Cynic
Traced in Air

I wanted this album to be bad, so I could redouble the album’s badness with some bad one-liners referencing the album, i.e. “I can find the space for this…in the garbage,” or better yet, “Cynic are the kings of those who know…how to suck.” You get the gist; I wanted to use their song titles as a vehicle to tell shitty jokes.

Fie to Cynic for making that prospect nigh impossible to achieve.

Traced in Air is a great CD, one that embraces those pieces required to create it in relatively equal measure (though listening for the bass in some songs is like playing hide and seek with the invisible man). But I feel as though people look to Cynic for the wrong thing, what with the “death metal” tag, which may result in some incendiary comments to come flying their way. The only thing keeping the death metal iron branding Cynic’s ass is the inclusion of the sparse guttural vocals, which seem obligatory considering the band’s influence during the Renaissance era of the genre. They aren’t bad, they just hearken to the olden days, back when the world was young and death metal was keeping the 700 Club on high alert. Besides, the vocoded Masvidal strains and melodies serve their purpose well enough alone, save “Integral Birth” where the growls and robo-chords are layered to a surprisingly powerful effect.

This is certainly one of the most bombastic albums I’ve heard in a long time; no song on the album clings to any musical idea for an extensive duration. Soft, harmonious moments collide and interact with the heavier, drum-focused sections and amalgamate into pieces that rarely become tiresome exercises in technicality. Masvidal’s guitar wizardry is still jaw-dropping, as is newcomer Tymon Kruidenier from Exivious, and when Sean Malone’s Chapman stick gets pushed up enough in the mix, it is awe-inspiring. But Sean Reinert’s drumming is the inarguable star of the show, flourishing with interesting fills, subtle cymbal work, and brain splattering double bass, all under the guise of bizarre time signatures.

There are some knocks I can find against Traced, namely “The Unknown Guest” and its inclusion of a Sanskrit mantra chant, which has less to do with relevance and more to do with songwriting. Buddhism and meditation is an important facet of the band’s songwriting, but the shift in polarity at those moments is so drastic it listens like a palpitation rather than part of the pulse. However, the rest of the Cynic listening experience remains relatively untarnished, and for every nit I could pick, it still wouldn’t detract from how awesome Traced in Air is. Cynic 1, Yancey’s shitty jokes 0.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Kris Yancey
December 1st, 2008

Comments

  1. Commented by: Larry "Staylow" Owens

    Nice review. I listened to this several times when I first got it, but it failed to impress completely. It was mainly the vocal approach that I couldn’t really wrap my head around, because musically it’s a monster. Some repeat spins are in order before I make my year end list, because I had such high hopes for it. I have a feeling though that this will be one that will take much more time, possibly years before it’s brilliance truly shows through.


  2. Commented by: Red

    You know I have always enjoyed Cynic, back in the day, and I still have and hold their demos in very high regard and maybe I’m being a bit premature with my opinion but what I’ve heard so far doesn’t really intrigue me all that much. I think I’ll agree with Staylow and say this one’s gonna take some more time to fully be appreciated


  3. Commented by: Cynicgods

    Stick with it people. You’ll wrap your head around it eventually. If you liked every album in Voivod’s discography on the first try (like me), you won’t have any trouble with this.

    Hey, wonder why that black thing up there mentions this band’s name along with gods right next to it. :P


  4. Commented by: gabaghoul

    you know I never knew where your nick came from, Uncle Cynny.

    anyway I guess I owe this another listen too. I liked the floaty shoegazery female vox on Portal but I didn’t want them here…


  5. Commented by: Cynicgods

    Gaba, you owe it to yourself to give this another chance.

    As for the nick, besides the fact that Cynic is my favorite death metal band and Sean Reinert is my all-time favorite drummer, I like world mythology a lot (Celtic, Greek/Roman, Viking, etc.). The gods tend to be cynic now that they’ve found out how humanity turned out. There you go, full nick explanation.


  6. Commented by: Stiffy

    On second listen and a little more focus, this is definitly a years best.


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