Review Summary: This band did Focus and Traced in Air?
Cynic. You probably know them as the progressive pseuo-death metal band with the vocoder that produced the classic Focus
. That album was legendary, but until 2008, there seemed to be nothing else to add to the Cynic legacy. That is, if you forgot about the demos. A crucial element to understanding how amazing Focus
(and to a lesser extent, Traced in Air
) is is listening to the band's origins. This 10-minute demo shatters the illusion that Cynic were a one-trick pony and provides a glimpse into such a unique band's influences.
Jack Kelly - Vocals
Paul Masvidal - Guitar
Mark Van Erp - Bass
Sean Reinert - Drums
Opener "Once Misguided" opens with a heavy riff and LOUD bass (the only noticable element that the band would retain). Mark Van Erp is no Tony Choy or Sean Malone, but he provides a nice little solo here and really drives the band. Jack Kelly is a thrash metal vocalist in the Tom Araya mold mixed with your average teutonic frontman--his delivery is a shout with the occasional low growl. He gets the job done, but is otherwise unremarkable.
As for the two members who would appear on the full-lengths? Well, Paul Masvidal doesn't do any vocals here, and his guitar tone is your basic thrash sound. There aren't any jazz-fusion licks are fancy solos to be found, just riffs (something that the band occasionally lacked later on). Sean Reinert is great here, as usual, but he is not the monster that he would become in five years.
"Weak Reasoning" has great riffage from Masvidal that sounds slightly more unique than "Once Misguided." Reinert does a great job syncopating with the riffs before Kelly comes in. The song then segues into a more traditional metal section before stopping for another bass solo by Van Erp. Masvidal pulls out some generic machine-gun riffing for the shouted chorus. His solo in the song is a typical lead for this style that increases in speed, but it's nowhere as good as the solos that are all over Traced in Air
. The song is good on record, but sounds made for a live setting.
"Dwellers of the Threshold" is the longest track here at four minutes. It begins at a breakneck pace before Reinert's cymbals lead into a very cool traditional heavy metal section. Reinert goes crazy during the bridge of this song, which is the heaviest moment on the demo. Masvidal gets another solo here, which is slightly better than the previous one.
Overall, Cynic's first demo is a solid trio of thrash metal songs with a slight influence from the NWOBHM and bands like Voivod. The musicianship is tight, but the production is bad, as expected. Kelly would leave after this, and Van Erp would follow shortly after, but Masvidal and Reinert would continue the band and grow it into a beast. All three songs are worth listening to, but follow the similar formulas. The riffs and technicality are here, but if you had told me that five years later, this band would release one of the greatest and most unique metal albums of all time, I would have called you insane. Serious Cynic fans and thrash nuts should get this.