Our top ten Cynic songs list looks at the work of one of the great unsung progressive death metal bands who hail from Florida, the same city where a lot of the early crucial bands in the genre came from. They were first formed in 1987 and were active in the scene, being associates of Chuck Schuldiner of the genre’s main pioneers Death, with whom two of the band’s members played on their 1991 album Human. When they first started they were more of a straightforward death metal band but as their career progressed so did their musical ability and they eventually developed a very complex and prog rock-influenced take on the death metal sound.
Their 1993 debut album Focus is considered to be a very seminal album of progressive metal. Despite this, they split up a year after its release. After this, the members continued to be active in music, including when they played together in 2003 on the second album Emergent by progressive supergroup Gordian Knot, which featured among its ranks giants of the progressive rock genre such as Steve Hackett from Genesis and Bill Bruford who has played in Genesis, Yes and King Crimson.
Cynic reformed in 2006 and released their long-awaited second album Traced In Air in 2008. Since then they have continued to exist and released their third album Kindly Bent To Free Us in 2014. Their most recent album Ascension Codes was released in 2021. They have had several line-up changes since, with vocalist and founding member Paul Masvidal being the only core member.
Here is a list of their ten best songs.
# 10 – True Hallucination Speaks
Kicking off our Cynic songs list is the opening track of their third album Kindly Bent To Free Us released in 2014. With this track, the band is not playing death metal, with it being an almost pure progressive rock sound. This is known as being the final Cynic release to feature both bassist Sean Malone and drummer Sean Reinert who both passed away in 2020.
# 9 – Carbon-Based Anatomy
Up next is the title track of the band’s ep released in 2011. Like the other five tracks on the ep, this song is a previously recorded track that had not been released. This song in particular is a reworking of a song by Masvidal and Reinert’s other band Aeon Spoke. As they had let go two hired musicians that they had previously had, Masvidal recorded all of the guitar parts himself.
# 8 – Integral
This next track is taken from Cynic’s ep Re-traced released in 2010. Like three of the other tracks on the release, this track is a reworking of a song taken from their second album Traced In Air. The track that is a reworking of is the song “Integral Birth.” In 2021, this song was re-released as a tribute to Sean Malone, with the proceeds going to suicide prevention organizations, as he had taken his own life.
# 7 – Adam’s Murmur
Next is a track taken from the aforementioned second album released in 2008. This album was their comeback album released fifteen years after their debut. After splitting up in 1994, Masvidal stated that he wanted Cynic to make more new music after they completed their reunion tour. The album was well received and seen as an impressive comeback attempt.
# 6 – The Eagle Nature
Ending the first half of this list we have a song taken from their classic debut album Focus released in 1994. When this album was released it was truly something that had never been heard before in the Florida death metal scene that Cynic was a part of. Whereas most of the other prominent bands in the scene were primarily focused on sheer brutality, Cynic was combining the genre with other styles of music that they loved such as jazz. This was actually met with a somewhat negative reception with the genre’s fanbase which is part of what led to them splitting up.
# 5 – Box Up My Bones
Kicking off the second half of this list is another song from Carbon Based Reality. This song shows a more tender side to Cynic, as many have found the song relatable when they have suffered a loss. It is an emotional-sounding track that has particularly taken on a bigger significance since the deaths of Reinert and Malone.
# 4 – Evolutionary Sleeper
Next up is another track from Traced In Air. This is a very technically accomplished track that Reinert particularly shines on as a drummer. It is evident that in between their split and reformation that Cynic’s musical interests had naturally changed with age. They are not death metal here, and are fully immersed in their progressive side.
# 3 – Celestial Voyage
At number three is another track taken from Focus. The song lives up to its name by being very epic and the musicianship is on a truly greater level than many of the bands who would have been considered to be their peers at the time. If it has any resemblance to any other death metal band of the time, then that would be the genre’s creators Death, who Masvidal and Reinhart had both previously played in.
# 2 – Integral Birth
Here we have a song from the second record that has previously been mentioned on this list as it is the original composition of our number eight entry. This is a track that was very crucial in regaining interest in the band after their reformation due to its very complex and well-thought-out arrangements.
# 1- Veil of Maya
At the top of our Cynic songs list we have the opening track from the album Focus. As far as introductory tracks go, you don’t get much better than this. This song could be seen as their signature song, as it is regarded by many fans to be their best. Despite the somewhat hostile reception that the record received from death metal fans at the time, it has gone on regarded as a classic of the genre, having received many accolades from various publications in the years since its release. The album has been cited as a critical influence on many bands who are now prominent in the progressive metal genre.
Feature Photo: Shadowgate, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
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