic will have a more metal oriented-sound and feature growls (which are absent here) like "Traced in Air".

Still, "Carbon-Based Anatomy" is a very enjoyable listen and reconfirms that the Cynic guys are uniquely talented musicians.

(review originally posted at

Review by Time_Signature published
S Prog Metal

Cynic are back! And what a majestic return! While the musicianship on "Focus" was already at a very advanced level, it's at an even higher level now, as they have had some 14 years to mature as musicians and improve their performance and writing skills even more.

This has resulted in a kind of short, yet very breathtaking and powerful technical progressive metal album. The fomula is essentially the same as on "focus" - namely the use of ever-driving complex jazzy metal guitar riffs combined with crisp, and crystal clear clean guitar parts and independent bass ostinatos and Reinerts dynamic drumming adding an extra dimension that goes beyond your average rhythm section. Masvidal's high-pitched melodic vocals are less robotized than on "Focus", but they are really haunting on this one, and his first vocal lines on "The Space for This" are certain to send shivers down the spines on many a listener's back. The death growls are also back and offer a perfect foil for Masvidal's soft and fragile vocals.

The songs are more fluid on this album than on "Focus" which owes to Masvidal and Reinert having naturally improved and matured as musicians over the years. Maybe it's also this fluidity that makes me think that, while "Focus" certainly belongs in the genre of exteme metal, "Traced in Air" is better described at somewhere in between progressive rock, progressive metal, and jazz fusion spiced up with elements from death metal.

In any case, who cares about genre labels when the music is truly gerat? There really is no weak track on this album (although I don't listen that much to "Nunc Fluens" and "Nunc Stans") and my favorites are "The Space For This", "Evolutionary Sleeper", "The Unknown Guest", "Adam's Murmur", and "King Of Those Who Know". As with "Focus", I'd recommend this to any fand of Atheist and Pestilence's "Spheres" and any musically adventurous fan of progressive rock and jazz fusion.

(review originally posted on


S Nunc Stans 4:12
Review by Time_Signature published
Re-Traced EP, 2010
S Prog Rock/Independent

Cynic are a bunch of genii, there is no doubt about that. Their two full length albums are both groundbreaking and outstanding metal releases. Cynic are also very versatile musicians, and "Re-Traced", which contains mainly reintepretations of tracks from the 2008 success "Traced in Air" plus one original song called "Wheels within Wheels".

"Space", which is a reinterpretation of "The Space for This", is an almost athmospheric piece of progressive rock, whose atmospheric mood at times remind me of Depeche Mode. On "Evolutionary", which is a reinterpretiation of "Evolutionary Sleeper", Cynic experiment primarily with alternative rock (in a way "Evolutionary" seems to be inspired by 90s alternative rock which was inspired by 80s U2). "King", a reinterpretation of "King of those who Know", is more of a modern jazz fusion affair (there is some impressive fretless bass work and lots of jazz chords in this version) which also draws on 90s alternative noise rock and also has Reinert emulate the typical drum beat of Prodigy-inspired techno (I'm sure there's a specific name for the genre I'm thinking og, but I'm not well versed in the world of electronica music). "Integral", a reinterpretation of "Integral Birth" is largely an acourstic version, performed on acoustic guitars, the only non-acoustic element being athmospheric keyboards towards the end.

I must say that, while these versions are very interesting, and very much the proof that 1) Cynic are very versatile musicians and 2) Cynic's music itself is versatile and genre transgressing, I do prefer the original more metallic versions on "Traced in Air". Still, the reinterpretations are very interesting.

The "Wheels within Wheels" is the only metal track on the album, albeit softer and perhaps less dynamic than the tracks on "Traced in Air" - genre-wise it resides somewhere in the transition zone between progressive rock and progressive metal. Nonetheless, it is unmistakably an instance of Cynic's unique brand of progressive metal, and it's actually a very good track, I think.

I think that hardcore Cynic fans might like this EP, and fans of progressive rock and progressive metal a long with more experimental metal fans will probably also appreciate it, but metal purists will probably be disappointed.

(review originally posted on

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