Since the last Cynic album, both Sean Reinhart and Sean Malone passed away suddenly. Reinhart was 48 and Malone was 50. They died 11 months apart. This leaves Paul Masvidal and one could argue that the new album “Ascension Codes” is more of a solo album in that regard. But overall it sounds like Cynic or at least how the band have been sounding over their last few albums.
This is only the band’s 4th full length album and that is amazing since they seem like they should have a lot more. Granted they vanished for 22 years. For me, each of their albums has been good…but there’s always been something missing that would have made them great. That tends to be the mix or production. “Focus” might be a classic but it sounded very dated and the remixes of 4 tracks on the re-issue pointed that out. Then you have the muddy production of their last album “Kindly Bent to Free Us.” The songs were so damn good and the production was hideous.
“Traced in Air” was a solid album but when it was remixed in 2019, it sounded a LOT better in my opinion. The original mix sounded like a band trying to sound like Cynic versus just BEING Cynic. The EP “Carbon Based Anatomy” was probably my favorite but it’s an EP. After the solid stand alone single “Humanoid” from 2018 (the first release with Matt Lynch on drums instead of Reinhart), I thought the band would finally release a perfect album. They had to get it right!
Then both Seans passed away. Did it even make sense for Cynic to exist? “Ascension Codes” is the answer. But a really confusing answer. There are 18 tracks. 9 of those add up to a total of 5 minutes. That means 30 second new age interludes between just about every real song. FUCK! I hate filler and yes this is the definition of filler. The one spot on the album that there isn’t 30 new age dreck separating the songs, we get a song with 4 minutes of it! WHAT THE FUCK! “DNA Activation Template” is a snoozefest til 4 minutes in and then the song starts. And it’s done at 5:25.
The rest of the songs SOUND good so the mix and production are probably the best that Cynic has ever had. But overall, there’s just nothing too compelling. Masvidal is back leaning on the vocoder for his vocals which is disappointing. There’s a death growl at one point which was odd since it didn’t get followed up on. Weird. My favorite track is the instrumental “The Winged Ones.” The band have a lot of energy which makes for a nice change.
I really hoped “Ascension Codes” would be the definitive Cynic album but it’s a disjointed effort that adds to the strange career of this tremendously talented if not cursed band. That said, I am sure this album will tick enough boxes for most fans. Unfortunately, I am not one of them.
Label: Season of Mist
Release Date: 26 November 2021