Posted on November 27, 2009 -
REVIEW OF REMASTER: …now it actually sounds GOOD! For an album that had SO much going on, it really sucked to have such a compressed sound with the instruments, vocals, and drums all meshed together. Now you can hear everything. Guitars are seperated left and right nicely. The vocals are front and center and the drums and bass are nice and tight behind everything. The keyboards are everywhere they need to be. Enveloping at times. It gives the album a 3D quality to it. This is the kind of album that deserves to be listened to in a big movie theater on an amazing cd player (maybe a $20,000 Linn Sondek CD12 Anyone?) and amazing speakers with HUGE 5.1 surround sound. But since you can’t do that, a nice home setup still makes it sound infinitely better than the original. If there was ever any doubt in my mind what the best metal (not just death metal anymore) album of the 90’s was, this remaster just cleared that doubt up.
As for the bonus tracks, i disagree with the first reviewer that said the remixes barely sound different. Maybe my ears are trained to hear differences in sound and tone better (from playing guitar all these years), but i can definitely hear a differece. The remixes have a MUCH more “in your face” quality to them. As a result, alot of the ethereal beauty is taken away. Guitarists, drummers, and the people who like the more headbanging /Vetal moments on the album will probably like these remixes better than the originals. It’s too bad they didn’t do Uroboric Forms in this manner, as i’ve always considered it the most metal song on the album.
The three new tracks, as the first reviewer mentioned, are not Cynic, and not metal at all. They’re still really cool and if you ever thought Cynic’s softer, jazzier, moodier moments would make really good songs on their own, you’ll no doubt like these tracks.
Anyway, this remaster is DEFINITELY worth picking up for fans of the album, even if you already own the original. The improvement in sound quality is IMMENSE and the extra tracks are just icing on the already perfect cake.
REVIEW OF ALBUM: The 90’s were certainly the apex for death metal. Between the years of 1990 and 1999 death metal evolved from an un-melodic, testosterone fueled, raw form of metal to a genre that matured and began incorporating prog rock, jazz, electronica, and even classical into the music.
Death kicked the door down with the release of “Human” in `91. At the time it was easily the most ambitious death metal album ever and helped pave the way for a new breed of death metal bands that were actually intelligent as well as incredibly brutal. `93 saw the release of Sepultura’s masterpiece, “Chaos A.D.” and Death’s brilliant follow up to “Human”, called “Individual Thought Patterns”. In `94 Tiamat’s “Wildhoney” broke new grounds in death metal by experimenting with psychedelic, ethereal, and even beautiful Pink Floyd-esque soundscapes and melodies that showed death metal didn’t have to be ALL about pure aggression.
`95 was unquestionably the biggest year death metal had ever seen. Meshuggah’s “Destroy Erase Improve” literally shattered the concept of what “progressive death metal” could be with its mathematical riffs, bass, drums and vocals. At The Gates “Slaughter of the Soul”, Dark Tranquility’s “The Gallery” and In Flames’ “The Jester’s Race” all broke new melodic ground, with each featuring a unique take on the genre and all being undisputed masterpieces.
But despite all of that, perhaps the pinnacle of the decade was Cynic’s 1993 stunning tour de force “Focus”. “Focus” was unlike anything that had come before or after it. With one album, Cynic created a sound and music that was so original and so staggeringly amazing that no death metal band has equaled it since.
“That’s a pretty big claim” you say… well, yes it is, but it’s all very true. Cynic threw in everything but the kitchen sink on “Focus”, seamlessly melding progressive death metal, distorted jazz riffs, solos, and often drumming. Then came the biggest innovation: the interplay between the computerized voice that “sings” half the lyrics and the more traditional death metal growls.
But all of that wouldn’t matter if the songs themselves weren’t good. And the songs on “Focus” AREN’T good, they’re amazing! It just takes one listen to “Veil of Maya” before you realize how truly talented & original these guys are. Through the entire album, there are NO weak spots whatsoever.
That being said, picking a favorite song or moment is almost an exercise in futility. “Veil of Maya” is perhaps the catchiest song on the album. “Celestial Voyage” is beautiful, heavy, and complex. “I’m But a Wave Too…” is perhaps MY personal favorite. It builds on ethereal, jazzy guitars (one clean, one distorted, and one using feedback like sounds to create texture) before exploding into a series of mind-blowing riffs. “Textures” is a great instrumental that never loses `focus’ (hehe) and will keep your attention throughout. The closer, “How Could I”, is perhaps the most varied song on the album, shifting effortlessly between styles to create a perfect portrait of the entire album.
It’s such a shame this was the band’s only album. I can only imagine where they could’ve taken this fascinating sound with future releases. I seriously can’t recommend this album to metal fans enough. Also, if you’re a fan of “Focus”, check out all the other albums I’ve listed in the review, along with Opeth’s entire catalog (they happen to be my favorite band of all time). A good start would be “My Arms, Your Hearse” or “Still Life”. And I can’t forget to mention Death’s “The Sound of Perseverance”.
May metal be as spectacular in the 21st century as it was in the last decade of the 20th.