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Classic Review: Cynic - Focus

Label: Roadrunner Records
Year released: 1993
Duration: 36:12
Tracks: 9
Genre: Progressive Metal

Rating: 5/5

Review online: July 12, 2008
Reviewed by: Larry Griffin
Readers Rating

Rated 3.49/5 (69.8%) (51 Votes)

People claim that this is a Death Metal album, but I just don't see that. Cynic apparently started out as a Thrash Metal band, but by the time they released this, their storied 1993 debut album, they had morphed into an entirely new beast. I can't really call this anything other than Prog, because it really does progress, and in an entirely new direction from the then-infantile Dream Theater and their blend of Heavy Metal with Rush/Fates Warning-esque Prog Rock. Nothing else has ever sounded like this.

Cynic play a very technical, spacey style of music, with an open, hollow sort of production job that lets you hear every little note and every eccentric instrumental bit. The best way to describe it is that they take a vaguely Pink Floyd-ish Psychedelic Rock base and build upon it with Thrash Metal riffs and vocals that alternate between a harsh, blackened rasp and, more peculiarly, a robotic sort of warble that will definitely turn some more casual listeners off - but it fits the music, and for that I like it fine. There is a delicate sense of melody here that contrasts greatly with the reckless progressivism at hand, and it's really something you have to hear to believe. Comparisons can be made to the inimitable Atheist, especially in the technical rhythm guitars and the drumming, but that's just a surface comparison. Cynic are more Prog Rock than Atheist's Jazz leanings, and their riffs are a good deal heavier and more metal than anything Atheist did after their debut album. With songs like "Veil of Maya," the propulsive, almost Power Metal-ish "Celestial Voyage," the fascinating voyage of "Sentiment," with its tribal drum intro segueing into a utopia of progressive, soulful meanderings, and the dreary, psychedelically flavored instrumental "Textures," Cynic will take you on an ethereal, mystical journey that you will never forget.

There are really no bad songs here. Cynic are technical, yes, but they never fall into the void that most modern bands do, that of no songwriting, just instrumental proficiency. They build upon already fascinating songs with layers of outer space brilliance and progressive refinement to create an absolutely stellar slice of Metal that will keep you coming back for more for years to come. Essential.

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