Crappy video of Cynic playing "Nunc Fluens" --> "The Space For This"
@ House of Blues, West Hollywood, 1/17/10
God wants me to write this review. Two months after I promised Cynic frontman Paul Masvidal that I'd cover the L.A. date of the band's tour with Between the Buried and Me, Devin Townsend Project and Scale the Summit, I ran into this almost-as-belated review of the same show by my Metalsucks bro Anso DF. Then two weeks later, the first edition of Masvidal's new "Metta Mind Journal" column appeared on Metalsucks. Look, I'm four nights deep into Passover. I'm sensitive to plagues. So when God sends a hailstorm of Cynic references my way, it is my duty to read the hieroglyphics on the wall and "Let my review go," to paraphrase Moses.
Kenny G also wants me to write this review. The Prince of Pap was right in front of me in the ticket line on that rainy Sunday night in West Hollywood. "My 16-year-old loves all of these bands," quoth Mr. G, "but he could shred any of them into the ground." Uhuh. Of one thing I can be sure: whether you loathe or go into fantods over this tour's lineup, there wasn't a single member of any of the bands on the bill that didn't have total mastery over his instrument [much like Mr. G has total mastery over his hair (Seriously, it's like he's wearing extensions made of lasagna noodles)].
If my tone's irreverent, it's only because this show was laughably good. Especially the meat of the prog-metal sandwich, Devin Townsend Project and Cynic (the only two full sets I saw). I love all those Strapping Young Lad records because they've got so much personality. Now I love Devin Townsend because he isn't afraid to promulgate said personality, even if he comes off as the doofus that he most assuredly is. In between his god-heavy musical devastations, often in bewildering major keys, the bald-pated, suit-clad Devy announced such unironicisms as "Don't be afraid to be the nerd that you truly are!" and "I may look like a fool, but I'm a hippie at least!" The dude sings magnificently, cracks the sky with his guitar solos, and smiles the whole time -- this wasn't a band playing, it was a factory of light and love. Of the many strangenesses presented that evening, how a band this jubilant could be so gravitationally intense was one of the strangest (only Torche can touch them in that regard). New favorite live band.
Cynic offered complementary joys. I overheard an audience dude saying "I like their first album, but the new one is gay." I laughed at how inadvertently spot-on he was. Cynic's masterful last album Traced In Air felt free-flowing and contoured, compared to the jagged masculine thrust of most death metal. It's tantric sex to death metal's doggystyle. The live show was no different. Their energy was introspective instead of projective; Masvidal's guitar solos came as offerings, and Sean Reinert's drumming, refreshingly free of blastbeats, tapped into some internal continuum that flowed through the entire set, and probably beyond. This is the only live metal band that can play soundbytes from spiritualist Eckhart Tolle over the PA, then engage its audience in an impromptu yoga session, and leave an entire sold-out venue's worth of metalheads more endeared to them than before. No new material, not even "Wheels Within Wheels," which they "rolled out" elsewhere on this tour. But I have a feeling that Traced In Air will be remembered as their finest achievement, and I'm lucky enough to have seen them twice in support of the album. 'Twas remarkable how emotionally diffuse the two songs they played from Focus sounded in comparison.
Good as Between the Buried And Me are, and gawd can those boys play (and play, and play), their neverending series of riff forests and melodic clearings felt like several steps backward from the clarity and elegance of the last two bands. They've definitely improved as a live band over the years, but they've also learned to equate increased compacted songwriting with progress, and I've taken the opposite route. Could this be the true meaning of the title of their most recent album The Great Misdirect? Maybe. I left about three songs in to their set, and it felt like I could have been one song or ten songs in. In retrospect, I probably should have stayed in case Kenny G was a surprise guest on their encore. Damn my impatience!