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Cynic - Focus CD (album) cover

FOCUS

Cynic

 

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

4.22 | 399 ratings

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J-Man
Prog Reviewer
3 stars How Could I?

Cynic's Focus is often considered to be one of the best prog/technical death metal albums from 1993 - which is surely no small achievement when one considers the competition. Individual Thought Patterns by Death, Elements by Atheist, and Spheres by Pestilence are just a few classics from that year. So why is Focus among these classic albums? For one, this is a groundbreaking album in extreme metal; surely among the most important in progressive death metal. Second, the music has all the ingredients for a masterpiece. Technical riffs, a complex rhythm section, and heavy yet beautiful melodies should create the perfect extreme prog metal album, and in a way it does. But the music itself is rarely interesting for me. There are a few bits here and there that I absolutely adore, but most of the music here just doesn't grab me. It's as if this album has all the right ingredients to make the perfect cake, but the chef left it in the oven for far too long. Yes, he did the most important part correctly, but the end result is still less than what it should be.

Despite the fact that I find Focus to be slightly overrated, it still is one mighty fine, and unique, album. The music here is not something you find too often in other acts. The best label I can give Focus is technical progressive jazz death/thrash. You could say that Cynic is similar to Atheist, and in many ways they are, but Cynic has a much different sound than Atheist even though they can both fit the same genre label. There are some weird "roboto" vocals on Focus, the production is spacey, and the music is generally softer than Atheist. Still, if you like Atheist, Cynic should be right up your alley. However, be warned - I love Atheist, but Cynic has never appealed to me as much.

Focus is an 8-track, 36:13 album. Of the 8 tracks, there are only a few truly great songs. They would be the opening Veil of Maya, the haunting I'm But A Wave To... and the instrumental Textures. Most of the other songs are good, but not very memorable or just compositionally flawed. In almost every song, however, there are a few moments of genius. If Cynic were generally better songwriters, this album could've been much better.

The musicianship on Focus is, obviously, fantastic. If you know anything about these musicians, you'd know that they're all fantastic. Their playing is tight and precise, and work together as a unit perfectly. My only complaint with Cynic in terms of musicianship is the vocals, which I find to be sub-par. Tony Teegarden's throaty growls are very annoying IMO, and I really wish Cynic would have someone else take over the harsh vocals. I can't say I'm a fan of the roboto vocals either. If Cynic would've found an adequate growler, and a solid clean vocalist (rather than the roboto stuff), I would probably be much more impressed.

The production is a bit of a problem. Although the spacey atmosphere is definitely appropriate, it could have been executed much better. The sound is very rough, and actually destroys most of my listening experience. The drums sound especially weak on Focus.

Conclusion:

Focus is an unquestionably classic album by Cynic. If you're interested in extreme progressive metal, I have no hesitation in calling Focus essential. The technical riffs, unique style, and relevance in the Florida technical death metal scene make this album worth a purchase, but the music itself tends to disappoint me. Thus, the highest rating I can give is 3 stars. Despite my lack of interest, this is an album every progressive death metal fan should hear at some point.

J-Man | 3/5 |

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