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Cynic - Focus CD (album) cover




Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

4.16 | 582 ratings

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A Crimson Mellotron
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Coming in times where progressive metal was just experiencing its genesis, Miami-based metal act Cynic happened to release a very challenging, controversial and different album. Hailing from the US extreme metal scene, the band has been gaining experience and prominence since 1987, packing all of their skills and impressions and explosively utilizing them to create this crazy album.

The first and most obvious aspect of the sound of 'Focus', is the similarity to 80s King Crimson which, as I presume, must have been somewhat of a blueprint on where the band should head to, as the album carries a lot of resemblance to 'Discipline'.

Of course, this is all broken through their extreme metal prism, with all the bruting, technical riffs and almost guttural vocals. But this still does not describe the full sonic picture. There is a lot of experimentation here, a strong jazz inclination, mainly by bassist Sean Malone, and if metal fusion was a thing, this album would have been a perfect fit.

The song structures also do not follow the usual death/extreme metal standards; instead, the band lets the songs to unveil as they play. An interesting moment is the 'robotic' vocals achieved through a vocoder-type effect, which if I understand correctly, Paul Masvidal did because of the danger of losing his voice. It sounds strange, even appalling at first, I must admit, but at the same time it is different and unexpected, and as the music plays on, it takes a more meaningful form; Also, I really can't think of another extreme metal band that incorporated such a thing into their music and in the end it sounded comprehensible.

In this regard, both vocalists fit quite well with the music, and they use their voices more like instruments, rather than to show off a certain skill or a style of singing. (keyboard player Tony Teegarden provides the death growls)

A rather spectacular playing can also be appreciated from drummer Sean Reinert and guitarists Jason Gobel and Paul Masvidal, who I already mentioned. The songs vary from catchy (yes, this description fits some of the songs here, especially the opening track) to very aggressive and fast-paced (like 'Celestial Voyage' or 'The Eagle Nature') to purely experimental numbers (like 'Sentiment', 'I'm but a Wave to' or 'Textures'), and most importantly they work very well as a whole, making the album an enjoyable experience.

The initial negative reaction to this was the reason for the band to split up quickly after 'Focus' came to life which only goes to show that when something is different and it provokes our perception, it gets rejected. However, this album is appreciated today and for good reasons, it is so inventive and original! No one really does progressive metal the way Cynic did it on 'Focus'.

A Crimson Mellotron | 4/5 |


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