Review Summary: From the deepest parts of the Amazon, to all corners of the universe, Cynic's "Carbon-Based Anatomy" is a beautiful and challenging journey that sees the band expand their sound further than ever before.
To transpose, to redefine-such indelible actions are how a musical artist or institution goes about evolving their sound to achieve and sustain relevancy. An unwillingness to follow such guidelines typically leads to a backlash against a band’s refusal to progress. Cynic is aware of this fact, and has been for years, not so subtly undergoing a metamorphosis of sorts for the past two decades. With roots running deep into death metal territory, Cynic’s seminal release Focus
, is oft heralded as a defining moment for the genre, as well as metal in general. Its jazz tinged progressive style of traditional death metal turned heads then, and it still manages to turn heads today. But why then, would a band who so comfortably filled a niche, decide to redefine themselves for a modern age? 2008’s Traced in Air
deftly answered this question, and their latest release, Carbon Based Anatomy
does as well, displaying that through musical evolution a band can still revolutionize even twenty years into their career.
What Cynic have done here is nothing short of exceptional. Not only has the band played perfectly off of their 2008 comeback, but they've has managed to expand themselves further, re-writing conventions and tearing down barriers. Odd, this experimental nature, considering as a group Cynic should be well set in its ways. Yet that isn’t the way they work, the men of Cynic, as merely “settling” isn’t in their blood. Instead, they release Carbon-Based Anatomy
, a small collection of songs that once more sees the band leaving its past behind, whilst sternly looking towards the future.
, despite sounding decidedly Cynic, is actually unlike anything they’ve released before. This may seem somewhat jarring, considering they’ve all but completely shed their death metal roots in exchange for something much more atmospheric. The riffs and technical guitar work that have been a staple of their work has been replaced with a more texture based sound. Less flashy for sure, but it goes a long way in giving the EP a distinct and wonderful sound.
Although Carbon-Based Anatomy
holds within it some of Cynic’s best work, it’s a little light on content. With a 20 minute or so run time, the record is slim as is, which is only exacerbated by a glut of interludes. Taken at face value, these interludes are mere filler; a superficial attempt at musical profundity. However, if the EP is listened to as a cohesive whole, their addition is invaluable. They not only add a beautiful, provocative atmosphere, but they make the band sound like something bigger, something more human
. Strange, considering the cold, calculated songwriting paired with the “robotic” vocals have typically been anything but human. Yet the lesser emphasis on the enhanced vocals, as well as the greater emphasis on warm textures and enveloping atmospheres has made Carbon-Based Anatomy
the most relate-able and humanistic thing the band has ever done.
The EP is filled with three outstanding tracks, and a few excellent interludes to boot. It opens up with shamanic female vocals, sung in a strange foreign tongue, yet ends in “all corners of the universe.” It’s simply an excellent aural journey that sees the band explore the expanses of space, as well as themselves. The title track is a sure fire stand-out, featuring spectacular guitar work and a bigger, bolder sound. It definitely feels closer to Traced In Air
than the rest of the record, as it has some great moments in which it hearkens back to the bands death metal leaning sound. Slightly, but it’s there. Not to be outdone, “Box Up My Bones” comes in about halfway through, and is a perfect amalgamation of new and old. The atmosphere is palpable, and the “robot” vocals are sparsely used. As stated earlier, the interludes don’t stand too tall on their own, but when listened to with the rest of the record, they are absolutely necessary. They add an ambiance, and they allow for the tracks to blend seamlessly together. “Hieroglyph,” with its dreamy, spoken word segment, is a perfect way to finish the album, which parallels the opener’s more mysterious and primal feeling.
isn’t so much of a change in direction as it is a natural progression. This transition may prove jarring, and even disheartening for some, but for many, it will be a welcome breath of fresh air. The lacking death metal influences and riffs will be somewhat missed, but they are absent for the sake of something grander and something larger in scope. Carbon-Based Anatomy
is both a wonderful reflection and a glimpse towards the future. And the future, well, it looks bright indeed.