Release Date: 11/11/11
Cynic’s most experimental release, the 2011 EP Carbon Based Anatomy, is a stunning synergy of Cynic’s many seemingly divergent musical interests.
If Cynic’s comeback full length album, 2008’s Traced in Air, wasn’t enough to convince you the band still had something worthy to say, then surely Carbon Based Anatomy will. In a surprising change of sound, Cynic release a powerful and highly emotive experimental EP; a release that is among Cynic’s finest work, as well as one of the more unique sounding releases in metal, period.
The EP starts out with the New Age-y, ambient “Amidst the Coals”, replete with guest female vocalist Amy Correia’s foreign-language and foreign-sounding clean vocals, whose voice appears on 3 tracks here, lending a hand of cohesion to the project. The album drifts dreamily into the second track “Carbon-Based Anatomy”, making effective use of dynamics by keeping the airy synths afloat atop the slowly fading in rhythm section. Yet another atypical aspect of this Cynic release, and indeed a first for them: Paul Masvidal’s voice un-effected. There’s no Vocoder to be found here. It fits well with its new musical backdrop though. He gives one of his most powerful vocal performances here, during what winds up being one of the band’s catchiest songs to date. The song only hints at their metal roots about four and a half minutes in to the track, and even then it’s really just the metal drum production that gives away these leanings. Shortly after the metallic guitars disappear you’d be forgiven thinking this is a jazz fusion band.
“Bija!” is the second of the three tracks where Correia’s vocals show up. The tablas and chanting make the track feel like some sort of spiritual and/or psychedelic exercise. Not to mention “bija” is the Sanskrit word for seed. It’s a glorious bridge to another of Cynic’s most catchy, if not the most catchy, tracks to date “Box Up My Bones”, which is also the loudest and most Traced in Air-esque track on here. The chorus is incredibly hook-laden. The bass lines during the chorus are excellent as well.
The band again effortlessly flows into the next track with another of their more recognizably Cynic-esque tracks “Elves Beam Out”. The band really has done an excellent job setting themselves apart from the rest of their scene, creating an identity that is uniquely their own.
Being ever mindful of the overall flow here, we descend back into the ambient and obscure with “Hieroglyph”, featuring a mightily esoteric spoken-word passage from Correia, before the song drifts away from our ears and consciousness.
Unfortunately, EP’s may not be discussed all too much in the world of music relative to singles and full-length albums, but this is a contender for one of the all-time best of its kind. It’s not that Cynic are unknown. In fact, Cynic’s 1993 debut Focus, was a massively influential release where two pretty well-known metal bands subsequently got their names from (Veil of Maya and Textures), but in a just and supremely tasteful world, this EP would leave the biggest mark on their legacy.
Highlights: “Carbon-Based Anatomy”, “Box Up My Bones”