Cynic: Re-Traced

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Cynic: Re-Traced
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Cynic: Re-Traced
Adult Contemporary, Jazz Fusion, Progressive Metal
Season of Mist Records
November 6th, 2010
Release length: 23:54
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Cynic‘s debut album, Focus, found both praise and disgust through the Metal world, and wound up being the only official release to come through the band as far as retail was concerned, since the group had issued four demos prior to it’s recording. The band formed back in 1987, had that album issued in 2003, but eventually the group broke up with many members going on to forge Gordian Knot. Back in 2006, Cynic reformed and released Traced in Air, their second full-length offering, fifteen years after their debut. Again, that release met with mixed reactions. However, the reactions to the band’s follow-up release, Re-Traced, hasn’t been mixed, but more on a negative spiral for the group for many reasons. This EP takes five songs from the already issued Traced in Air, and found the band “reinterpreting” them into a more mellow Progressive Jazz Fusion sound that really relies on the atmosphere of the music then anything. While the band has been known for it’s Avante-Garde spin on Death Metal, this release makes for an intellectual interpretation of some pretty heavy material, but is it really such a good idea?

There are four songs on here that, as stated, are re-recorded. “Wheels Within Wheels” has not been recorded for any of the previous full-lengths of the band, as the others have also found their names shortened to one word, as if they were brand new original compositions, which in a way they are. There’s no Metal to the recording at all, which will be something many listeners frown on instantly, as well as one of the main reasons for some of the negative attention this EP has received. The music is more of a mellow interpretation of their material, focusing on blending the band’s Jazz compositions in the originals, and putting them to a beautiful and atmosphere-rich Progressive Rock style of music that will only appeal to individuals that appreciate a Progressive sound, or the die-hard fans of the band. All of the songs here wind up being very relaxing, mixing electric guitars with off and on acoustics that are blended through ambience in the background of the songs, such as wind that sounds somewhat digital, such as on “Evolutionary”, or an more astral ambience that is kicked off by an 8-bit sound introduction to “Space”.

The problem with this release is more that the music often seems to just go on too long, though the songs typically stick to the traditional time lengths one would expect. This would be due to how heavy the atmosphere and ambience is on the material. “King”, for example, is a great song in itself, but relies on the atmosphere, as well as a metallic sounding vocal distortion that coincides with the more digital astral sound of the ambience, but at the same point it tears away the band’s actual talent horribly. While the song itself has the ability to let the listener just slip away and becomes lost within the music, it will quickly grow boring and tedious as you give this release more spins, only because it sometimes feels like the band themselves aren’t putting much effort into it. “Space” is another one of those tracks that seems to really focus on ambience more then anything, but there seems to be a stronger input from the guitarist then on most. The main issue with this one, however, is that, while the ambience being used here pushes the song along nicely, it never really seems to lead the song anywhere, and half the time leaves it feeling a little empty and misguided, as if it is building up to some kind of well suited dramatic burst of music that might be a little more upbeat or faster, but it never arrives or goes backwards into a slower pace that, again, focuses on more atmosphere and ambience and becomes heavily repetitive for the chorus. But, for as frustrating as the song genuinely is, “Space” is far from a bad song, and the vocal performance on this track actually becomes addicting just due to how they’re performed, and the various soft, soothing pitches used throughout match the atmosphere perfectly.

Of course, “Integral” is the perfect track off this release, as it shows off the band’s abilities nicely without focusing solely on the atmosphere. The soothing vocals work nicely against acoustic guitar work that has some nice technicality in the chords with a little atmosphere going on in the background from keyboards, but nowhere near enough that it completely steers the songs. “Evolutionary” is heavily focused on the musicianship as well, but it suffers from the same “goes nowhere” musical feel that “Space” often has, except the vocals aren’t really as impressive, and the guitars and drumming become a little repetitive and sound weak and uninspired at times, as if they were relying on the keyboards to push it along with the atmosphere, but it just didn’t happen. The new track, “Wheels Without Wheels”, however, is also not all that inspiring, and winds up having a very upbeat feel to it. The problem is that it just doesn’t feel as strong as the others. The music to the track comes off a little traditional, and lacks some of the more complex music that makes the first four stand out in their own ways.

While Cynic is a fantastic band, this release simply isn’t. These reimagined works are truly something worth hearing, but the problem is that these tracks will lose their impact over a while, and some of the tracks feel uninspired and pushed too much by the ambience then the actual talent of the musicians involved. Again, this winds up being targeted to a specific niche audience, and those individuals will definitely enjoy the effort, but at the same time, they will also fall prey to the faults highlighted above, though they just may get more time with the album then most of the traditional fans of Cynic. Re-Traced is an EP worth experiencing, but it’s not an effort that is genuinely worth breaking your back to hear.

01. Space – 5:14
02. Evolutionary – 4:25
03. King – 4:54
04. Integral – 3:51
05. Wheels Within Wheels – 4:45
Overall Score: 6/10
Cynic (band)
Cynic (logo)Digital review copy of this release provided by Season of Mist Records.