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CD Review: CYNIC, "Traced in Air"

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CD Review: CYNIC, "Traced in Air"15 years after their last studio release, a famously elusive metal metal band with an enormously influential debut has followed up. That's right, boys and girls, it's the rabidly anticipated comeback album from…Cynic.

On 1993's Focus, some Florida-based musicians (including guitarist Paul Masvidal and drummer Sean Reinart, both formerly of Death) demolished four or five musical boundaries to pioneer a metal/jazz/progressive/electronic sound that the rest of the world is still catching up to. After splitting up to form Gordian Knot, Æon Spoke and various other projects, Cynic are now one of the only bands in history to release a reunion album that captures the band at the top of its game.

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Still astonishingly succinct for a band with such progressive tendencies, Cynic pack a wealth of genre twists and compositional stunts into a 34-minute album. Reinart's busy, multilayered percussion nearly steals the show from Masvidal, whose fluid, shapeshifting leads (thankfully) put the songs before masturbatory guitar wankery. Luring in your senses with the fade-in intro of "Nunc Fluens," Traced in Air will keep you guessing its direction until you realize (hopefully by about 1:30 of "The Space for This") that there is none, and Cynic don't need one. Whether effortlessly sneaking in a few slow-jam measures next to the blast beats of "Adam's Murmur" or casually throwing a sparse, "Nothing Else Matters"-esque bridge into the anvil-heavy "Integral Birth," there doesn't seem to be anything that this band can't do. Not for show, mind you–none of it sounds bogged down by experimentation.

Traced in Air is a natural progression from Focus, more melodic and boasting a much cleaner production than its predecessor. Not that Cynic have lost their teeth–"Integral Birth" threatens to obliterate your speakers with its Sepultura-esque drumming and cavalcade of fretboard magic, while the overwhelming "Evolutionary Sleeper" packs a punch worthy of the Dillinger Escape Plan. It's not your typical death metal album, or your typical anything metal album, but anyone used to death growls and down-tuned guitars should enjoy this as much as the theory enthusiast who will spend days absorbed entirely in the 6-minute apex "King of those Who Know," the ultra-melodic "The Unknown Guest" or really any other track on this top-notch release.

For the uninitiated, Focus should probably still be your starting point for all things Cynic. But Traced in Air is a more than worthy follow-up that builds on Cynic's legacy as much your favorite records from Veil of Maya, Between the Buried and Me and Candiria. Welcome back, dudes–now how about a tour before 2023?

Buy it/burn it/chuck it scale: Buy it

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Completed by frequent Cynic producer Warren Riker.

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