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Cynic - The Portal Tapes CD (album) cover




Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

3.53 | 55 ratings

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3 stars Prog for the unwashed masses? With so little time actually working under the band name Cynic, it's amazing that guitarist Paul Masidal and drummer Sean Reinert (the core duo that hold together the working collective known as Cynic) have such a wealth of material to offer their fans. This time it's the demos of the Portal project that the two made in colaboration with former Cynic guitarist Jason Gobel and newcomers Chris Kringle on bass and female singer/keyboard player Aruna Abrams. Recorded roughly about 1 year after Cynic released the death metal/jazz fusion album Focus in 1993, this musical outing is far from extreme metal and leans heavily toward an experimental/keyboard prog sound. With Masvidal continuing in his role as mystical lyricist and Aruna supplying chime like swirling keyboard textures, the music, mostly executed at a mid tempo, often takes on a prog/new age sound hybrid that would be more at home after playing a later era Peter Gabriel or Soul Cages era Sting album. I'm not saying that's a bad thing, we can't listen to prog metal all the time, I'm only trying to give a musical point of reference.

The album starts off quite strong with the afore mentioned swirling keyboards, acoustic and electric drums, clean guitar textures and a heavy fretless bass groove. Abrams has a clear pleasent voice but she's not going to shatter any wine glasses when she sings. Abrams is usually the lead vocalist with Masvidal supplying low multi tracked and echoed backing vocals that also swirl around the sound stage and is quite an aural treat. Unfortunately, the spell wears off by the fourth track and the band have no new tricks to present to the audience Even though the fifth and eigth tracks are also stellar, you just feel like your hanging on at that point, waiting for the forgetable ninth and the tenth final track to pass by quickly so that the album finally ends.That such a young band could produce such a reserved focused work as this, especially after two were members of the seminal Florida extreme metal band Death speaks volumes for their musical chops and dedication to the project.

The remarkable art work by the late Robert Venosa adorns this album as well as all other Cynic albums and is still such a large part of the listening experience. The man's work is along the lines of H.R. Giger but with a spiritual bent. This is a hard album to call for as I stated, it really belongs on a playlist along side Peter Gabriel. The question is, would you bump a Peter Gabriel disc out of the way in order to play the Portal disc first? I think not. 2.5 stars for the music and great sound from the demos plus Venosa's great art work. Prog for the unwashed masses? Definately not.

SteveG | 3/5 |


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