Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
Genres: Rock, Metal
No Description Available No Track Information Available Media Type: CD Artist: CYNIC Title: FOCUS Street Release Date: 10/05/2004
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No Description Available
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Media Type: CD
Street Release Date: 10/05/2004
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Kenneth W. (Eyesore) from TAUNTON, MA
Reviewed on 12/4/2007...
The year was 1993, and I was in the infant stages of what was to become complete and utter music obsession. I was still holding on with dear life to 80's rock and bands like Slaughter and Def Leppard, and punk bands like Social Distortion and Black Flag. I was also pretty ignorant to the vastness of the music world, and too stubborn to truly open myself up to new musical styles and genres. It was then that I met someone who was an extreme metalhead, he introduced me to bands such as Sanctuary, Solitude Aeturnus, Heathen and Helstar, and he eventually introduced me to Cynic's Focus album. I absolutely hated it! I just could not grasp the concept of this album actually being considered music. It was just a bit too heavy for me at the time, and the sweet yet vicious and vitriolic vocals just tore at my bleeding ears. I loved the power metal bands he showed me, like Sanctuary, and the doom metal bands, like Solitude Aeturnus, but Cynic was just too big of a chasm for me to cross at that point in time.
Years later, as I was reluctantly nearing semi-maturity, and my obsession with music continued to grow -- eventually manifesting into a nagging, money-hungry wife -- I was listening to some really extreme bands, and one day I came across an article about this short-lived band named Cynic. Bah! I remember this band, they suck! I mumbled. But I did a little digging and found that their one and only album was considered to be one of the best death metal albums of all time, a highly regarded landmark release, considered a classic to a countless many. I hated one of the best metal albums of all time? I thought. Weird.
So curiosity got the best of me and I went out and found it at a used record shop, brought it home, cranked it and proceeded to declare this album one of the best death metal albums of all time! Focus blew me away, made my sweaty areas tingle with delight...because this time around I actually listened to it. And I simply blew it off a few years earlier, the same way I booed Queensryche off the stage when I saw them open for Def Leppard in 1989, only for them to become one of my all-time favorite bands after Empire came out a few years later. How pathetic.
Putting my self-loathing moment aside....
Many people refer to Cynic as death metal, which at the time this was originally released was generally correct, though a fairly big understatement at that. To me, death metal is played by bands like Cannibal Corpse and Morbid Angel, this is not what I hear when I listen to Cynic. By today's standards, they are more in the melodic death metal vein, yet at the same time they are completely different. They combined extreme technical playing with traditional metal, death metal, thrash, jazz, fusion, and classical (to name a few). Paul Masvidal's death metal growls intertwine flawlessly -- albeit in a very acidic manner -- with his signature haunting flanged vocals, and angelic clean vocals. Not many other metal bands have ever combined such contrasting styles and extreme technical wizardry, and pulled it off as flawlessly as Cynic did. They were in a class of their own in 1993, and thirteen years later they still exist there…alone.
This new re-issue comes remastered and includes six bonus tracks, new artwork and pictures, and liner notes by Ula Gehret (Metal Maniacs editor, ex-Century Media rep) and a message from Paul Masvidal. The remastered tracks aren't any different than on the original release, they've just been brought up to current audio standards. The six bonus tracks are a different story, they consist of three remixes of "Veil Of Maya," "I'm But A Wave To..." and "How Could I," and three tracks pulled from the 1994 demo released by the post-Cynic project, Portal. As much as I love this re-issue I have to question the logic behind remixing only three songs. These three songs are far superior to the original three. Why not remix and remaster all original eight songs? Why stop at three? Don't get me wrong, the original tracks sounded great in 1993, the mix was excellent for the time, but ten years have passed and the technological advancements with which they could have used to remix the five remaining tracks should have been utilized to a greater degree because there is a glaring, almost torturous difference between the three tracks they did remix and the original eight. Honestly, I think they should have remixed all or none, as the remixed tracks just leave you wanting more.
