Cynic: Traced In Air

Can a band grow in 15 years? Well, like all things, it depends on the band. Surely, most don’t, particularly if they’ve found a formula for success. After all, when you’ve got a job and things are going well, why make life harder for yourself? Or, in the case of a long-awaited reunion, would your comeback album try to push the envelope? Hell no. When it comes down to dollars and cents, it just opens up touring avenues, which is where all your money is. No sense rocking the boat.

Cynic have to saddle both of these concepts one way or another. Having released the universally-acclaimed technical death metal album, Focus, on Roadrunner Records in 1993, the band’s members have worked in experimental and metal bands, often with more than one member in each, but haven’t reunited as Cynic until a few years ago. Now, two years after reforming with the majority of the line-up that recorded Focus, the four-piece has recorded Traced In Air, their long-awaited follow-up.

Here’s where things stop making sense: Traced In Air is an amazing album.

A more realized musical thought, Traced In Air’s songwriting exhibits a stunning development from the primordial ooze of Focus that influenced so many. Bringing the jazz-fusion-meets-death-metal ethos into a realm of pop sensibility, the album is in many ways unlike anything the technical metal community has previously heard, even unlike their own groundbreaking material.

It’s pretty.

That’s right. For an album of processed vocals, growls, double bass, and unthinkably complicated arrangements, this sophomore release sounds like the doctoral thesis of a summa cum laude metal student: Beautiful.

Fans of their more brutal earlier release might cry out in protest at the evolution of Cynic into something respectable to have dinner to, but it’s their fault for refusing to grow up in 15 years, and not Cynic’s.

In A Word: Intricate