Cynic - Ascension Codes Music Album Reviews

Cynic - Ascension Codes Music Album Reviews
Following the deaths of two core members, the pioneering Florida metal band searches for celestial answers to earthly woes. Dense and visceral, it’s as close to a return-to-form as they’ve ever made.

Cynic’s music has often been eclipsed by the band’s mythology. Half its members were also part of the Florida death metal legends Death, appearing on 1991’s classic Human just after finishing high school. While touring Europe with Death, authorities impounded their gear, and upon their return home, Hurricane Andrew razed their rehearsal space, further delaying Cynic’s debut album, 1993’s Focus: a perfect, iconoclastic slab of robotic-voiced jazzy death metal. They broke up almost immediately after its release, and when they returned with 2008’s follow-up Traced in Air, their softer, proggier sound alienated some fans. In the 2010s, Cynic have been an ongoing question mark: Virtuosic bassist Sean Malone cycled in and out of the band, while drummer Sean Reinert departed in 2015, at which point he and singer-guitarist Paul Masvidal were in public disagreement over the group’s very existence.

In 2020, the tale turned tragic for the Miami metal band: Reinert died suddenly in January and Malone died by suicide in December. With two-thirds of the core group gone, a comeback album seemed unfathomable. But Masvidal’s mystical worldview led him to embark on a final trek to find closure. He reaches into the past to channel and honor his fallen co-creators with Ascension Codes, as close to a return-to-form as we’re going to get from Cynic.

It’s a big gamble after Cynic’s 2014’s album Kindly Bent to Free Us, a misstep in extricating the band’s remaining traces of death metal. That album was so listless—even with contributions from Reinert and Malone—that their once singular sound now felt more suited for a local Guitar Center. But on Ascension Codes, Masvidal makes a few mathematical re-calculations: It’s a respectable—if flawed and often inscrutable—entry in a catalog that was seemingly defunct.

Most prominently, Masvidal re-inserts the metal back into Cynic: double-bass-drum attacks, chuggy riffs, and growled background vocals fuse once more with the jazz-prog that began to stand alone on recent recordings. “Mythical Serpents” opens with a furious riff and an extended guttural scream, while the furious blast-beats that close “Elements and Their Inhabitants” feel, briefly, like a new dawn for Cynic. These vintage moments, however, are in short order, and they are often overshadowed by Masvidal’s reliance on metaphysical whimsy.

Masvidal uses discretion in filling out the remainder of the band. He doesn’t attempt to find a replacement for Malone, whose labyrinthine runs on the bass guitar and Chapman Stick chiefly characterized Cynic’s complex sound. Keyboardist Dave Mackay’s bass synth is a sufficient simulacrum on most songs, but on tracks like “The Winged Ones,” the absence of Malone’s low-end aches like a phantom limb. Reinert is also irreplaceable. Instead of doing Focus cosplay, Matt Lynch’s peculiar jazz-metal playing (listed as “drumscapes,” in the liner notes, naturally) is paramount here. His cymbal work is exceptional, evoking splashy waves on “Mythical Serpents” and blasting off quick drum-and-bass interludes on “Aurora” and “Diamond Light Body.” Elsewhere, Masvidal leans on collaborators with contributions like “holographic-reptilian-voices” and “crystal bowl attunements,” particularly on the numerous ambient interludes (referred to as “codes) throughout.

As a singer, Masvidal splits the difference between the robotic sound of Focus and the clean vocals of Kindly Bent to Free Us. On Ascension Codes, he sings as if he’s half-human and half-machine, a synthesis in keeping with the lyrical themes. “I am the veins of a human hand,” Masvidal declares on “Mythical Serpents” after painting a picture of a fractalized star birth, “pregnant by an Annunaki in a holographic field.” It’s not exactly new territory, but contextualized within the deaths of Reinert and Malone, his pain transforms from heady to visceral as he searches for a celestial answer to his earthly woes.

His quest comes to a head in the penultimate track, “Diamond Light Body.” The song showcases Cynic’s astonishing fluidity: There’s a proggy intro, multiple synth interludes that evoke the arcade classic Out Run, a guitar solo that almost careens off the road, a breakbeat section, and a thunderous doom metal finish. It’s enough to induce whiplash, and that’s before considering some of Masvidal’s lyrical acrobatics. For a band that has shrouded itself beneath an impenetrable cloak, however, what appears to be Masvidal’s final astral projection as Cynic has never felt more welcoming and human.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Cynic - Ascension Codes Music Album Reviews Cynic - Ascension Codes Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on December 10, 2021 Rating: 5


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