Cynic - Re-Traced
Season Of Mist
5 songs (23:08)
Release year: 2010
Cynic, Season Of Mist
Reviewed by Charles
Something like this must have always been on the cards for Cynic. Traced In Air was a metal album, but metal reconstructed from the ground upwards. If, say, Nachtmystium (who also return this month after releasing 2008’s second best album) took a piece of black metal architecture and added a progressive rock front door, Traced… razed their progressive death edifice to the ground and rebuilt it entirely using materials from jazz and electronica- not as decoration but as a perfectly interlocking element of the foundations.

Re-Traced, then, repeats the same process; taking four tunes from that record and completely recreating them using a range of resources that are even more diffuse. Metal barely features for long stretches, and for much of the time this has more in common with projects like present-day Ulver or kkoagulaa than anything from the band’s roots. But that said, those familiar with the source material will often feel the metallic spirit of those riffs haunting the rich and unexpected textural constructions which the band use to re-model familiar shapes. I usually hate track-by-track reviews, but given that there are only five songs here, and each attempts something very different, I can make an exception.

Space is a striking opener. Intensely familiar vocal lines (stripped of their robotic character) and guitar parts take shape over a curious, buzzing electronic pulsation. It gives this most exquisite of metal tunes a weirdly oppressive computerised feel, like the darkest, most sophisticated industrial tune you will ever hear, or maybe a funeral lament for HAL 9000.

Evolutionary again utilises some of the subtler, but instantly recognisable elements from its source (those high-pitched, trembling lead guitar lines) and surrounds them with a floating, gentle environment of ambient haze and acoustic guitar colouring. Then out of nowhere comes a crunching indie rock undercurrent, bubbling up from underneath and submerging everything else before rapidly draining away back into nothingness. King actually takes a very similar approach initially, but it goes on to veer aggressively through different moods and intensities- at times crackling like one of Radiohead’s more aggressive moments from The Bends.

And this brings us to Integral- maybe the real heart of this EP, and perhaps the one tune here that really seems to reveal the core of its original most profoundly. The gorgeous melodies of Integral Birth are stripped down to what feels like essentially an acoustic folk song, with Masvidal in the singer-songwriter role. Sustained keyboards (a mellotron?) and female harmonies are allowed in but strictly only as colouring. Beautiful.

Which really leaves the one new track here- closer Wheels within Wheels with an act to follow. This is Cynic firmly back in Traced in Air mode, resurrecting those flashy, unpredictable electric guitar riffs and flashy fretless bass twanging, and really feeling like it deserves to be sitting alongside King of Those Who Know and Nunc Stans, adding a much-needed extra five minutes to that album. In fact, Reinert’s double-kick drumming at the tune’s climax here seems to be an attempt to cram an apology to Cynic’s more metallically purist listeners into a few seconds of real heaviness.

Cynic’s last album was the best metal record of the last ten years, better than Focus, and probably one of the best metal albums, full stop. Re-Traced would be essential for the sole reason that it’s Traced in Air’s little brother. But as it is, these songs which had so much depth anyway, have been revitalised transformed, and this is testament to Cynic’s singular creativity and ability. In other words, for anyone interested in progressive music- not just progressive metal- this is basically compulsory.

Killing Songs :
Charles quoted no quote
Other albums by Cynic that we have reviewed:
Cynic - Kindly Bent To Free Us reviewed by Neill and quoted 80 / 100
Cynic - The Portal Tapes reviewed by Charles and quoted no quote
Cynic - Carbon-Based Anatomy reviewed by Alex and quoted 80 / 100
Cynic - Traced In Air reviewed by Goat and quoted 89 / 100
Cynic - Focus (Re-Issue) reviewed by Ken and quoted CLASSIC
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