The three Portal tracks are excellent songs and I wish I had a copy of that demo. They are very different from the Cynic material. Gone is the death metal, gone is the "heavy," it is replaced by a prog-rock, experimental noisescape with clean male and female vocals. Portal is somewhat similar to Paul Masvidal's and Sean Reinert's current -- and excellent -- Æon Spoke project, having more in common with Pink Floyd, Dredg and Radiohead than anything metal. So I'm a bit confused as to why these are even on this CD. It's obviously done for the fans, but the difference between Portal and Cynic is quite significant. Cynic released four demos prior releasing Focus, most fans would probably have preferred a few pre-Focus demos over these three tracks; as would they have probably liked the long sought-after cover of Metallica's "Damage Inc.," I'm sure (of course, getting past the Wall of Lars would likely have proved impossible). Luckily, at least, the Portal tracks are very good. I think a re-issue of the whole Portal demo would have made more sense, but I'll quit beating the dead, rotten horse and walk away with what I can get.
Regardless of my personal gripes about the bonus tracks, the "focus" here should be on the original eight tracks. So I'll sum it up in one sentence: Cynic was a band that was at least ten years ahead of its time, a band that defied limitation, transcendental in creativity, an enchanting enigma to this day, and on the back of this CD there is a blurb where it reads: "'Focus' is an absolute classic!"
1 of 1 member(s) found this review helpful.
Mind Blowing, Stunning, and Completely Original, EXCEPT...
WulfmanJax | Oklahoma | 01/02/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"REVIEW OF REMASTER: ...now it actually sounds GOOD! For an album that had SO much going on, it really sucked to have such a compressed sound with the instruments, vocals, and drums all meshed together. Now you can hear everything. Guitars are seperated left and right nicely. The vocals are front and center and the drums and bass are nice and tight behind everything. The keyboards are everywhere they need to be. Enveloping at times. It gives the album a 3D quality to it. This is the kind of album that deserves to be listened to in a big movie theater on an amazing cd player (maybe a $20,000 Linn Sondek CD12 Anyone?) and amazing speakers with HUGE 5.1 surround sound. But since you can't do that, a nice home setup still makes it sound infinitely better than the original. If there was ever any doubt in my mind what the best metal (not just death metal anymore) album of the 90's was, this remaster just cleared that doubt up.
As for the bonus tracks, i disagree with the first reviewer that said the remixes barely sound different. Maybe my ears are trained to hear differences in sound and tone better (from playing guitar all these years), but i can definitely hear a differece. The remixes have a MUCH more "in your face" quality to them. As a result, alot of the ethereal beauty is taken away. Guitarists, drummers, and the people who like the more headbanging /V\etal moments on the album will probably like these remixes better than the originals. It's too bad they didn't do Uroboric Forms in this manner, as i've always considered it the most metal song on the album.
The three new tracks, as the first reviewer mentioned, are not Cynic, and not metal at all. They're still really cool and if you ever thought Cynic's softer, jazzier, moodier moments would make really good songs on their own, you'll no doubt like these tracks.
Anyway, this remaster is DEFINITELY worth picking up for fans of the album, even if you already own the original. The improvement in sound quality is IMMENSE and the extra tracks are just icing on the already perfect cake.
REVIEW OF ALBUM: The 90's were certainly the apex for death metal. Between the years of 1990 and 1999 death metal evolved from an un-melodic, testosterone fueled, raw form of metal to a genre that matured and began incorporating prog rock, jazz, electronica, and even classical into the music.
Death kicked the door down with the release of "Human" in `91. At the time it was easily the most ambitious death metal album ever and helped pave the way for a new breed of death metal bands that were actually intelligent as well as incredibly brutal. `93 saw the release of Sepultura's masterpiece, "Chaos A.D." and Death's brilliant follow up to "Human", called "Individual Thought Patterns". In `94 Tiamat's "Wildhoney" broke new grounds in death metal by experimenting with psychedelic, ethereal, and even beautiful Pink Floyd-esque soundscapes and melodies that showed death metal didn't have to be ALL about pure aggression.
