Traced in Air



by Jeremiad USER (1 Reviews)
February 11th, 2010 | 18 replies

Release Date: 2008 | Tracklist

Review Summary: "Traced In Air" is a well written and masterfully executed piece of progressive metal.

To me "Traced In Air" represents what progressive music should be about. Beyond that it meets my criterion of what music as an art form should achieve. I don’t give it a “classic” rating lightly. Reviewers have lauded it for imagination, scope and depth whilst others have decried it for being dull, flat and shallow. I am convinced the disparity in these attitudes is a result a the preconceptions that listeners bring to the table.

As a progression in a body of work "Traced In Air" arguably parts ways with Cynic's earlier death metal influence that was present on 1993 classic "Focus". That album interlaced odd-time jazzy parts with grinding chunk. The harder edged elements were expertly executed and partially owing to Cynic members’ contribution to Death's seminal album "Human". Paul Masvidal's chiming cybernetic vocoder vocals were interspersed with Tony Teegarden's death growl. A balance that was brazen enough to appease lovers of the brutal. Those who bring a similar standard of judgement to "Traced In Air" will be disappointed.

The death growl is still present, courtesy of Tymon Kruidenier, but is less intrusive both in style and in its place in the mix. The guitar tone is more nimble, effervescent and glassy and the drums have been crafted to be more punctuated and less weighty. If the album is judged by the scales of heaviness, brutality and the number of bone-crushing riffs that can be crammed into one song, it will flounder and fail to live up to this standard.

I feel that to judge metal in this way is a gross simplification of everything it can come to represent. For me "Focus" was so earth-shatteringly good due to its depth of meaning, the technical dexterity and weighty sound being the icing on the cake. The sound of "Focus" was appropriate for the slightly darker, more angst filled lyrics and Cynic's latest effort is a progression on those meanings, so it is fitting that a musical progression has also taken place. "Traced In Air" is not trying to be violent, malice ridden or crushing. It is a multi-dimensional exploration of everything held in the bands name: a search for happiness, cosmic reconciliation and harmony.

I am divided as to album opener "Nunc Fluens" as I can appreciate it summarizes the album message along with bookend "Nunc Stans". The two are apparently latin for “the passing present unfolds into the eternal present”…read into that what you will. The opener is a mix of samples from the album that is to follow and this is certainly ambitious. I find this track to be overly long however, often skipping to track 2 after about a minute and a half. Infinitely stronger is "The Space For This". It opens with a glittery clean guitar passage which if you let your preconceptions go will transport you into deep space a la classic Pink Floyd. The song then explodes with agility, giving me the impression of space flight with unsettling riffs in 7/8 time contrasting the darkly serene vocals. Some amazing guitar work follows showcasing technicality without tipping into souless wankery.

"Evolutionary Sleeper" brings the album from strength to strength with a similar shimmering intro that morphs into a writhing and semi-dissonant 4/4 riff (which should dispel accusations that Cynic are technical for the sake of technicality). The multi-octave processing of the vocal is especially effective on this track, making Masvidal sound like the protagonist in a classic 70s sci fi film. "Integral Birth" is lyrically my favourite song on the album. Masvidal has revealed that the album is loosely conceptual, centred around an extra terrestrial visitor surveying earth. The image of a million doves weeping blood adeptly captures a sense of sadness of the alien viewing the conflicts of humanity. Conflicts fought trivially over the lines "dug deep in the sand of belief". This song fills my head with so many images and feelings I can safely say it is an all time favourite. Where do you find this sort of gravitas in “br00tal” death metal about rape and necro-sodomy" Owing to the mix being "thin", as I stated earlier, this sounds better the louder you play it.

By this point in the album I find myself engrossed in the world Cynic create, it is literally like being part of an old sci fi film or novel with that charm you can't quite place your finger on. The next three tracks envelope me in more proggy goodness. With hypnotic chanting, oddly beautiful discord and masterful contrasts of mood and texture permeating each track. "Nunc Stans" ends the album beautifully with a sense of wistful acceptance of our cosmic position that is equal parts joy and melancholy. Reverb-soaked guitar synth, military rhythm section and the pseudo-choral vocal top off the album in a nicely abrupt style. A device that makes me want to listen from the start once again!

