Pronto Toronto Series Pt.5: Cynic – Carbon-Based Anatomy
Still in a Cynic zone! Let’s zap forward to 2011 and this 6-song EP. I’m not lazy but, let’s be honest, this has already been typed up:
“Carbon-Based Anatomy EP is composed of six previously unheard tracks. However, the song “Carbon-Based Anatomy” is a reinterpretation of an older unreleased Æon Spoke single, “Homosapien”. This was also done on Cynic’s last LP, Traced In Air, as the track “Integral Birth” was an interpretation of Æon Spoke’s “When Sunrise Skirts the Moor.” The artwork was done by Robert Venosa, the artist who was responsible for all previous Cynic artworks. Venosa died shortly before the release of Carbon-Based Anatomy.
Three of six tracks are short, ambient-oriented pieces (“Amidst the Coals”, “Bija!”, and “Hieroglyph”), and represent an unprecedented musical direction for Cynic. Since the two previous hired musicians, Tymon Kruidenier and Robin Zielhorst, were let go by Masvidal and Reinert, all guitar parts for this EP were recorded by Paul Masvidal. Bass parts were composed and recorded by Sean Malone, who had recorded on every Cynic release, with the exception of 2010’s Re-Traced.” (Wiki)
The secret for listening to this one, I’ve discovered, is to crank it with the good headphones on. The louder you have it, the more transportative it is. Seriously, this is pretty wild stuff! Amy Correia’s vocals off the start of Amidst The Coals are just awesome. This collection of tracks alternates between gorgeous gentle parts and achieving prog metal lift-off throughout, all with intricate and fascinating melodies and parts. Throw in world music tangents and atmospheric mood pieces, and skittering beats paired with whispering voices, and you can maybe begin to get an idea of all the everything that’s contained within.
I’m no expert, but I’d wager these tracks are somewhat of an extension of Traced In Air and Re-Traced, the band following their muse and ideas down avenues other bands would shun. The more I hear of their music, the more I realize Cynic are fearless, constantly pushing, and technically brilliant musicians.
This is superb. I loved it!
Pronto Toronto Series Pt.4: Cynic – Re-Traced
Yesterday I covered Cynic’s Traced In Air, just to tell you about it before telling you about this EP of re-imagined vision!
Here we have four re-interpretations of Traced In Air (hereafter ‘TiA’) songs: The Space For This becomes Space, Evolutionary Sleeper becomes Evolutionary, King Of Those Who Know becomes King, and Integral Birth becomes Integral.
Here’s what the band said: “As most of you already know we’re working on an EP. We’re reinterpreting 4 songs from Traced In Air: Space, King, Evolutionary and Integral, and we will record a brand new song. There’s [sic] several reasons we’re doing this. We’re not done yet with TiA, the album has only been out for a little over a year and we feel the songs are still fresh. Besides that we want to try different production techniques and incorporate influences from different genres we all love, but which never had a place in Cynic. So I saw someone asked how ‘surprising’ this EP could be? I would say: very surprising.” (Wiki)
Overall, the songs are lighter, gentler, though still recognizeable from the TiA versions. Gone are the cookie monster growly vocals. Instead, it’s practically Marillion-esque in its swells and waves. It’s very atmospheric, and pretty much solidifies the band in my mind as brilliant technical musicians first, willing to try new things and doing a damn fine job of it.
There’s also one previously unreleased track tacked onto the end. Wheels Within Wheels was recorded for TiA but not included on that album. It’s more in keeping with the progressive metal sound of TiA, though oddly it fits here too because it isn’t the heaviest thing they ever did, either. This track, for me, proves that Cynic can blur the lines and combine their interests while still being intricate and fascinating.
If this was all you ever heard from them, you’d file it with Marillion and love it. If you came to this from the earlier stuff, well, it depends on the listener. You’d either hate it for being too light and not metal enough, or love it for being adventurous and brilliantly done. Me, I’m most definitely in the latter camp.
Putting the Pronto Toronto series on hold for one day so I can cover this disc, because I bought its follow-up whilst in Taranna with Brother Craig. It didn’t seem right to cover Pt.2 without covering Pt.1…
I loved Cynic’s 2004 album called Focus, when I covered it back in 2014. That one is so huge, so busy, just brilliant.
Four years after Focus, Cynic dropped this album called Traced In Air. In many ways it’s different from Focus, but it’s still an excellent effort, still a Cynic project. The gorgeous passages are tempered with heavy progressive passages that are so intricately played, and played so well, that you stand in awe of the prowess of these players. At first I could do without the cookie monster vocal sections, but the high, clean vocals marry them perfectly, and often outweigh them, so I can accept them as part of the whole. If the whole album was growled like that, though, I’d wish it was instrumental just so I could hear the brilliant playing!
This album is atmospheric, massive, and so tightly constructed, there are sections where the playing just boggles. The heavy rocking parts are balanced with purely beautiful sections that envelope and embrace you. Based on the two records I’ve heard so far, I’m beginning to understand that this band is one of the best progressive metal/rock bands I’ve ever heard.
It has been a long time since an album blew off the top of my head.
I consider myself pretty lucky – I get to hear a lot of great albums in a year. Many become favourites of mine. But it’s rare for an album to just shove me backwards as effortlessly as this one did.
I can see you rolling your eyes at the hyperbole. But seriously, this thing is just… immense. I’ve tried a million ways to describe what I heard this afternoon as I spun it in the Office, and I’ve been finding myself coming up way, way short.
The best I can do from my own brain is that it’s like five albums from different genres all crammed into one record. Hell, crammed into each song! It’s so all over the place, and yet it all holds together. It’s completely intoxicating. In the hands of lesser musicians, this album would have sounded like utter shit. But these guys nail it, again and again, shape-shifting effortlessly and pasting together elements that shouldn’t work but, here, they do! It’s wild.
To listen to this… it demands your absolute attention. Your… Focus. [Ahem.] I was sitting there, listening, and thinking I heard so many other recent bands in it. But then I realized that, quite probably, I was instead hearing what had influenced all those other bands. I was inside looking out, not vice versa. Cool.
This copy I have here is the Expanded Edition remaster from the venerable Roadrunner Records. It contains 6 bonus tracks (as if the album proper wasn’t enough to fry your circuits!), new artwork, photos, etc. And on the slipcover it sums things up better than I ever could, so I’ll just quote it here, verbatim, and let it constitute full agreement from me:
“With the release of Focus in 1991, the Florida-based Cynic successfully re-wrote the progressive rock blueprint, and in the process reached a new technical benchmark in extreme music. Widely heralded as a musical masterpiece, Focus showcases Cynic’s seamless meshing of progressive rock, jazz, eastern mysticism and computerized vocals interspersed with ethereal harmonies and aggressive vocals. In a word, Focus is an absolute classic.”
That this record even got made is a gift to us all. That it was this band’s debut album is mind-boggling.
This was crazy. It feels like you’re holding on for dear life the whole time. I loved it!