Review Summary: Despite wanting to get into this album, I really cannot, due to lack of emotional depth.
Music, like all art forms, is highly subjective, and due to this all personal opinions whether good or bad should be taken with a pinch of salt. What one person may hail as a musical masterpiece may be doomed to mediocrity for others, such is life. Cynic’s Traced In Air is a prime example of this diversity in opinion. Lauded by many as an amazing, revolutionary, nay breathtaking and original take on metal, and a prime candidate for album of the year; I couldn’t help but be hugely disappointed when, playing this for the first time I realized that to me this was no better than hundreds of average albums that come out every year. Please don’t get me wrong, I can completely understand how this musical adventure could be perceived as pure bliss for some, but I cannot stress enough how average I find this album. From the opening sequence to the grand finale, my interpretation of the 35 minutes of music on display is that it is over-the-top and above all rather dull.
The albums name Traced In Air immediately informs any potential listeners on what to expect. Like Thrice’s “Alchemy Index” this album has an obvious connection with air, in an elemental context at any rate, and whilst this connection is obvious it is not necessarily as well implemented as it could have been. The resounding use of clean vocals, added to the rushing guitar riffs and heavy drumming create more a sense of an intense wind than Thrice did. As well as this, the futuristic sounds on the album, evident all the way through, from album opener “Nunc Fluens” to closer “Nunc Stans”, do not really compliment the airy feel in any way creating many small clusters of music as opposed to one whole individual piece. A direct consequence of this is that the album feels and sounds confused, as if it is trying to be too many things at once, and while undoubtedly an admirable endeavor, the overall scope of this album seems to be too abstract for my tastes.
The first half of the album is mind-numbingly ordinary. Yes the music is technical and well thought out, but it has no soul. The very emotional life blood that connects music to people has been cut out, resulting in a solemn mechanical sensation, that proves once again that technicality is no substitute for substance. The aforementioned “Nunc Fluens” is a dull opener, with no real power behind it. The distorted guitars and tribal drumming build softly, but the desperately needed crescendo never comes, as second track “The Space For This” immediately calms the tempo right down to a walking pace. In fact until fourth track “Integral Birth”, there is nothing that really gets my pulse going, and even then the track fails to deliver a resolute relationship. The music on offer does thankfully liven up, with “The Unknown Guest” and “King Of Those Who Know” standing out.
I have always maintained the belief that drumming is the only element of music that matters when it comes to broadly characterizing it into the genre of metal. Without the heavy use of double bass and fast frantic stick work by drummer Sean Reinert, this album could theoretically, barring the occasional death growl vocals, be classified as alternative rock or post-hardcore such is the diversity of musical direction on the album. The progressive elements on the album are very good, especially on the second half, and go someway to redeeming the album’s stature. “The Unknown Guest” is a perfect example, a sheer roller coaster ride of musical highs and lows, with amazingly crisp vocals and great performances all around. Unfortunately, this is a rare case of brilliance in an otherwise unremarkable album, and should be treated accordingly.
This weird and unconventional mixture of progressive death metal, power metal, industrial and even jazz is a valiant attempt at making a masterpiece of epic proportions. Unfortunately, this album fails to deliver, instead offering a messy scramble of odds and ends that whilst unquestionably highly technical pale in comparison to the brilliance that this could have been. As mentioned at the beginning of this review, music is highly subjective, and the views that I have expressed here are without a doubt in the minority. Upon numerous listens, I have slowly become to accept this album, liking it more and more over a large period of time. If, like I hope, this album continues to grow on me, then given more time, I may realistically be able to bump this up to a 3 or even a 3.5, but either way the immense reception that this album has received still confuses me.
- The Unknown Guest
- King Of Those Who Know
I understand that you guys are going to absolutely hate me for this review, and I can see my approval rating going from its current 96% to lower than 70%, but I feel that this has to be said. Me posting this is equivalent to me deciding that I want to commit suicide in the middle of a busy town centre, and all I ask is that after maybe 3 months of complete alienation, you will give me a second chance.
I really did not want to dislike this album. I forced it upon myself time and time again but to no avail.
yes really, it all seems far too dependent on those futuristic 'digital' sounds, and as a result seems as if it were designed for a machine instead of a human, well to me anyway.This Message Edited On 12.22.08
i don't think Cynic was attempting to be "emotional". it is a highly technical composed album that relies more on its instrumental prowess to draw the listener in. that isn't going to attract a lot, but i think Cynic really succeeds on this album by putting their skill in a realm of the accessible that is just comes off really well. i don't think that 'Traced in Air' reaches the height of 'Focus' but it certainly is a great release and a breath of fresh air in metal.
Not necessarily, just rigid, robotic electronic music, as displayed in this album.
I don't really see the robot stuff...I mean like maybe I can see it on Focus but not on this album. It's more like the ethereal voice of a deity than a robot. Plus there's more to the album than just the singing, and there's more to the singing than just the effects.This Message Edited On 12.22.08