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Cynic - "Carbon-Based Anatomy" (CD/EP)

Cynic - "Carbon-Based Anatomy" CD/EP cover image

"Carbon-Based Anatomy" track listing:

1. Amidst The Coals (2:11)
2. Carbon-Based Anatomy (6:24)
3. Bija! (2:27)
4. Box Up My Bones (5:32)
5. Elves Beam Out (3:59)
6. Hieroglyph (2:28)

Reviewed by on October 29, 2011

"There will be an audience that won’t get 'Carbon-Based Anatomy,' but the ones that do will be glad that Cynic has broken free of their metaphorical death metal chains to welcome a potentially fresh twist to their music."

Cynic surprised a lot of people with their 2008 album “Traced In Air.” Their first album in 15 years veered away from the progressive death metal of “Focus.” There were still the death growls and bruising riffs, but the band seemed more comfortable with the layered progressive sounds heard on “The Space For This” and “King Of Those Who Know.” Whether the band has left their death metal in the past is unclear, but if this EP “Carbon-Based Anatomy” is what the future direction of Cynic will be, the metal community might as well be prepared for the shell-shock of “Carbon-Based Anatomy.”

The band is now down to just founding members guitarist/vocalist Paul Masvidal and drummer Sean Reinert, though former bassist Sean Malone returns to put his unique mark on the EP. Less of a series of tunes and more of a solidarity of sonic art, “Carbon-Based Anatomy” will further draw the line between their fan base. Those who hoped for a heavier style moving forward from “Traced In Air” will scoff at the worldly instrumentals and lack of growls. It may seem odd at first, but when listening to their last album again after the EP, it makes sense.

Most metal fans don’t like to see their favorite bands suddenly change, or tempt their audience with one sound before turning a new leaf, but Cynic has been building on this for years now. Looking back on it, “Traced In Air” was them testing the water, and seeing how people would react to a few non-death metal influences. The positive response to their second album gave the band a chance they could not ignore.

Taking a more progressive route has done nothing to temper the excellent musicianship or driving riffs. The band doesn’t abandon their roots - though “Bija!” plays around with percussion and sitar, as well as a plethora of backing vocals - but reinvents themselves around a concept of a journey that spans the entire planet, including deep space. Vocalist Amy Correia, who provided guest vocals on “Traced In Air,” is brought on board to almost be a narrator of sorts on “Amidst The Coals” and “Hieroglyph.” These two atmospheric cuts sandwich the other four songs, which cover much ground for only 20-odd minutes.

The title track fades in with Reinert’s fluid handwork that always seems rooted even when they look to head out-of-control. The song has a great chorus and an efficient solo; the track could have fit on “Traced In Air” with no hitches. Masvidal keeps the vocoder handy for his clean vocals, though goes completely on his own for the spacey “Box Up My Bones.” As a vocalist, Masvidal has really stepped up over the past few years, and that bodes well for the next studio album.

“Carbon-Based Anatomy” doesn’t make much sense on the first listen, the second one, or really the third; however, given enough time, everything starts to mingle. What seems like a pointless interlude becomes a vital piece to the entire concept of the EP. It feels like this EP is what the band has been working up to their whole career, even during their lengthy hiatus. There will be an audience that won’t get “Carbon-Based Anatomy,” but the ones that do will be glad that Cynic has broken free of their metaphorical death metal chains to welcome a potentially fresh twist to their music.

Highs: Leans away from death metal into an atmospheric progressive metal sound, Masvidal's vocals still exceed expectations, an EP that feels like a whole work, great to hear bassist Sean Malone back

Lows: Will turn away fans of their older style, not good as background music

Bottom line: With this EP, Cynic has embraced their progressive metal side with a daring new sound that will gather up a lot of attention in the band's direction.

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)