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An album by Cynic

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Very original, very accomplished work.

  • Mar 22, 2003
This has been out for about 10 years now and there is still nothing like it. While there are fragments of Cynic's sound appearing in the later works of Sean Malone and Sean Reinert (namely Gordian Knot and Aghora), Cynic remains a unique proclamation among progressive metal.

Although commonly associated with death metal, it sounds nothing like Morbid Angel or Cannibal Corpse. A comparison to Death would probably be closer to the mark, but even that is pretty dubious. The music of _Focus_ is fast and technical, intricately woven together, with complexity at times seeming like a jigsaw puzzle with no solution. The style is defined by an abundance of complex meters & polymeter, microtonality, interlacing non-synchronous parts between all instruments, textural arrangements, refined percussion that is equally understated and fierce, and ostinatos held by one instrument while others weave around it. There are various changes in tonal shades but they are extremely unpredictable and follow few traditional chord changes. The music sounds spontaneous and subtly energized, like the band is channeling it and recording the first take -- but with the complications in meter would make this impossible. There are some elements of world music, but they are very understated since they appear more in compositional concepts than actual exotic timbres in the songs.

Mid-ranged throat-gouging rasps are the dominant vocal feature, but there are also synth-processed vocals and female vocals which lend atmosphere at timely moments. The rasping vocals are not terribly harsh and I like them a lot -- instead of sounding intimidating and aggressive they sound like they are in the midst of some sort of transformation.

Lyrical concepts are far beyond traditional metal, tending to be spiritual and/or occult. From the opener, "Veil of Maya": "In Maya's grip illusion transforms verity, perceiving thus a delusive world of duality."

Best of all, Cynic's music has a sense of unusual beauty and intensity, not unlike the "Angelic Manifestation" painting which serves at the album cover art.

Gordian Knot and Aghora are strongly recommended for Cynic fans, and vice versa. Technical metal savants should devour this album.

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More Focus reviews
review by . January 03, 2013
posted in Music Matters
Please note that this review is for Roadrunner's reissue of "Focus," released in 2004.      I got Cynic's "Focus" back in January of 2007, and honestly, it felt like an awkward listen at first. It was awkward because it's not everyday that you hear a death metal album that had more laid back jazz fusion elements, clean singing, and electronic vocals. However, it was another one of those albums that I would grow to love within a year and soon would …
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Clayton Reeder ()
Ranked #32
Rogue capitalist in search of all that is interesting, weird, or beautiful.      Collected here are my hundreds of reviews from, covering mostly music that is offensive … more
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1993 album for U.S. progressive/death metal act.
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Label: Roadrunner Int'l
Artist: Cynic
Release Date: September 14, 1993

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