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Cynic - Focus CD (album) cover




Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

4.19 | 502 ratings

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Prog Folk Researcher
4 stars Here’s another review in a genre I don’t spend a lot of time with. My idea of good metal dates to the first few Iron Maiden albums, Black Sabbath, and maybe a little bit of Rainbow. This is definitely not in that. Early Opeth maybe, before that band discovered black roses and long, romantic walks in the catacombs.

I never did get the whole growling thing, although in the case of Cynic you can make out some of the words, and the guy actually appears to be making those sounds with his real voice, which is kind of cool.

This is another one of my kid’s albums, but one that I actually seem to listen to more than him. The reason is the very first track – “Veil of Maya”. That vocal phrase just gets burned into your skull the first time you play this, and pops up uncontrollably at the most awkward times, much like an old seventies acid flashback. At eighty miles an hour on the highway usually, so it’s a good thing I live in a sparsely populated state where the cattle and deer can dodge oncoming traffic quite well. If you don’t like the way I drive, stay out of the pasture I always say.

Other great things about this album? The drums for sure – a blistering rapid-fire beat that doesn’t seem to let up the whole thirty-plus minutes of the album. This guy must have steel rods in his shoulders. And a comparatively normal lead vocalist singing over the top of Screechy Guy is a nice touch, gives the songs a bit of a creepy, rainstorm at an old Bavarian castle feel to them.

Most of the songs sound pretty much alike though, but I think that’s sort of by design with these scream-metal bands. “Uroboric Forms” is a nod to prog I guess, since the band manages to do a little tempo changeup coming out of a drum n’ shred onslaught, and that quickly morphs into another onslaught just as quickly as the first one disappeared. The drummer has some serious ADD issues I think, ‘cause he’s about to ratchet his arms right off from the tempo up-tick at the end of this.

The other unique tune is “Textures”, which manages to run the gamut of jazz/fusion to metal to an ambient instrumental kind of thing and finally a string-plucking fadeout ending. Really, I can think of quite a few eighties electronica bands that could have sounded like this if they’d just added a speed-addled drummer and maybe one more guitar.

My biggest complaint is that this is awfully short for a debut album (which turned out to be a swansong album at the same time). “Veil of Maya” has a really solid rhythm going that should have been drawn out with some guitar progressions and maybe a drum solo (what the hell), and “I'm But a Wave to...” seemed to end too abruptly even though it’s the longest track on the album. Other than that this is a great blood-pumping album of throaty metal with just enough instrumental variety in some places to keep it interesting, as opposed to giving you a long-term headache like a lot of death metal does. This is for sure a four-star album, and recommended to everyone except maybe emo-types and symphonic fans who are worried about blowing their speakers.


ClemofNazareth | 4/5 |


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