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I have listened to alot of music in my day, be it classical, to blues, to jazz to straight up rock. I hold many albums from all sorts of genres in high regard (Mahavishnu Orchestra - Birds of Fire is one of the greats in the jazz world), but never have I heard an album so complete and groundbreaking in my life. This may seem as overpraising, but I sincerily believe that this album is the best I have ever heard.
Every track has its purpose on the album, and each one fills its duty to a "T". Whether it be the spacy "Celestial Voyage", the mellow "Textures" or the simply beautiful "How Could I?", no stone is left unturned here, giving us the full spectrum of music and emotion condenced into less than an hour of music.
Technically, this album lies at the pinnicle of metal. Unsurpassed by anything I have heard, every instrument is at work here, creating a full bodied sound wich at all times is "working". Guitar riff weave in and out of eachother. Both guitarists play distinctly differant parts, yet they seem to be playing the same thing at once. Never have dynamics between two players been so perfect. As for the soloing, both Masdival and Gobel have distinctly differant approaches, making the trip through the album interesting and diverse at all times.
The drumming is spectacularly performed by former Death member, Sean Reinert. His work in Death is the best of any Death drummer's, but his playing on "Human" pales in compairison to what he does on "Focus". Rich sounds come from his kit as we hear constant tom fills, cymbal work and inventive bass drumming. Odd time signatures are everywhere, never letting the listener "settle" into his playing.
The vocals range from standard death/thrash fare to oddly "robotic" sounding clean vocals. At first, I was not a fan of these synthesised vocals, but you come to realize that they are essential in the album's feel and overall sound.
This is indeed the thinking man's album, filled with jazz influences and familiar death metal (courtesy of Masvidal's helping of writing "Human"). Influences are clear, but they manage to create something completely original and unique. As an extra note, "How Could I?" is, in my opinion" the greatest song ever written and is spectacular every time I listen to it. The outro solo is the perfect cap to this trip through "Focus"