Focus Review

artist: Cynic date: 04/22/2010 category: compact discs
Cynic: Focus
Release Date: 1993
Label: Roadrunner
Genres: Progressive Metal, Death Metal/Black Metal, Heavy Metal
Number Of Tracks: 8
Simply put, Focus remains a wholly original and widely respected release amongst the small progressive metal community, many of whom still regard it as the ultimate statement in the genre.
 Sound: 9.5
 Lyrics: 8.5
 Overall Impression: 9.3
 Overall rating:
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reviews (4) 17 comments vote for this album:
overall: 10
Focus Reviewed by: sevenchurches, on september 12, 2007
4 of 4 people found this review helpful

Sound: Cynic is one of the greatest bands to have ever sprung from the fertile soils of the Floridian death metal scene. Cynic have only released the one album to date (although it would seem another release is imminent after the reunion), which was the aptly-titled "Focus" in 1993. The sound that Cynic have created on this album is something beyond comprehension. The band consisted of four members in 1993: Paul Masvidal (vocals/guitars), Jason Gobel (guitars), Shawn Malone (bass) and Shun Reinert (drums), each of them being so unbelieveably adept at their instruments. Cynic create a mystical atmosphere on Focus, with their many references to the idealogies and beliefs of eastern religions, such as non-dualism and an entire song dedicated to Maya, the mother of Buddha (also the Goddess of Delusion), also their references to spiritualism etc. As well as writing many crushing and technical riffs, Cynic also manage to incorporate some unusual music styles into their music, bordering on jazz-fusion at times. Excuse my gayness, but I really think that some of the clean sections that Cynic have invented are beautiful. The composition is top notch and the band perform live just as well as they play on disc, which demonstrates their tightness as a group. // 10

Lyrics: The lyrics, I loved. They really opened my mind, though not enlightening me (that would be daft), made me question things I'd given thought before but never enough. The lyrics suit the music very well in my opinion, the mystical quality that pertains to the music is reflected in the lyrics. Cynic have two vocalists though only one is an official member. Paul Masvidal sings into a vocoder (a device which produces an electric voice) which was very original and amazing! The other vocalist who done the growling (whose name I don't recall) helped out on the album and during live shows, though he added a lot to the songs. // 10

Overall Impression: Cynic really doesn't sound like any other band, ever. I don't think anyone else would be brave enough to undertake making this kind of music! I was very very impressed with the overall musicianship. It's one of those albums that you listen to after playing an amazing solo and you kinda look solemnly at your guitar and think "I'm shite..." I loved the originality of the music, the way each piece goes so well with the others. The complex time signatures can severly f--k up your head at first though. Every song on this album is brilliant, though my absolute favourites would be "Veil of Maya", "I'm But A Wave To..." and "Uroboric Forms". I recommend downloading them of course but I recommend buying the abum even more! If t'were to be somehow stolen I wouldn't replace it. I would hunt down the bastard who stole it. // 10

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overall: 8.3
Focus Reviewed by: Horvat, on november 16, 2007
0 of 0 people found this review helpful

Sound: To try and label the sound of 'Focus' as any specific genre is anything but futile. Cynic have managed to craft a majestic concoction of death metal with various elements of other musical styles, most notably progressive, jazz, and avant-garde. Upon first hearing 'Focus', I was quite literally enthralled by the talent and creativity that the band so readily displayed on the album. They have a knack for creating textured musical layers that interweave seamlessly and without outside influence. For a CD released in the early 1990's, it still manages to remain musically relevant, and I have heard very few progressive metal albums to this day that push the boundaries as far as this album. Production-wise, the sound is very similar to Death's 'Human' album, and Atheist's 'Unquestionable Presence', but the bass seems to be relatively high in the mix (which is great since Shawn Malone's playing is quite a highlight on this release). The guitars are interestingly played, switching from obscure death metal riffagery to melodic, clean playing. The drumming is top notch as well, nothing to complain about in that aspect. // 9

Lyrics: In keeping with the progressiveness of the music, Cynic decided to make their lyrics somewhat quirky and unique as well. Might I say, it works a charm, and the abstract lyrics only strengthen the mysterious sound they try to emphasize. They definitely are thought-provoking, and provide a refreshing take on our perceptions of life, and the world in general. For example, some lyrics from the song Veil of Maya: "Veil of Maya, Balance every joy with a grief, Dual scales of Maya, Earth's unending law of polarity." The vocalist, Paul Masvidal, uses two vocal styles: growling/rasping, and a robot-like voice (which has been transformed electronically). The former is fairly standard, but has its own unique tonality and intricacies which I enjoy. The latter vocal style is a curious thing, and at first I could not make up mind if I liked it or not. However, I have since grown to like it, and the progressive feel of the record wouldn't shine through completely without it. // 8

Overall Impression: If you're looking for refreshing, stimulating metal, then Cynic's 'Focus' is a good album to check out. It is, in my opinion, one of progressive metal's finer offerings, and is well worth a good listen. As for the robotic vocals, you'll probably either love them or hate them, but at the end of the day the incredible musicianship is still there. My favorite songs from the album would probably be 'How Could I', 'I'm But A Wave To...', and 'Celestial Voyage'. Whether you're a metal fan or not, give this release a go if you want something a bit different. // 8

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overall: 8.7
Focus Reviewed by: corrda00, on july 23, 2009
0 of 0 people found this review helpful

Sound: 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. // 9

Lyrics: 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. // 7

Overall Impression: 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. // 10

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overall: 9.3
Focus Reviewed by: SchuldinerDeath, on april 22, 2010
0 of 0 people found this review helpful

Sound: Cynic is a great band. Lead singer and guitarist, Paul Masvidal, uses an amazing effect on his voice that captivates the lister and keeps them listening until either the song is over, or until they die of heart attack because of how technical the guitar riffs are. Haha. The music on this album is unique, it's like jazz fuzed with metal. I got this album in 2007 and I was speechless. I had been told about Cynic by a good friend, and at first, I was a bit Cynical (pun intended) about cynic. When I listened to the album and read lyrics and after I was done absorbing the feel and meaning of the music, I was Cynic's newest fan. This was their debut album, on this album, cynic uses intriguing clean passages and some of the most intense riffs for all thos "Br00tal Metal heads" out there. They created "jazz metal." I love this album. // 10

Lyrics: the lyrics, you could tell, had to take some time to write. Just by reading the lyrics, I thought to myself "How does one man, Paul Masvidal, come up with such vivd and expressional words to convey his ideas?" I could tell that someone would need to sit and really think to write lyrics like the ones on Focus. The lyrics fit the music very well. I love the effects that Paul uses on his voice. It just adds to the pleasure of the listener. You've got the vocals with effects and then growls in the background. It's just outstanding. Paul Masvidal is a very classically-trained singer, and you can tell so on this album. // 9

Overall Impression: This album is very well able to compare itself to many other metal albums out there. In my own opinion, I absolutely adore the song, Veil of Maya. It shows just how much time it takes to write great music, I figured this out when I tried learning Veil of Maya on guitar. Impossible for me. I love the album's music, lyrics and song structure. I think that the sound quality is a bit fuzzy, and could be mixed a bit better (even on the 2004 remastered edition) I would buy this album if it were stolen or lost, of course. It's one of my most prized CDs. // 9

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