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It has taken me a while to give this album a full-listen, having been off-put a little by Cynic’s previous album Traced in Air which, while a solid release didn’t really appeal to me. The main reason for this is the greater prominence of Paul Masvidal on vocals compared to their debut LP, Focus which was released 15 years prior. The decade and a half hiatus between these releases is reflected in the great stylistic evolution between these two albums, as Traced in Air starts to curb the technical death-metal aspects of Focus in favour for more melodic, sprawling songs with a number of technical death-fused bridges and solos with the band’s signature jazz-metal fusion rhythm section.
The progression and development Cynic have undergone between their previous LP and Carbon Based Anatomy at first listen is nowhere near as great as that between their debut, the seminal and highly influential masterpiece, Focus (1993) and their more recent post-reunion album Traced in Air (2008),it is certainly more of an organic and natural evolution in comparison. Rather than reinventing themselves again, here Cynic have refined and perfected their sound and style, creating an album with an engrossing atmosphere. This atmosphere is expressed not only on the “main” songs of the album; title track “Carbon Based Anatomy” (my personal favourite), “Box Up My Bones” and “Elves Beam Out” – but through their accompanying almost instrumental tracks, which make up a third of the album’s 23 and a half minute running time (instrumental, as they feature smooth female vocals mostly talking gibberish yet used more like an instrument; complimenting the nature samples , world instruments and haunting guitar passages.
After listening to Carbon Based Anatomy, Cynic’s latest EP, it becomes apparent that; rather than Masvidal’s singing being a problem for the music, it is the obfuscation of those vocals behind effects (which I want to describe as ‘robotic sounding’) featured abundantly on their previous albums which was an issue. Much like Traced in Air compared to Focus, Carbon Based Anatomy boasts greatly improved production values and mixing compared to it’s predecessor; as each instrument is not only heard clearly but inhabits its own frequency range comfortably; the drums, guitars, bass and vocals (including backing vocals) all sound amazingly loud and clear, the backing vocals add an extra layer of depth to the music where they previously collided (when both processed with an array of vocal effects). It is evident upon listening to this album that the band’s musical vision has been realised and vividly illustrated here thanks to the exemplary production, and instrument tones. This is an album which should endear any Cynic fans who weren’t put off by the changes on Traced in Air (which was a lot less overtly Death metal than its predecessor), and win back some open-minded ones depending on their disposition to clean vocals.
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