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Discovering the demo material of Cynic was something of a minor revelation for me, being only really familiar with the Focus album. At this point Cynic was quite a different band, though the evolution of their demos does give a hint at the direction they were headed. The first two demos from '88 and '89 are more rudimentary if still enjoyable thrash, the '90 demo an explosive shot of hyper speed, uniquely melodic technical riffs and relentless drumming that in my mind comes out on top of enough full albums by other bands. On this demo the sound is veering more towards death metal and coincidentally is the one that secured them a deal with Roadrunner I think, it would explain the name anyway.
By this point the classic Cynic lineup had been established, with bass as on the previous demo being handled by Tony Choy, an astonishingly gifted bass player who was apparently the only one capable of filling the gap in Atheist left by the insanely skilled Roger Patterson. His playing also blends seamlessly with this incarnation of Cynic, he wouldn't have worked on Focus but I would have loved to hear what a full length recorded around this time would have sounded like. There are three songs, two of which later appeared on the debut. They are noticeably different from the Focus versions, as well as the added appeal of hearing them in these far more brutal incarnations. The version of "Uroboric Forms" in particular just destroys, in some ways I prefer this to the album version though it is the most similar to the one on Focus. "The Eagle Nature" is quite different, the most bass intensive of the three songs, without the clean break in the middle and a different ending. The final track "Pleading for Preservation" is the most energetic and driving one, with relentless melodic thrash riffing bursting out from a relaxing clean intro, and an ending that was later reworked into "How Could I" on Focus. Paul's vocals are absolutely awesome, savage and fitting the music perfectly. No vocoders yet. Of course, if you're familiar with this band you know the instrumental performances are just out of this world. If not, then listen and be duly blown away. There are just some insanely fast riffs in this demo, and the degree of technical skill is nothing less than highly impressive while still being completely emotive. The solos especially are quite frankly, just wonderful.
Despite its short length this is absolutely worth tracking down, sadly there has yet to be an official release of the Cynic demos but this is an essential listen for fans and anyone into early 90s death/thrash.
At last, Cynic emerges.
'Demo 1991'- or also known as the 'Roadrunner Demo'- comes after a stream of three demos which each hinted at the talent and skill of Cynic, but were often too caught up in Death worship and poor recording quality to really make much of a lasting statement. Finally, now at the age of twenty-one, Paul Masvidal comes out with a demo that finally starts showing his band making music that treads out from underneath the shadow of Death and gets something more original going on. While earlier recordings could be easily likened to the style Death played on 'Scream Bloody Gore', Cynic takes a much more technical route with this one, and even features some mellow spacey guitar work; the likes of which would be more heavily focused on with the band's debut full-length 'Focus'. Virtually every aspect of Cynic's sound has been improved here, finally creating an experience that is musically worth returning to and listening again.
While most demos are plagued by poor recording quality, Cynic has finally achieved a sound that is still not perfect or even great, but is fair enough to not impede the music too much. Although it would have been nice to be able to hear the bass playing a little more, Cynic's studio production is fair enough here. The actual music here is also quite good, and Cynic is starting to develop a more unique sound in their riffs and technical instrumentation, although the robotic vocals that many associate with the band are still not heard here. Perhaps the best thing that Cynic has going for them at this point are the great solos of Masvidal, which even by this point, outdo the sort of leads that Chuck Schuldiner of Death was doing. Suffice to say, Cynic would still only get better in the future, but 1991 would be the year where Cynic's music would start to blossom.
How to begin writing a review on the most prolific, skillful, brutal, & technically sound release of all time? Well, I'm not sure, but here goes.
Considering this is just a 3 song demo it may seem a bit ridiculous for me to make such a claim of the sheer brilliance of this release, but it is just undeniable. This classic lineup of Paul Masvidal, Jason Gobel, Tony Choy, & Sean Reinheart were just flat out born to play together & create this masterpiece. The fluency of their playing seems effortless, yet full of complete cohesiveness and dripping with emotion. (and keep in mind these guys were barely 20 years old at this juncture of their respective careers).
Listening to the opener "Uroboric Forms" is like being given a million dollars. You just know that it is correct & you feel at peace. Everything works and you can't deny you are listening to something extraordinary. The second track "The Eagle Nature" is a masterpiece. The way Paul vocalizes is brilliant. Simple, subtle changes from his semi-growled vocals to the mesmerizing half-sung, half-spoken vocal parts are truly amazing all the while melding perfectly with the expert drumming, bass mastery, & legendary guitar work. The closing track "Pleading for Preservation" slides along perfectly & finds itself culminating into one of the best endings of a song ever. The harmonization & togetherness of the band as a whole as the song builds up and comes to a close is relentless, yet perfect, brutal & beautiful all at once.
