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The First (But Not Last) Step In Technicality - 93%

Akerfeldt_Fanboi, April 5th, 2009

So, when people talk of technical and or progressive death metal, one of the first bands to slip out of your mouth would probably be Cynic, or Atheist.

Now, what does the title have to do with this? This album is where technical metal should've stopped evolving. Starting out as a great behemoth of confusing melodies and jazz-fusion tendencies, technical death metal was the forefront of unusual music. Then, by the late 90's, we had bands like Cryptopsy that saw it necessary to play scales and diminished runs for near an hour with jazzy drumming and growling.

Anyways, onto the album.

The first thing that will surprise the listener, is the production. Clear, yet an unusually fuzzy guitar tone, loud, and very thick, although every instrument is more than clear.

The next is the vocals, a combination of death growls (performed by keyboardist/producer Tony Teegarden) and a "robotic voice" which is performed by singing in a falsetto voice through a vocoder.

The guitars. These guitars are why this album is the supreme in terms of technical metal. There are probably only one or two parts in a Cynic song where both guitars play the same thing. Almost every riff consists of a strange intertwining melodious riff that is quickly picked, ending in the occaisional complex chord under heavy distortion. The clean parts are fantastically played smooth-jazz fusion, and Textures (the song) is a culmination of Cynic's collective talent.

The bass is monumental. Sure, Atheist and Pestilence had great bassists, but when Sean Malone decided to lay down some lines, everything changed. Twiddling with a fretless bass and a synthetic MIDI pickup, through some slight distortion, we have the soudn of this album. Just like the guitars, there is a rare one or two riffs per song that the bass follows the guitar on.

And, the drumming. The drumming! Sean Reinert, childhood friend of bandleader/guitarist/vocalist Paul Masvidal, is the drummer for technical music. Combining a taste of latin/fusion licks and a heavy sense of accents and rhythm, this album is flowing with energy becuase Sean knows when to play some calm (yet aggressive, somehow) beat, and then follow-up with some ridiculous fill pattern that a drum machine would stutter with.

The songwriting is a pretty damn important aspect of this album. When you hear the genre name "Technical Progressive Death/Fusion" you might cringe, or you might jump into it with an erection. Either way, the perfect fusion of jazz and death metal (no pun intended) on this album is what puts ahead of the others (namely: Atheist). The riffing on this album is fairly consistent in terms of techniques, but even then the guitars never feel dull or boring because of the insane amount of melodic harmonization, and the meticulous detail about it.

The only thing that is even remarkable wrong with this album is the lack of songs. Even just one more song, preferably another full-on jazz instrumental like Textures, would have made this album jump up to a flat 99.

I recommend this to anyone who hasn't listened to it. The vocals may take a bit to get used to, but when they sink in, this album is virtually flawless.