Review Summary: Cynic successfully continues on with their incredibly unique sound while adding even more to it, and finally making an outstanding follow-up to the widely praised "Focus".
Back in 1993, an unknown Progressive Death Metal band from Miami, Florida released a little album named Focus. Most avid Metal fans thought nothing of it when it was first released. As a matter of fact, most Metalheads were way too concerned about a new Death or Morbid Angel album to ever give two craps about some unknown bands attempts at making great music. However, over the years, Focus managed to gain the love and respect of many Metalheads who happened to find the album in bargain bins and flea markets. From then on, Focus has become a cult hit, and a must have for most any avid Metal fan these days. The founders of Cynic, which consisted of Paul Masvidal and Sean Reinert, later realized many years after the release of Focus that it was a bigger hit than they had ever begun to imagine. They soon began at work on a new untitled album. Now, after years of waiting and countless hours of anticipation, Cynic has released their second full-length album: Traced In Air.
The common question that most people ask about Cynic's new album is "Is it better than focus?" To be absolutely honest, no. Traced In Air, to me, is not as great as Focus. However, that does not mean that this album disappoints in any way at all. In fact, I view it as one of my favorite albums of 2008, by far. "How then", you might ask, "is it worse than Focus?" Well, it's not worse than Focus, it just has failed to reach me the way Focus did. First of all, and I think it is extremely important to point out, that Cynic's trademark "robotic" vocals are gone. Caput. Fanito. Now, as much as I hate to see them go, they have been replaced by a more high-pitched vocal tone from Masvidal. At first I missed the robotic vocals that gained Cynic so much love, but I then found myself getting into this new style.
Another major change to Cynic's sound is that they have pretty much abandoned their Death Metal roots. I know what you're probably thinking, "How can this possibly be Cynic?" Well, believe me, this IS Cynic. However, these major changes to the sound of the Cynic you once new really helps the band establish a new persona, and, hopefully, a new and more fulfilling career. On this new album, Cynic take more of a straight up Progressive Metal route than the previous Progressive Death Metal that they were known for. This actually works out really well for the band, and Masvidal proves to be a very accomplished singer. He definitely shows his singing skills much more on Traced In Air than he did on Focus. As a matter of fact, Traced In Air's vocals are mostly sung cleanly by Masvidal instead of mostly screamed like they were on Focus. The guy still knows how to write incredible songs, also. The guitar work on the new album is very reminiscent of the guitar work on the old album. "Evolutionary Sleeper" reminded me a whole lot of the opener on Focus: "Veil of Maya". This is definitely not a bad thing, since the guitar work on Focus was absolutely flawless. However, Masvidal and company have managed to insert a more melodic sound to their guitar playing than what was witnessed on Focus.
Now, the songs. Oh, the songs! I'm truly in love with this album at the moment. Truly, it is great to see that these guys still know how to make any songwriter feel insignificant with their greatly written and flawlessly performed songs. Many songs reminded me of songs on Focus, such as the one's I mentioned in the last paragraph above, while others show off Cynic's new found sound. "Space For This" is a real good example of Cynic's new sound. If you want to understand exactly what I mean when I say "they've changed", then all you need to do is listen to this song. It shows off Masvidal's superb vocals, while still hitting you with the unique Cynic sound that every Cynic fan knows them for. Simply an incredible song! While I love every single song on this album, the one's that stand out to me are: "Space For This", "Evolutionary Sleeper", "Integral Birth", "The King of Those Who Know" and "Adam's Murmer".
One thing Cynic has managed to keep around is their extremely unique sound. With odd times, fusion jazz influenced instruments, unique sounding vocals, and extremely difficult guitar riffs and solo's, this band still has the special ingredient that made Cynic and set them apart from so many other bands in their time. Even till this day, no one has been able to out-Cynic, Cynic. They have influenced countless bands, but I have never heard one come even remotely close to reminding me of Cynic's amazingly unique sound. They remain to be one of my absolute favorite bands, and they have proven with this album that every one of the members still has the fire for the music within them. I am truly happy to see this greatly talented band back on the scene, once again, and I have my fingers crossed for another album by this phenomenal band in the near future. This album may not be better than Focus to me, at the moment (just wait. I might update this, because every single time I listen to this album I fall more in love with it), it is still an exceptional release by a band who has disappeared from the Metal scene for a long time, only to reappear and release an outstanding follow-up to, in my opinion, one of the hardest albums to successfully follow-up. Yes, I do hope to see more great things from this band in the future.