`95 was unquestionably the biggest year death metal had ever seen. Meshuggah's "Destroy Erase Improve" literally shattered the concept of what "progressive death metal" could be with its mathematical riffs, bass, drums and vocals. At The Gates "Slaughter of the Soul", Dark Tranquility's "The Gallery" and In Flames' "The Jester's Race" all broke new melodic ground, with each featuring a unique take on the genre and all being undisputed masterpieces.
But despite all of that, perhaps the pinnacle of the decade was Cynic's 1993 stunning tour de force "Focus". "Focus" was unlike anything that had come before or after it. With one album, Cynic created a sound and music that was so original and so staggeringly amazing that no death metal band has equaled it since.
"That's a pretty big claim" you say... well, yes it is, but it's all very true. Cynic threw in everything but the kitchen sink on "Focus", seamlessly melding progressive death metal, distorted jazz riffs, solos, and often drumming. Then came the biggest innovation: the interplay between the computerized voice that "sings" half the lyrics and the more traditional death metal growls.
But all of that wouldn't matter if the songs themselves weren't good. And the songs on "Focus" AREN'T good, they're amazing! It just takes one listen to "Veil of Maya" before you realize how truly talented & original these guys are. Through the entire album, there are NO weak spots whatsoever.
That being said, picking a favorite song or moment is almost an exercise in futility. "Veil of Maya" is perhaps the catchiest song on the album. "Celestial Voyage" is beautiful, heavy, and complex. "I'm But a Wave Too..." is perhaps MY personal favorite. It builds on ethereal, jazzy guitars (one clean, one distorted, and one using feedback like sounds to create texture) before exploding into a series of mind-blowing riffs. "Textures" is a great instrumental that never loses `focus' (hehe) and will keep your attention throughout. The closer, "How Could I", is perhaps the most varied song on the album, shifting effortlessly between styles to create a perfect portrait of the entire album.
It's such a shame this was the band's only album. I can only imagine where they could've taken this fascinating sound with future releases. I seriously can't recommend this album to metal fans enough. Also, if you're a fan of "Focus", check out all the other albums I've listed in the review, along with Opeth's entire catalog (they happen to be my favorite band of all time). A good start would be "My Arms, Your Hearse" or "Still Life". And I can't forget to mention Death's "The Sound of Perseverance".
May metal be as spectacular in the 21st century as it was in the last decade of the 20th."
Brilliant album made even better
Justin Gaines | Northern Virginia | 03/02/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I honestly can't think of another instance where a band had released a genre-defining album and just faded away. Imagine if Queensryche had debuted with Operation: Mindcrime and then broke up. That's similar to what happened with Cynic. They released Focus in 1993, bringing a whole new dimension to both the death and progressive metal genres, and then drifted away.
It's hard to adequately describe this album. The band had amazing technical prowess, and they used it to create a death metal album that would make a Dream Theater fan's jaw drop. I'm not talking about Malmsteen-esque guitar heroics either. Cynic's style owed more to jazz fusion than shredding, and the result was this free-flowing, yet highly technical sonic platter. And while it was highly technical, it is still very enjoyable and easy to listen to. Sometimes a band will go all out on technical showmanship and forget to write songs (see Spiral Architect). Fortunately that is not the case here. Focus can be appreciated on many levels. Prog fans will marvel at the musicianship and death metal fans should appreciate the uniqueness Cynic brought to the genre, even if they weren't as aggressive as most death metal bands tended to be. After Focus was released, the band split up. Some of the members resurfaced in bands like OSI and Gordian Knot, but the now-legendary Cynic was never heard from again.
Focus is an absolutely essential album for anyone who is a fan of death and/or progressive metal. It's just a breathtaking listening experience, and when you hear it you can "see" the blueprint for just about every technical metal band that followed.
Edition Notes: In 2004, Roadrunner took a great album and made it even better. The re-released version of Focus features remastered sound, 3 remixed tracks, and 3 demo tracks from a Cynic offshoot called Portal. The remixes really don't add much, but the Portal demos are quite cool. Featuring female vocals, they have almost a Cynic-meets-The Gathering sound. I give it my highest possible recommendation."