Progressive melo-death power thrash black speed nu-hardcore industrial folk goth groove alternative viking doom post metal. There's probably quite a few I missed. Well, I don't know about all that, but I do know good metal when I hear it. I know because it doesn't sound like anything I've heard before. Sure it might have parts, pieces, even glaringly obvious chunks of any or many of the sub-genres I just listed. But there'll be something that tells me that not just any group of guys could put something like this together. This wasn't some lazy attempt at patch-work music, or some half-hearted cast at and weak reel-in of a new idea. This was something that worked, something that moved and breathed and spoke to me, through the screech of a guitar, the soft tap of a cymbal, or the rigid cry of a powerful set of pipes. This was something to pay attention to, something to hold on to. This was truly great music. This was Traced in Air.
Flow, musicianship, songwriting, vocals, acoustic sections/breaks, solos, ambiance, keys, riffs, base, drums. It all comes together in a nigh impenetrable 34 minute package of pure awesomeness that, because of its brevity, begs to be replayed over and over. And as you do, you pick up nuance and subtly after glorious nuance and subtly. Each track is unique and each is fabulous in its own way. Excruciatingly exciting riffs that boast ever so slight tuning changes quiver up and down a never ending barrage of liquid-like snare, tom, and cymbal fills and a subtle, smooth wave of precise, and catchy bass work. Intelligently employed, powerful double pedaling lends just enough heaviness to give the album a more overall compelling feel without dragging these weightless songs down from their soaring heights. The vocals flow and meld perfectly and the mixture of the high-pitched vocoder cleans and the abrasive but invigorating growls create an oxymoron; a unified contrast that will often pleasantly distract you from the furious instrumentation. The lyricism is of the highest order. Each track is a self-contained short story that both stands on its own and interconnects with an affective theme of perseverance and transcendence.
There is a sound everywhere you listen, but it never comes off as disorganized or purposeless. Everything is right where it should be, or rather, right where it needs to be. The snare, toms, and cymbals fill in (all of the) gaps while the bass keeps the tempo (occasionally creating a sub or pseudo-rhythm of its own) and the guitars and vocals whirl around it all; it's like watching a master painter brush out a tapestry before your eyes of the utmost precision, beauty and intent. You won't comprehend the true grandeur of it all until it's finished, at which point you will need to look (listen) again and again to try and find every elusive texture, every hue and tint, every little detail, and then put it all together in your mind.
The emotional content found here (but most prominently in the wonderful soloing) is astounding and the fact that such emotion can be felt through an almost mechanically precise and well thought out method of songwriting is even more amazing. Among Traced In Air's sonic arsenal are frequent transitions from soft to the heavy elements and back. Some are delectably jarring like in Integral Birth, while others are painstakingly smooth like in The Space for This and King of Those Who Know. A couple of slightly odd time-signatures (Adam's Murmur) and strange but enticing stop-starts and tribal-like beats with a modern feel, like in The Unknown Guest and Evolutionary Sleeper provide an alternative to what one usually expects from metal, but doesn't reach out so far as to alienate the listener. The aforementioned solos are almost distractingly short, but in being so allow the background to come nearly to the foreground and what the rest of the crew is doing while Paul is blazing away becomes (excuse the pun) instrumental in realizing the full impact of the solos themselves. This is especially true in Evolutionary Sleeper, Integral Birth, and King of Those Who Know. This (among other instances) exemplifies just how much greater this album is than the sum of its parts.
I liked Focus very much, but wondered what all the fuss was about. Then I thought about how it was released in 1993 and was simply far ahead of it's time in many ways. I wondered if Cynic would be able to duplicate that kind of effect in 2008 when so much has already been done. Well they didn't duplicate it. They improved upon it and created an album whose impact is, at least to me, greater than that of Focus, and indeed is one of the all around best metal albums I've ever had the pleasure of listening to about 300 times in just over a month. The entire album is a highlight really; every track is well-paced and placed, every moment relevant and necessary to the overall soundscape of the album. The album's opener and closer are two of the most beautiful songs I've heard and are aural succinct summaries of the sound and feel that Cynic has poured their hearts and souls into producing. Can I give this more than a 5? No? Shucks. I didn't have to listen to this 300 times to know and decide that this is one of my favorite albums of all time. I listened to it 300 times (and will listen 3000 more) because I must. Because my ears, my mind, and my heart crave it. For some, this is just weird, eccentric, proggy death metal. For others this is a cut above most. For me, this is a timeless classic that I will play at my wedding, for my children when they are old enough to understand, and at my funeral, so those who knew me well enough will remember what music meant to me.
Among Traced In Air's sonic arsenal are frequent transitions from the soft to the heavy and back; some delectably jarring like in Integral Birth, others painstakingly smooth like in The Space for This and King of Those Who Know, a couple of slightly odd time-signatures (Adam's Murmur) and strange but enticing stop-starts and tribal-like beats with a modern feel, like in The Unknown Guest and Evolutionary Sleeper.
I think you could say "Among Traced In Air's sonic arsenal are frequent transitions between the soft and heavy elements. The delectably jarring Integral Birth, painstakingly smooth Space For This...."
The semi colon isn't really necessary, methinks. Good review, but it still needs a bit of editing.This Message Edited On 11.25.08
Thanks ras and rotterdog.
Barely have time here anymore, my professors canceled classes today (plus a good chunk of this is from that sound off I just banged out a few weeks ago) otherwise who knows when I would have gotten this up.
On my 17th book this semester. Don't ever be an English major unless you're really committed, or really need to be committed.This Message Edited On 11.25.08
Your review made me give this another spin after 3 weeks. I just sat back, put the volume up really high, and listened. This is much better than I thought the first 7 or 8 listens. I enjoyed this thoroughly then, but considered it extremely overrated by sputnik. Upped my rating, this is fantastic.
Ace review, but I don't think I could ever give this a 5.