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Cynic: The Portal Tapes

It hasn’t been too long since Cynic issued their Carbon Based Anatomy EP, and here we are again, staring at yet another Cynic release. Not that this a bad thing, but you wonder what the outcome would be at this point if the band would take some extra time to write material. But, it seems Cynic are on fire in their obviously stuck writing gear, and every experience since their first album since reuniting has been rather good and heavily varied. The Portal Tapes marks their first effort for 2012, and given how the group has been writing it probably won’t be the last effort. So, curiousity got the best of me and I decided to throw it on during some down time to talk about the first few tracks of this release.

The Portal Tapes opens with the signature easy going-style Cynic sound, but with a nice Progressive atmospheric twist. There are some keyboards present that give off a slight astral feeling, but as if something were wrong in the cosmos. The lighter tone of the music on this album, as well as the opening track “Endless Endeavors,” suits this environment well, having a strong bass focus through some parts that really push the song further than the guitars or any other instrument in the bridges, making a bit of a warped noise to chords played. The addition of female vocals in a softspoken manner, though cleanly sung, works well for the tone of the song. This ends up being carried over into the next track, “Karma’s Plight.” Some of the additional keyboards, especially at the start of the song, feel a little less easy going, paving the way for patches of the music to come off emotionally uneasy, almost paranoid in a sense, even with the additional female vocals. This doesn’t quite feel as traditional an atmospheric song with Progressive tendencies, and quickly becomes far more interesting to hear thanks to the more unique keyboards and guitars that periodically appear.

But this goes away at “Circle.” Those soothing female vocals feel more as if they are meant to be heavenly, which is something that makes sense while staring at the artwork and given the atmosphere and music. But, these are also met with softer male vocals at times that seem to take priority at times. This duet track feels a little richer musically as well, but still rather relaxing, going into “Costumed in Grace” that brings everything back around to the soothing, atmosphere-rich “Endless Endeavors” sound. I really liked the more digital sounding astral environment of the song though, which really stands out as an impressive feature to this track. However, the softer male vocals felt a little off given how rich the end is, and how much the song itself builds up towards the end. But, “Cosmos” left me a little saddened. While it isn’t too bad a song, I really didn’t feel it going anywhere. There were some instances that felt a little thicker musically as if it were going in one direction, but it just kind of sat there stagnant, as if the beautiful atmosphere were enough to push the track. I didn’t really have much interest in trying to find the purpose of the song as it hit the end, and I was actually happy when it concluded.

So far, The Portal Tapes hasn’t really struck me as a great album from Cynic, but it sounds good so far. With the exception of “Cosmos” leaving a bad final impression, I did enjoy the digital astral atmosphere, and it’s very soothing sound, as well as top notch audio quality. The duet vocals are good and do carry that kind of tone that sends you floating through space in a heavenly trance, but it feels like the band sometimes puts the majesty of their music’s sound before anything else. I can see myself just kicking back with this album and talking to someone on-line, or people having it on while enjoying their favorite vice, maybe just sitting outside at night with a cold beer in hand even, hell even sharing an intimate moment with a significant other. But, that’s about as far as I’d go with this one. Will this be one I find going back to repeatedly? Well, given the right circumstance I can see it, but right now, based on what I heard, I’m not really too enthusiastic on this one compared to their other recent offerings.

Article based on digital review material provided by Season of Mist Records.