Ascension Codes sees Cynic bringing their sound to what most long-time listeners would call a logical conclusion, leaving most of their metal roots behind and fully embracing their progressive rock inclinations. Born from tragedy, it is perhaps their most expansive and beautiful work yet.
When Cynic released their debut album Focus in 1993 it was groundbreaking. Coming out of the Florida death metal scene with a sound that mixed thrash and death metal, their demos helped build a lot of buzz in the underground. Their prowess as musicians was also well known, members of the band famously being recruited to play with other death metal luminaries such as Monstrosity, Pestilence, and most famously, Death. Based on all this, Focus shattered whatever preconceived notions people may have had by incorporating elements of progressive rock and jazz into their aggressive sound. The band made no secret that they were fans of these genres, but the fact that they transformed their sound in such a profound way still came as a surprise to most. The album was ahead of its time in many respects. After a hiatus, Traced in Air would follow in 2008, another excellent distillation of Cynic’s influences with frontman Paul Masvidal‘s clean vocals coming into greater prominence. Kindly Bent to Free Us came next in 2014 and saw them moving further away from their metal past.
Fast forward to 2020, drummer Sean Reinert and bassist Sean Malone would tragically pass away, leaving Masvidal to carry on and channel his grief into this new Cynic album. Made up of nine main tracks combined with nine other pieces of music that act as segues to tie it all together, it’s more expansive, and the emphasis is on creating an atmosphere. Thankfully, there is also a renewed sense of power and bombast in the compositions to add balance missing from the last album. Its return is most welcome. New drummer Matt Lynch does an admirable job of filling Reinert’s position with musical drumming that plays off Masvidal’s immediately recognizable riffing in much the same way as his predecessor. The faint growl in the intro of the song Mythical Serpents nods to the past, though Masvidal chooses to focus on his melodic voice. It has quite a unique sound as he employs effects that add an otherworldly vibe. Stand-outs on the album include the aforementioned Mythical Serpents and the beautiful Aurora, which drips with melancholy. With the overall sequence of the album, Ascension Codes is ultimately best experienced as a whole.
Ascension Codes is Cynic’s best work since Traced in Air. While it will appeal to progressive rock fans, I believe the metal audience will find plenty to enjoy here as well.
Pre-order Ascension Codes by Cynic HERE
Looking for something new to listen to?
Sign up to our all-new newsletter for top-notch reviews, news, videos and playlists.