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CD Review: CYNIC Carbon-Based Anatomy

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Cynic has always been a band known for defying the confines of any particular genre. Their classic, 1993 debut Focus remains unrivaled by most other technical death metal bands, and the jazz fusion influence doesn’t sound ever sound forced. After well over a decade of silence, Cynic’s 2008 effort, Traced in Air showed the band expanding on a cleaner style, while still delivering plenty of their trademark metal sound. The EP Re-Traced reexamined several tracks from the previous album, bringing forth a more Aeon Spoke style to their sound (another awesome project from Masvidal and Reinert). With this latest EP, Carbon-Based Anatomy, Cynic has released the most diverse collection of songs in their careers, which could divide some old fans and welcome new ones.

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The wide variety of genre-hopping on Carbon-Based Anatomy is undeniable. The intro track, “Amidst the Coals” showcases a very strong Eastern influence in the guest female vocals. “Bija!”, while only really an interlude, features sitar and other various Middle Eastern instruments. And perhaps the album’s most polarizing song, “Elves Beam Out”, starts off with loads of added electronic effects and much a much more sample-styled sound to Reinert’s drumming. These parts of the EP will probably become the “make or break” tracks for many listeners. Such a wide variety of sounds bundled up into a release barely over twenty minutes in length is certainly not the easiest thing for anyone to wrap their head around. But then again, that’s always what Cynic has prided themselves on.

While these are the most obvious examples of the band really branching out from their past albums, there’s still plenty of stuff here to please fans of the Traced in Air and Re-Traced sound. The title track is without a doubt the highlight of the record, as it features one of the most fist-pumpingly epic endings to any song that’s come out in 2011 and furiously precise bass work from Sean Malone. Malone makes his presence known on this record much more obvious, though never gratuitous. As always, Sean Reinert absolutely destroys the drum kit and remains to be one of the most interesting musicians in the progressive metal world. Paul Masvidal’s vocals have taken on their most “human” feel in Cynic’s history with these songs. There are barely any of the trademark vocoder/robot vocals that made Focus so unique. Wrap this all up in a blanket of tasty metal and fusion licks (think Pat  Metheny meets Marty Friedman), and you’ve got yourself one of the best EPs of the year. Highly recommended for fans of progressive rock/fusion.

Rating: 8.5/10

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Completed by frequent Cynic producer Warren Riker.