Cynic – Carbon-Based Anatomy Review

Cynic // Carbon-Based Anatomy
Rating: 3.5/5.0 — Apparently Cynic entered the hanging-out-with-Ravi-Shankar-phase of their career.
Label: Seasons of Mist
Websites: |
Release Dates: US: 11.15.2011 | EU: 2011.11.11

Cynic - Carbon-Based AnatomyWell, since the release of Traced in Air, I can’t think of a band that has higher expectations for their next full length than Cynic. Really, I don’t know a single non-Cynic fanboy among the reviewers that I frequently read, and this is because their two records are fantastic. The EP they released last year (Re-Traced) was a neat little foray into other styles and I really loved it. But I don’t think that anyone is quite ready for the band to stay in those other styles. Carbon-Based Anatomy is raising questions as to whether or not they will come back to the techy metal for which they’re supposed to be known.

Carbon-Based Anatomy is a 23 minute EP that appears to tell a story that I don’t understand. It starts out with what sounds like the singing of an Inuit woman (or another kind of Native American maybe? It’s hard to know, I’m an Angry Metal Guy not a folk music of the world professor) and lush blankets of ethereal keyboards and soundscapes underneath it. This slow start, with its spoken parts and keyboards melds into the first real song “Carbon-Based Anatomy.” The drums here are intricate ‘tribal’ style drumming that showed up on Traced in Air as well. And while the vocals are fairly wispy and airy there is really no vocoder within earshot. Instead, what sounds like choirs of children backup the pondering melodies. This effect is very neat and the listener gets lost in it until a guitar solo kicks you in the teeth and the first real indication that Cynic is a metal band come in. But they don’t kick you again. Just the once.

At times Carbon-Based Anatomy feels like Cynic has gotten into their “doing lots of hallucinogenics and hanging out with Ravi Shankar” phase1 “Bija!” is laced with sitar (and maybe LSD) and “Box up My Bones” is also a very chill song that reminds me a lot more of newer Anathema or Porcupine Tree than anything else that Cynic has really done before. But with the smart usage of fretless bass and some really beautiful guitar work and melodic constructions and a chorus that sort of bores itself into your brain (like some kind of non-elven extraterrestrial), it’s still very successful.

Cynic 2011The track that most resembles anything from Traced in Air is “Elves Beam out,” which has amazing bass, drums and a very cool progressive feel. But again, it lilts along during the verses and never really gets heavy per se. It just kind of floats along, lightly, like a leaf floating on a breeze. It probably helps that this track is largely in 3/4 (with a rotating measure of 2 or 5 depending on how you want to count it), so it kind of waltzes along and grows in strength, before smoothly easing into the final soundscape of “Hieroglyphs.”

This EP has grown on me, but I want to remind everyone that this is not like Traced in Air or Focus at all. The metal is basically not here and it’s way more similar to the band members other projects (Æon Spoke and Gordian Knot). And as I was thinking about that fact, I was reminded of a discussion I had with a guy about the Re-Traced EP. What he said was this:

I think [Re-Traced] is probably a cash-in by a band that, most likely, doesn’t give a fuck about death metal [or metal most likely] and cannot wait to take the Cynic money and record more incredibly boring Gordian Knot records without having to worry about sales, and Exivious can get back together and people will care this time, for their records will include “former members of Cynic” stickers on them.

One wonders if maybe the strategy isn’t, instead, to blend these other projects under the Cynic name for the notoriety that the band has and a loyal fanbase that will just buy anything because it’s got the name Cynic on it. From this standpoint, this comment seems less bitchy than I initially reacted to it and more insightful.

That said, I still dig this for what it actually is. It’s a good progressive rock record in the classic vein of Pink Floyd’s more abstract stuff with a nice Tool vibe rhythmically. And that’s totally fine. As a band they write the music they write. But I think some people could think that it was a tad… well, cynical.

Show 1 footnote

  1. I guess this means that the “carbohydrate, sequined-jumpsuit, young-girls-in-white-cotton-panties, waking-up-in-a-pool-of-your-own-vomit, bloated-purple-dead-on-a-toilet phase” isn’t too far behind.
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