Not taking away from the other Cynic releases or the great work & quality bands the members have been a part of before and after this release, but this is perfect. I can remember anxiously awaiting the release of "Focus" after I heard this, but it just didn't compare. Not to diminish the quality of that great album, but it just wasn't in the same league & nothing else has ever been by anyone.
If you haven't heard this recording, you must seek it out. It is a necessity.
What else can be this amazing? I mean, just listening to the first few seconds of this demo make you realize how much of a potential this band really had. If the last demo was not enough for someone to believe Cynic is trying to be one of the heaviest bands around, then this will put them over the top.
First we have Uroboric Forms. I don't even need to explain how fast this track is. It was so well done, that they put this on Focus. The entire thing is blisteringly fast speed double bass with a technical touch that puts it out of the ordinary. It's amazing how Sean Reinert can make his drums flow so well with the guitar. At some parts it just says to your ears "This is the perfect combination of double bass and tremolo picking."
You accept it to be one hell of a song because it ends with some blast beats and then an all out double bass frenzy to prove its true heaviness. The only sad thing about this song is how short it is. Well, at least it has a nice solo and lasts almost 4 minutes.
Next, Eagle Nature-- with Tony Choy. This is heavier then the one on Cynic's main album, but lacks atmosphere. This is not bad, because it is completely replaced by the aggressiveness seen in the earlier track. The bass has more of a jazzy feel as seen in Atheist.
As such, this track is officially 255 BPM, almost Cynic's fastest song (How Could I reaches 260 on some parts). The ending is also ethereal as Uroboric Forms is, but the ending to the true Eagle Nature is continued on the intro (At least I think) on Pleading For Preservation. If this song was just a tiny bit heavier (Ok by what I say, I mean if this thing was as insane as Uroboric Forms), it would probably be a near 99% review. It's a well done demo, just it feels all thrash.
Yes, I know. Giving something a 100 is a bit extreme, but this is one of the few recordings that really deserves it. If you're familiar with "Focus" this may surprise at first listen because it's pure death metal and it totally rips. While the music is very complex and seems to shift directions every few seconds the songs never meander or come off as "cut and paste" or "tech for tech's sake." Despite it's heaviness this is absolutely beautiful because I get the feeling that they were really trying to do something original and intelligent in their field, but something very musical as well. It can be a lot to take in at first, but the songs themselves are very memorable once you give them time to sink in. While eveyone in the band is very impressive and air-tight the real highlight here is Tony Choy. He did the best job he could trying to replace Roger in Atheist and did an adequate job thumbing along to Pestilence's relatively simple music, but here is where he really shines. His playing is so solid, expressive and over-the-top that much of the time he totally steals the show. This was obviously the band he was meant to play for and I've never heard him sound better than on this demo.
As for the songs themselves, I prefer these versions hands down ("Pleading" wasn't re-recorded, but the final section made it's way into part of "How Could I" if my ears are correct) because in my opinion "Focus" was so overdone that it just came off as pretentious and out of touch. This demo is nothing like it and it sounds so fresh and enthusiastic it's almost a shame that they ended up the way they did. If they had recorded and entire album of this stuff there's no doubt in my mind that it would have been the most amazing metal album ever recorded. Yeah, that's quite a statement, but I believe they really had something here: a perfect balance of intelligence and originality.
One thing that killed much of "Focus" for me was the overuse of those robot sounding vocals. They worked in a few tracks (like "Maya"), but in the rest they just feel out of place and like a substitute for something better that was unavailable at the time. When I read what they were saying I was reminded of how a friend described some Yes lyrics to me one time: "They just sound so.. Uh... Pussy." I don't think they could have been any more gay. All of the clean fusion breaks made many of the songs sound like they were running into each other as well.
To cut it down for you this is about as perfect as death metal can get. It's smart without sounding too smart for it's own good, it's exciting, fresh, inspired and the production/mix allows every instrument to be heard easily. There's really not much to compare this to. If I had to I would describe it as a mixture of Atheist's "Unquestionable Presence" and Death's "Human," not because that's where these guys played elsewhere, but because to me that's what it really sounds like. If you love death metal and feel like you've heard it all, track down mp3's of this one. You're not going to find it anywhere else and it's definately worth hearing because it is simply amazing...