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Cynic - Focus CD (album) cover




Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

4.19 | 503 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Prog Reviewer
5 stars Death Metal. To those who are not fans, (and probably some that are) we think of unrelenting, grinding guitars, cookie monster-esque growling, blasts beats and blazing solos. To those less exposed musical minds, death metal is an ungodly mess of music, and it certainly could not compatible with much else.

As I was getting into the world of progressive music I thought the same. However, Death Metal can indeed be taken into unique directions. Death's later work pushed death metal into a technical direction, Opeth took it in a progressive direction, while Atheist merged it with jazz. Jazz & Death Metal? Yes, and it's great. However, the band Cynic took the Jazzy Death Metal idea and ran into a completely unknown realm. This album is one of the most unique works of metal created. A true blend of Jazz influence and Death Metal. Unlike most prog/tech metal bands which have abrupt section changes this album is fairly smooth flowing, even in its transitions between death metal and jazz. The drumming of Sean Reinert is brilliant and very jazz influenced. The guitar work of Paul Masvidal and Jason Gobel is creative, intricate and just amazing. Adding to the jazzy feel is Sean Malone on fretless bass, (one of the few times you'll hear a fretless bass in Metal!) and it has that distinct warm, "thumpy" feel, unique to a fretless bass. We then have Tony Teegarden handling keyboards and death growls. This is contrasted with Masvidal and his "robotic" vocals, via vocoder.

The music on this album is truly great. Despite its heavy jazz influence it is indeed rooted in death metal, and you can hear it in the riffing, double bass drumming, and of course death growls. However, for a metal head it may take some getting used to, (it did for me at first) since these are not the heavy, crushing riffs we're used to. Also, speaking of getting used, Masvidal's robotic vocals are the only real knock on this album. It took A LOT of getting used to for me, as it is not only different but flat out strange. Eventually I did, and it really is a great contrast to the death growls and gives the album a unique feel.

There is no weak song on this album. Every one is a winner. I do not want to give away any details so I will just say that Veil of Maya, How Could I, and the surprising Textures, are the standout tracks. The songs are not too long, so they do not boring and really don't have any down parts. The musicianship is superb and while every instrument is great, and works together well, as a drummer I am struck most by Sean Reinert's drumming. Truly spectacular stuff.

Not for all prog fans, but I think this album is more accessible then most prog-metal. If you can tolerate guitar and of course death grows, (or at least look past them and listen to just the music) then you will like this album. It is not perfect however, as I mentioned I do not really like the robotic vocals all the time, and sometimes it is difficult. For me personally, they made this album very difficult for a while and with such a major point I was thinking four stars. However, I did warm up to them, and maybe some will take to it quickly. Not to mention this amazing music. A must for any prog-metal fan and those regular proggers who are more tolerable.

Five Stars

JJLehto | 5/5 |


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