Sound — 9
When I first heard about the fusion of Jazz and metal I just said no. That doesn't exist and if it does it probably fails. Well this band proved me wrong. Focus Is Cynic's first full length album and their first work involving jazz influence (their previous demos were thrash and death metal). Cynic were defiantly huge innovators in the genre of death metal at the time, incorporating progressive, avant-garde and Jazz elements and starting to make metal a lot more technical. The album is very progressive overall and many of the songs switch feels often and switch between clean and distorted guitar tones. One second you're listening to death metal, then all of a sudden it flows into a jazzy clean part. Many of the songs even make the distorted passages sound jazzy, which is very unique even for jazz bands. The guitars on this album are very technical in many ways. With odd time changes, very odd jazz chords and just overall speedy riffs and leads. Paul Masvidal is very creative in his style and riffs. The bass on this album is also fairly predominate. Sean Malone plays a 6 string frettless bass, a unique type of bass for this sort of music and has a tone much like Jaco's. He rarely plays what the guitar is playing and often does a bassline underneath or something different, giving the music a sort of polyphonic feel at times. The drums on this album are probably I must say the best drums that I have heard in a while. Sean Reinhart plays a very unique jazzy style but still metal at the same time. The drums are extremely complex and polyrythmic at times such as in the song Sentiment. Another unique part of the drums is though he has a double bass drum, he rarely uses blast beats, which are very common in death metal. He instead uses lots of toms and snare rolls/ cymbal rolls with the bass drum doing occasional gallops. This album has a very unique sound and it all comes together beautifully.
Lyrics — 7
The singing on this album is probably the most unique I've heard in any form of metal. Paul sings with some sort of odd effect and octavator I believe. The end result is a high pitched smooth tone that almost sounds like a 5th instrument at times. He (or the other guitarist?) has a more typical growl. It's kinda like Death only lower. Both of these styles fit the lyrics and the music well. The high pitched singing suits the jazz elements well. It has a very fusion-y sound to them, kinda like synths or something. The screaming obviously is for the Deathy parts. The lyrics are based around buddhist stuff and abstract takes of his lifes journey as he has said in interviews. The lyrics are fairly abstract and don't have a set meaning. Many of the lyrics expain how the whole universe is connected in songs such as Urbonic Forms.
Overall Impression — 10
This album is hard to compare to many bands because it is so unique. It can be compared to Atheist but not as funky. It is also comparable to death's later stuff (Paul and Sean did play on human). It is also similar to Opeth at times. Its hard to say what the best songs are in a progressive album like this are but in my opinion I'd have to say the instrumental, Textures and How Could I. As a metalhead and a jazz musician I love this album. There's not really much I can say against it really. The only problem I have with it is the tones are a bit muddy at times but other than that this album is just about perfect. A must hear for anyone into Death Metal or Progressive music.