With French metallers Hypno5e pulling out of the tour at the eleventh hour, proceedings get off to a later than anticipated start and Chimp Spanner provide a packed Garage with their first action of the night. The brainchild of Essex based musician Paul Oritz, Chimp Spanner was originally conceived as an instrumental prog-metal solo project but, assembling a lineup of skilled players, he took it out of the studio earlier this year to tour with Aliases in April, TesseracT in September and now Cynic in December. Appearing on a heavily backlit stage, one could be forgiven for thinking that Paul Masvidal has walked out prematurely as Oritz, in silhouette, bears more than a passing resemblance to the Cynic frontman with similar hair and stubble. Demonstrating impressive virtuosic command of his seven and eight string Ibanez guitars, along with his fellow musicians, Oritz treats the audience to a sonic barrage of down-tuned tech-metal mastery with occasional ambient interludes. With the low tones of some Meshuggah style polyrhythms, tunes suffer slightly from a lack of variance on occasion although punctuated with widdly lead flourishes helps colour their musical canvas. Ultimately, Chimp Spanner are thoroughly engaging when at their most riveting but I find myself a little distanced from the music at times, merely admiring the musicians' high skill level and technical prowess rather than encompassed by it. It's still a mightily impressive set though.
Monday 5th December 2011
The Garage in London, UK
Reviews & Photography by Mark Holmes
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With tonight's show shifted to The Garage from the smaller confines of Camden's Underworld, the signs are evidently promising for healthy pre-sales and a sizeable turn out of Cynic fans. And by the time Paul Masvidal and co. take to the stage, the venue is packed, verging on sold out. The first thing to strike me is the neat stage layout with Masvidal and longtime musical comrade Sean Reinert positioned at extremities with newcomer Brandon Giffin on bass playing adjacent to the drums, forming a rhythm section nucleus, and the other recent recruit, guitarist/growler, Max Phelps, centre stage in front of a projected, atmospheric three-panel backdrop. It's a well thought out formation and provides a visually captivating spectacle to accompany and enhance the sonically absorbing nature of Cynic's songs. They commence with 'Amidst the Coals' and the title track from new EP 'Carbon-Based Anatomy' before drawing from comeback album 'Traced in Air' for 'Evolutionary Sleeper', for which the opening guitar chords are greeted with huge cheers, and then 'Focus' number 'How Could I'. With tracks from the new release and 'Traced in Air' filling the majority of the set ('Box Up My Bones' and 'Elves Beam Out' also from the former; 'Adam's Murmur', 'Integral Birth', 'King of Those Who Know' and 'The Space for This' from the latter), only a couple more 'Focus' tracks are aired - 'Celestial Voyage' and 'Veil of Maya'. However, judging by the mixed-age audience, fans both old and new are present and each track played is as warmly received as the last, so the comparative lack of vintage Cynic material matters not. And there's a nice twist to 'Integral Birth' too - alluding to its 'Re-Traced' mellower re-imagining, it opens with a few bars of clean guitar/vocals before the band let rip into full-on heaviness; an effective juxtaposition that works a treat on the live stage.
In sharp contrast to the freezing temperatures outside the venue, the rather hot interior is referenced by Masvidal mid-set as he says, "I hope you're all sweating like pigs as much as we are" and, later on, he thanks people for coming as he addresses the band's audience as "curious humans". However, judging by crowd reactions, it's beyond mere curiosity that's attracted everyone to the Garage this evening as all present shows their adoration for this most unique of bands with enthusiastic applause between songs and mass movement during the more up-tempo passages. Performance-wise, the band convey their usual laidback vibe on stage with minimal movements, albeit so apt for the nature of their music as songs weave a seamless blend of tech-metal, prog-rock and jazz fusion with fully engrossing results. That is to say, music this absorbing almost demands a laidback stage presence. Masvidal and Reinert demonstrate their virtuosic abilities on fretboard and skins with the former also in fine voice. Of the new live session players, Giffin is not as animated as Robin Zielhorst once was, although he looks perfectly comfortable and plays the bass parts with accomplished precision. Likewise, Phelps lacks any kind of dynamic stage presence but compensates with a flawless performance. In fact, as a unit, the band are collectively flawless and impressively tight considering their current live incarnation is a relatively new one. As matters reach a climax with an encore of 'The Space for This', it feels like Cynic's set has been rather short but perhaps it's just felt that way due to the music's captivating qualities. And leaving an audience wanting more is certainly no bad thing. All in all, an incredible performance from one of the most talented and musically unique bands on the planet.
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