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At first no one can really enjoy this album because there is basically no other band to my knowledge, that uses these kind of vocals. It’s like getting used to a whole new genre. Again. When you first started, death metal, for example: Was it hard to get used to the vocals? If this description does not fit you, then you will see once you start this album. Nothing prepares you for what you are about to face, so many sure your ears are open and ready to absorb all the new ideas soon to be heading to your ears. Just for comfort, most people who play an instrument bathe themselves in this album for long periods of time, because of how well it is crafted.
Lets start with the technically. Cynic defined technical metal with this album *and atheist). If you see some of their tablature on the main site (At www.cynicalsphere.com) you see that they do use time changes a lot. Some parts exist in basic 4/4 timing, others in 21/16 (Uroboric Forms). Playing in anything/8 time signatures can be hard, especially at high speeds, but playing something over /16 at the tempo for Uroboric Forms just messes with the mind.
The abundance of well crafted solos is also quite a relief, as this tends to be lacking in technical metal bands. Most tech-death bands will actually try and make their solo really ‘amazing’ and impossible to perform, but this cuts into the overall effect. In Focus, this is not the case. Whether its an arpeggio from Veil of Maya, to the amazing Jazz-Metal fusion solo at the end of How Could I, the guitar work proves to be consistently hard to play and amazing to the ear. The drumming by Sean Reinert and his jazz-feel that he brings to the table makes Cynic a band that stands out. He layers 12/8 all over the place, and manages to use 4/4 timing for his double bass pattern (If you know jazz and be-bop this isn’t hard at all). In some places it is just impossible to copy. Lastly on our bass, Sean Malone, doing all his dirty work without much notice. Its actually audible this time, which is nice. He doesn’t slack of either… and manages to actually mix up the bass notes instead of going 1-1-1-1-2-2-2-2 like most bassists today.
There is three parts to this album:
1. Metal intro
2. Abstract middle
3. Versatile end
Let me go into extreme detail:
1. Metal intro: You can see through Veil of Maya, Celestial Voyage, and Eagle Nature, that they contain heavy riffs, odd time signatures, and soothing parts to each of them. Veil of Maya has its African Bossa Nova/Samba Briza break, Celestial Voyage has its otherworldy chorus-ending, and Eagle Nature has its famous ending. These are your three main songs, with their own metal touch and double bass. They all tend to follow the same pattern though.
2. Abstract middle: Most people who will end up not liking Cynic abort the album here. Sentiment and I’m But A Wave To… really are based on technically and soloing of each member. Sadly this part is the least memorable and is the reason this album did not get 98-99%. It’s still great, but feels out of place sometime. The vocals and the idea behind the vocals are insanely philosophical though.
3. Versatile end: Your reward for getting this far: Uroboric Forms. HOLY. SHIT. The fastest track Cynic has ever done and the time signature (See top of review) is insane. Next is Textures. Best instrumental ever. Ok its basically equal to Cosmic Sea by Death. This is the true shining of talent. Its actually not hard to play, but coming up with the idea for this song is insane. I can play it on drums, and took 2 weeks, but wow this song is ridiculous. I still cant get the drums on the bass solo part. Lastly is How Could I, the final epic song that we all have been waiting for. With its keyboard intro, and then jazzy metal fusion drumming, we see a final display that will leave you sad to have finished this CD. Jason Gobel’s final guitar solo is one of the most non-popular amazing solo I’ve ever heard. It’s the best one out there, but no one remembers it. Just enjoy it as you finish your first round of Focus.
In conclusion, you must own this album if you own Atheist/any tech metal band. This is a must have. Sean Reinert’s work on this has spawned 15+ years of jazz-metal fusion drummers, including myself. This is not even counting what the other members of the band have created. This album is so mysterious, it’s hard to recommend to people, but if you want a new experience… get it!