Carbon-Based Anatomy review by Cynic

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  • Released: Nov 11, 2011
  • Sound: 7
  • Lyrics: 8
  • Overall Impression: 8
  • Reviewer's score: 7.7 Good
  • Users' score: 9.6 (24 votes)
Cynic: Carbon-Based Anatomy

Sound — 7
An oddity if there ever was one, Floridian's esteemed hippies Cynic have been keeping busy since their enthralling comeback album "Traced In Air". While creative output has been minimal since then, they've hit the road hard, showcasing their discography, flinging business cards every which way, getting stuck into life as working artists again. It's helped them become a little more industrious, I'm sure, but "Carbon-Based Anatomy" is so mellow that it's hard to imagine that anything resembling hard work has gone into it at all.

It has, of course, but the meditative, spiritualist side to eccentric frontman Paul Masvidal has really come to the fore on this, their third (!) major collection of original material. While the size is light and the style even lighter you can forget about this EP sounding much like "Traced In Air", yet alone '90s death metal gem "Focus" the placement of unusual mood tracks makes it a serious listen. Exotic washes of ambience mark the beginning, middle and end of this 23-minute affair and are coloured by, among other things, spoken word ("Hieroglyph") and warbling Latin chants ("Amidst The Coals"). What may be decoration on most full-lengths (and superfluous decoration at that) becomes an important factor in a short release, and these three tracks give the EP a prevailing air of peace, despite the harder hitting stuff elsewhere. Dismiss them as filler at your peril.

The bulk of the material though, and the material most recognisable as Cynic, is explorative prog rock. While most metal elements are toned down, the technical exuberance of the band actually comes through in a new way, emanating more psychedelia than the jazz fusion they built their name on. Without compromising identity, this slickly and commendably bridges the gap between the space-rock wastrels and the drugged-up academics that shared a stage in the 1970s. To forge such a sound through technical and meticulous playing is a credit in particular to drummer Sean Reinert, whose contributions are as much a trademark of the band as their vocals or glistening guitar tone.

Lyrics — 8
Perhaps due to the weirdness being dialed up elsewhere, Masvidal has slimmed down on the vocoders and other processing effects put on his voice. Coupled with the absence of death growls, this marks a fairly significant change in the way Cynic's lyrics are communicated, and it pays dividends on "Box Up My Bones". The song exercises all that's good about the band in the 21st century, and the human quality of the voice adds to its euphoria, delivering Masvidal's story of self-realisation with more potency than he could ever have dreamed of before.

Overall Impression — 8
Despite the stylistic framing that tracks like "Hieroglyph" provide, "Carbon-Based Anatomy" does feel incredibly short, and not necessarily because we don't want it to be over. Perhaps it's that the tales of transcendence are not mirrored by a clear sense of direction over the course of the record; in fact the alien territory covered can leave you with the feeling that you don't know where you've ended up, and that you don't really know where you started either. That is this EP's only major flaw, but one that is easily overlooked when so immersed in its positive glow. Whether it's an isolated adventure or just the tip of the iceberg remains to be seen, but either way the future is bright for Cynic.

22 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Who honestly cares if it's mellow or if Paul's voice is too "indie"?! What is that even supposed to mean? lol.
    holy hell news to me. i can't wait to get this. great review by the way, very honest.
    A mellower Cynic release? Fine by me. Gonna check this out right now.
    Totally getting it, wouldn't mind a softer Traced In Air, as long as Paul Masvidal still has dem fingers..
    I heard the preview of the album on Facebook months ago, and I agree it sounds completly different and mellow compared to their other stuff but its still Cynic-esque.
    Would've been nice if there was actually music on this. Six tracks, three actually songs. One song is an Aeon Spoke demo and the other two sound like Traced in Air b-sides. I love Cynic, but this wasn't good.
    I prefer the heavier Cynic but I don't mind them making softer music as long as the music still is good, which isn't the case. Like 75% ambient noise and Paul's clean voice sounds waaaay too indie/pop. Aeon Spoke with a Cynic-tag.
    Second Rate wrote: "mellow"? Psychedelia? Thank you UG, you just saved me some money. Make a metal album boys.
    You think thats reeeally going to happen? reeeeally?
    I have never listened to Cynic before and picked up this album on a whim. It's fantastic.
    cynic is cool, i remember seeing them way back in the early '90s with cannibal corpse when chris barnes was still in the band...would love to hear the newer stuff...
    I thought it felt like a more human, mellow version of Traced In Air, which isn't a bad thing. I think the problem with Cynic is that they're expected to be held to the standards of their other albums, which are practically impossible to surpass. With that said, I really like this EP. If you haven't already, check out the interview he had recently, where he explains how he derived the riffs from Amazonian chant and all this other crazy BS that only Masvidal would think of. It's pretty cool
    I really don't like the lyrics/vocals, but otherwise, this EP is pretty sweet. Not as good as Traced in Air, but some of the material on here is among the best they've ever done, which makes it very much worth listening to.
    I'm actually having a hard time getting into it, despite Traced in Air and Focus being two of my favourite albums of all time...
    Good honest review. I'm reaaaally enjoying them experimenting with their style. It's a great EP.
    Second Rate
    "mellow"? Psychedelia? Thank you UG, you just saved me some money. Make a metal album boys.