Thursday, November 3, 2011

WHATEVER WEDNESDAY: Cynic - Carbon Based Anatomy

First off, I know it's not Wednesday. I'm sorry. I've been without power for the last few days. I've been passing the time playing board games. Not just any board game, but an H.P. Lovecraft -based board game. It's called Arkham Horror, and it is absolutely insane. You play cooperative with friends to defeat the Ancient Ones. Kill monsters, close portals, and travel to the outer worlds, all the while trying to stay sane. This game will kick the shit out of you. Not for the faint of heart. Anyways, that's not really what I wanted to talk about today. Let's talk about the new Cynic EP, Carbon Based Anatomy.

For those who don't know, Cynic was formed in the late 80's by Paul Masvidal and Sean Reinert. They both joined the legendary band Death for the recording of the Human album in '91 (thus establishing the technical death metal genre) and then began work on Cynic's debut. They released their first album Focus in '93 to ravenous response. The sound they created with that album was something that nobody had ever seen before, in the progressive metal genre and beyond. What Cynic did was create a perfect blend of death metal and jazz fusion sounds, with a progressive rock influence. That album is an essential cornerstone in the foundation of modern progressive metal. Unfortunately, the band split up shortly after the release of Focus in '94, and remained on hiatus until the mid aughts, which saw a reunion tour and, finally, a follow up to Focus called Traced In Air released in 2008. Their sound was further perfected and refined on Traced, with a much more seamless balance of both jazz and metal sounds. They did a re-imagining of that album a year or two later, which was pretty interesting but really didn't satiate anything. All it really did was leave people wanting more. And more we finally have: on november 15th the new e.p. drops.

Carbon Based Anatomy sees a new chapter in Cynic's saga. Things feel different this time around. Whereas Traced was more of a response to Focus, Carbon Based Anatomy is a huge step beyond. Their sound has evolved way past anything I could have expected from them. Lush, gorgeous soundscapes evoke images of creation; throaty drone and ethereal vocals transport you to far away and undiscovered lands, into looming temples full of faceless monks and incense smoke. Listening to this album feels like listening to somebody tell you of their journey to spiritual enlightenment. Your mind isn't capable of completely understanding what they are trying to express to you, but their words and emotions are comforting and exhilarating. Honestly, that description is less metaphor than you think. Masvidal is quite the psychonaut, from the sound of this album I can only assume his acid intake has seen a significant increase. Don't let that scare you though, this album is so immensely beyond the addled ramblings of an acid casualty [Exactly what this blog is -ed.]. Gone are the death metal growls, gone are the driving muted riffs and relentless drum fills. This ep is a completely different machine. I don't even want to call this a metal album anymore. The guitar is spacey and subdued, but no less full of virtuosity. The drumming is reserved and, in the same breath, more raw and tribal. The bass takes the forefront on this album, with Sean Malone coming on once again to completely shatter minds. Malone's fretless bass riffs skitter and dance around the ambient soundscapes, thrumming through the drone and haze. Gone too are Masvida's signature robot-vocals. His voice is presented completely clean for most of the album, effects are used in a much different way this time around. When used, he is given a massive, ethereal choral accompaniment that fits the tone of the album flawlessly. The overall tone itself is really where the directional shift occurs. Half of the tracks on this album are more ambient than anything, choral interludes full of oriental drone and tribal vocals. While this is more often than not a negative thing, or seen as superficial filler, it works perfectly for the album. None of the record feels superficial in any regard. The downside to this ep is the length, however. At just over 20 minutes long, I'm left wanting so much more than what is presented. I want this to be twice as long, I know they could have fleshed this out into a full-length release. They know that too, though. They've noted at a full length for 2012, and I can only pray that it is a continuation of this direction. I want to hear more of this story. Carbon Based Anatomy is almost disappointingly short, but oh my god is it sweet. Just listen to it on repeat forever, that's what I've been doing and it works just fine for me. Alright, time to play more Arkham Horror. ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn

- Nick Weber

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