Cynic - The Portal Tapes,
Although this may appear to be a ‘new’ album from Cynic, it is in reality an album that is now more than 15 years old. Back in 1993 the band released the wonderful ‘Focus’ where they mixed together metal, jazz and prog in a way that some people fully understood while others didn’t, and it has to be said that their record label probably fell into the latter camp and didn’t promote it as they should have done. Now, if you are only aware of the recorded history of the band you probably think that following the debut they didn’t do anything until the widely-acclaimed sophomore ‘Traced In Air’ which came out in 2008 following their reformation, but you would be wrong. Following a lot of touring to promote ‘Focus’ the band split up, only for Paul Masvidal, Sean Reinert and Jason Gobel to get back together for a new project called Portal. To complete the line-up they brought in Chris Kringel and Aruna Abrams, the latter to provide a female lead/harmony vocal as they went for a different musical and vocal approach. They recorded a demo album, but nothing ever came of it until now – strangely there is no mention of the album or the project on the band’s website, but at long last we have the opportunity to hear it.
What is really interesting about this album is that while it would have surprised a lot of Cynic fans if it had been released at the time, it now sounds incredibly relevant to both what Cynic are doing and also to the music scene in general. The twin vocals work extremely well, while of course the intricate musicianship is just what one expects from these guys. The addition of Chris Kringle has made quite a difference to their overall sound as he plays fretless instead of fretted bass, and that adds a very different warmth and feel to the sound. The way he bends notes and gently moves around the music provides extra dynamics and lots more depth. Some of the songs are almost radio friendly with Aruna’s vocals being quite similar to Tracy Hitchings, relaxed but with clarity and range.
I still find it hard to think that this album was recorded as a demo in the Nineties, and that it has taken until now for it to be released. It is not nearly as heavy as Cynic could be back in the day, with far more atmosphere and light within the shade, and is something that progheads need to search out much more than metalheads with prog and jazz elements often taking centre stage.http://www.season-of-mist.com/