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Okay, let's clarify one vital point from the off. This is a review of Cynic from the UK who have no affiliation whatsoever with Paul Masvidal and co. Far from it in fact, this is an old-fashioned slab of unashamedly retro-NWOBHM and certainly not the metal/jazz/death fusion output of their American counterparts. Counterparts, that is, by moniker alone, although I wouldn't be the first to confuse the two. How about the organisers of the world's largest metal festival, Wacken? Oh yes, they mistook Cynic for the resurrected Masvidal/Reinert outfit and proceeded to erroneously book the British band to perform on the main stage. Their mistake was, of course, soon realised, and rectified, which was undoubtedly disappointing for the UK rockers but a relief for Cynic stateside. In fact, it is inadvertently through the latter story that 'Suburban Crisis' found its way to Metal Discovery HQ as the band's drummer, Tim Batkin, contacted me after reading my 2008 interview with Paul Masvidal, and offered up his band's latest CD for review. What struck me initially was an image of the Union Jack left-centre on the album cover - axiomatically a statement of both differentiation and their NWOBHM roots. And what incredibly good artwork adorns the front, although one would expect no less from Hugh Syme whose credits include Rush, Megadeth, Dream Theater and Nevermore. The whole package, in digipak format, is actually very attractive indeed, including a vinyl print on the CD itself which further emphasises Cynic's retro essence. Okay, so what of the music? Well, providing you approach this with no expectations beyond what it's intended to be - ie. NWOBHM, nothing more, nothing less - then there is much here to enjoy. Dare I say the album gets off to a slightly shaky start though with opener 'Suicide' and its initial guitar riff which sounds clumsily performed, and frontman Shaun Grant's vocals are a little too 'throaty', almost like he needs to have a good cough and clear his passages. However, the song is saved by some mightily fine lead work from Grant himself and nifty drum fills from Batkin. From then on, matters pick up, a lot, and the album becomes a much more fluid, enjoyable listen from the second track onwards. Grant's vocal style starts to grow on me and even has moments of cleaner delivery such as on the verses to 'Dark December' and 'Rebel Eye'. Paul DiAnno crossed with Venom's Cronos is probably the nearest comparison I can make. I can't put my finger on what I dislike about 'Suicide', but the songwrting seems to take a major leap forward from 'Ten Years From Now' and throughout the rest of the album's playing time. Probably just a matter of personal taste, I guess. With the current resurgence and popularity of old NWOBHM acts, and NWOBHM-style bands, there's certainly a market for this kind of thing and, who knows, perhaps they'll one day get the chance to perform at Wacken. The organisers surely owe them at least that for their former blunder. Wacken aside, based on the strength of 'Suburban Crisis' alone, this talented quartet certainly deserve to find their way onto other summer festival bills (and then the confusion can start afresh!). In short, if you're a fan of NWOBHM, then Cynic are most definitely worthy of your attention. Go check 'em out.
Review by Mark Holmes
30th June 2008
1) Suicide
2) Ten Years From Now
3) Dark December
4) Suburban Crisis
5) Faithless One
6) Rebel Eye
7) Do Or Die
8) Eight Below
"...providing you approach this with no expectations beyond what it's intended to be - ie. NWOBHM, nothing more, nothing less - then there is much here to enjoy."