Detractors will argue that album is one of three things: flimsy, fraudulent or overly theatrical. I don't feel any of these are fair if the album is listened to in context, and with the open mind Cynic seek to encourage. Would it be fair rate a classic Floyd or Zeppelin album on how many downtuned riffs tore us a new one" No, and this is the same for "Traced In Air", it transcends the normal and narrow boundaries of metal. The accusation of lacking depth is quite at odds with how I perceive the album and from what I can gather from reading interviews with Masvidal he seems to be a thoughtful individual who genuinely cares about the music he creates. He frequently states he could not make albums in a pressured commercial manner, as this a betrayal of the creative process both in its purpose and importance. Finally the "overblown" nature of the album is largely a matter of taste, but if listeners are dabbling in prog anyway I think it is safe to assume they should have no objection to ambitious music and concepts. I think the album is heartfelt and well written rather than depthless and contrived. The former once again evidenced by reading Masvidal interviews: "I’ll obsess over a word for three weeks until I do one thing to it. I have a lot of respect for writers, because I realize it’s not easy shaping, crafting things to feel a certain way. I’m realizing that more, in doing these interviews."

In the all too human and open style of Chuck Schuldiner, who Cynic members had the pleasure of working with, Masvidal and Co continue to push the limits of creativity in progressive music. In terms of both musicality and meaning. Let us hope that, unlike in the sad case of Chuck, their capacity to do so in the future is not cut short. It is possible the best is yet to come.

user ratings (2661)
other reviews of this album
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  • Iluvatar EMERITUS (5)
    Traced in Air is essentially the audible recording of the element of Air, in all of its be...

    Fugue (2.5)
    Despite wanting to get into this album, I really cannot, due to lack of emotional depth....

    AngelPhoenix (5)
    Mellifluous Magnificence....

    Necrotica (4.5)
    Truly mind-blowing....

  • Shredzilla (4.5)
    Cynic successfully continues on with their incredibly unique sound while adding even more ...

    Gyromania (2)
    You know it's a sad year for music when Cynic's "Traced In Air" is the number one rated al...

    JizzInMyPants (4)
    A strong effort by Cynic...

Comments:Add a Comment 
February 11th 2010


Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

This guy has only been here for 1 day and I already like him.

Great first review.

February 11th 2010


Album Rating: 4.5

Quite a takeon for your first review. pos

February 11th 2010


Album Rating: 2.5

Very good first review. Welcome to the site. Album is great. I had it at a 5 for a long time, but it grew off me a little bit.

Digging: The Body and Full Of Hell - Ascending a Mountain of Heavy Light

February 11th 2010


Album Rating: 4.0

Welcome to the site. Great first review.

February 12th 2010


Album Rating: 4.5


orbit round the Earth with tears of blood (8)

awesome album is awesome, and fucking great review man welcome to sputnik

February 12th 2010


Album Rating: 4.0

impressive review/album

February 12th 2010


Album Rating: 4.5

totally agree

February 12th 2010


Album Rating: 2.5

great review. have a pos'.

this album never clicked with me.

February 12th 2010


Album Rating: 5.0

okay wow. This is exactly how i feel about this album. It is one of the most amazing albums i have ever listened to. It has so much depth and replayability its insane. If i had to pick one album to list to for the rest of my life this would be it.

Saw these guys on their tour with BTBAM, Devin townsend and scale the summit. They were amazing. Of course the hardcore kids didnt like it. They just wanted to see between the buried and me. (who i do love as well)

They just put on an amazing show. Evolutionary sleeper was so amazing live.

February 12th 2010


Album Rating: 2.5

This album registers absolutely no response from me. It is simply 'meh'.

February 12th 2010


Album Rating: 2.5

you see i'm the same

February 12th 2010


Album Rating: 2.5

I've tried to like it. Hell, I even saw them live. Still meh.

February 12th 2010


Album Rating: 2.5

DoctorNurse and Jim are both right.

February 12th 2010


Album Rating: 2.5

Yep. Album's too robotic.

February 12th 2010


Album Rating: 4.0

No, album is brave and strong and isn't afraid of anything. Evolutionary Sleeper is so badass.

Album sounds like what I would imagine lacerations sounding like.

February 12th 2010


albums overrated. Nice review tho, pos.

February 12th 2010


Album Rating: 4.5

Good first review, but I disagree, so I'm going to neg

Oh no, I meant pos

September 8th 2014


I'm listening to this every day for like 1 month now and i still feel it growing on me further, it even made me realize some personal things i don't want to share here... masterpiece.

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