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Cynic - "Traced in Air" (CD)

Cynic - "Traced in Air" CD cover image

"Traced in Air" track listing:

1. Nunc Fluens
2. Space for This
3. Evolutionary Sleeper
4. Integral Birth
5. Unknown Guest
6. Adam's Murmur
7. King of Those Who Know
8. Nunc Stans

Reviewed by on March 11, 2009

"Showcasing some of metal’s best musicians, deep philosophic lyrics, and cohesive songwriting, 'Traced In Air' is a worthwhile pick from the extreme metal world."

Progressive jazz-metal junkies, here’s your fix. The names Death, Cynic, and Atheist were among the most revered in the progressive death metal scene back in the 90s. Finally, after more than a decade, Cynic have returned to the fold to make a second offering.

Cynic’s legendary progressive death metal album, "Focus," revolutionized the ways one can approach this genre, with dark jazz passages, furious death metal instrumentation, and a blend of growls and robotic vocoder vocals. Those familiar with "Focus" will find familiar elements on the new album, although "Traced In Air" will likely divide fans into two camps, as Cynic has evolved into a more focused band, covering less ground, but with equal fire.

"Focus" was rife with death metal growls and progressive elements, with the jazz elements often sticking to guitar chord voicings and drum work. There are plenty of progressive elements to "Traced In Air," including different time signatures, navigated professionally, jazz fusioned guitar passages between Paul Masvidal and Tymon Kruidenier, busy bass parts thanks to Sean Malone, and extra-tight drumming from Sean Reinert.

The death metal growls are not nearly as plentiful as before, and are pushed behind the clean vocals, which are dominated by layers of vocoder. There’s a blend of clean vocals and vocoder present on "Traced In Air" that didn’t exist on "Focus," which was almost entirely vocoder. Overall, "Traced In Air" is primarily a jazz fusion-metal album, with the death metal stylings being more of an afterthought.

The songwriting has been focused and compressed into a more cohesive whole, and the band manages to set forth this metal manifesto in just over a half hour. Depending on your tastes, this may be a good or bad thing. Either way, you’re getting the core of Cynic for this album, with three of the original members, undiluted and evolved. Plus, Tymon is quite a bad ass addition, having come from the Cynic forums and grown up on the Cynic tunes.

The "Cynic sound" eludes comparisons to other bands or artists, and the lyrics revolve around Eastern spiritual thought and the interconnectedness of life, summed up in the words of the closing song, "Nunc Stans" - "We’re eternal nunc stans soldiers, the eternal warriors." This makes reference to concepts such as the "eternal now."

Regardless of what camp you fall into, be it the first album loyalists or the sophomore progressionists, it’s hard not to like Cynic. Showcasing some of metal’s best musicians, deep philosophic lyrics, and cohesive songwriting, "Traced In Air" is a worthwhile pick from the extreme metal world. Like the entities on the album artwork, Cynic are multi-faceted, otherworldly, colorful, and unique.

Highs: Intelligent songwriting, a high caliber of musicianship, tight production, and masterful guitar solos.

Lows: Extensive use of vocoder, shortness of album, and a lack of death metal elements present on their previous album.

Bottom line: This is real artistry, a cohesive whirlwind of jazz fusion-metal with high production values and focused songwriting.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)