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Review: Cynic - Traced in Air
Traced in Air

Label: Season of Mist
Year released: 2008
Duration: 35:00
Tracks: 8
Genre: Progressive Metal


Review online: January 28, 2009
Reviewed by: MetalMike
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Rated 3.26/5 (65.14%) (35 Votes)

Traced in Air is the 2nd official release by Cynic, a Progressive Metal band from Florida. Formed in 1987, the 15 year gap between their debut, Focus, and Traced in Air, is due to numerous line-up changes and musical shifts. I have never heard the debut, but what we have in 2008 is a dense, technical, roller coaster of a Progressive Metal album. Almost nothing remains of the Death Metal beginnings of the band (according to the bio on their website.) The lone nod to the Death Metal style are the low growls of guitarist Tymon Kruidenier that are used mainly to accompany the high, almost whisper-like lead vocals of singer/guitarist/founding member Paul Masvidal. Otherwise this album is all about quick tempo changes, odd time signatures and atmospheric keys countered with heavy riffing and some of the best drumming this side of Dream Theater's Mike Portnoy.

It is hard to review ANY Progressive Metal album and not reference Dream Theater (positive or negative) and DT are clearly a good place to start when trying to wrap your head around Traced in Air. However, there is a lot more going on here. While these guys may have started out listening to Slayer, Kreator and Possessed, they were also spinning a lot of 70s prog rock. As I alluded to earlier, Cynic have absolutely no fear of segueing from bludgeoning drums and heavy riffs with Death Metal growls to light guitar passages and soft, clear vocals that would be at home on any Peter Gabriel-era Genesis album.

The album starts with "Nunc Fluens," probably my favorite track on the album. It is full of atmospheric guitars and keyboards but is completely carried by some amazing drumming from Sean Reinert. In fact, Reinert's drums are the highlight of the entire disc, and I'm usually a guitar guy, if that tells you anything about how good they sound. The rest of the tracks follow a similar pattern of slower parts, atmospheric keyboards and guitars mixed with heavier riffs, pounding drums and the dueling clean and harsh vocals. Track 5, "The Unknown Guest" features a great, jazz-influenced solo that complements the song extremely well. Track 6, "Adam's Murmur" has probably the catchiest chorus on the entire album. Almost all of the tracks are less than 5 minutes in length, so they don't wander off course into the free-form jazz fusion that some Progressive bands think makes them sound cool. The last song, "Nunc Stans," is the lowlight, never really going anywhere and just fading out as the album closes.

Traced in Air warrants multiple listens to appreciate what Cynic are trying to get across musically. Progressive Metal fans will be rewarded for their perseverance.

More about Cynic...
Review: Carbon-Based Anatomy (reviewed by Christopher Foley)
Review: Focus (reviewed by Larry Griffin)
Review: Traced in Air (reviewed by Sargon the Terrible)
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