Written By: Mandi Lauren Nowitz and Steve Saguta
When it comes to progressive/technical death metal and alternative rock, you could be hard-pressed to find a successful band that also happens to be openly gay. That is where Cynic comes in and is a huge game changer in the metal world, as the founders came out in 2014, nearly 21 years after their debut release, “Focus,” which helped to cement the band. Formed in the late eighties by Paul Masvidal and Sean Reinert, “Focus” took Cynic from demos to a real record and made them a cult favorite among progressive metal fans. Sadly, they disbanded a year later, only to reunite in 2006, with changing members frequently but it was Masvidal and Reinert that kept the insanely impeccable lyrics and musicality flowing.
Reinert and Masvidal spoke to the “Los Angeles Times” and had this to say about being gay, in a metal band and how their fans may perceive them: “I see all those old dudes out there just banging their heads to our records. And I have to think — ‘That stuff you’re banging your head to? That is some gay, gay metal, man.'” When Judas Priest’s Rob Halford came out in the late nineties, that somewhat helped de-stigmatize the notion that metal music and homosexuality could not mix. But the band recalls feeling hurt on tour, with subliminal gay messages in their shows and that made it even harder for them to come out, especially when they were not just some garage band, a lesson that they learned from Halford. “Focus” was re-released ten years prior Reinert and Masvidal coming out but it was already what inspired so many new metal acts of this generation and coming out, when they did, seemed to work for the founders: “There’s much more bandwidth now. Fans are so much more open and experimental.”
“Focus” is one of those albums that may be loud and there may be screaming but the instrumentals are so beautifully pieced together, much like Metallica or the music of Avenged Sevenfold. Definitely, if you appreciate AS, you will love Cynic and if you are a music lover in general, you will appreciate how they mix genres in a way that is almost indescribable. Here are the top three songs of off “Focus” that you need to hear now:
1) Veil of Maya: this song opens the eight track album and for good reason. “Illusion works impenetrable. Weaving webs innumerable. Her gay pictures never fail. Crowd each other veil on veil.” These are not your basic lyrics but so deep and overpowering; kudos to Masvidal.
2) Sentiment: much softer but the mood is still set for something amazing, especially lyrically. “Cosmic mother awaken us in thine impartial love for all. Bless us that we be free from the sway of greed and delusion. Inspire us to build a new world.”
3) How Could I: perfect ending track but after the road that we have just been down, we kind of do not want the musical story-telling to end. “How could I forget such a revelation? To love without fear and learn without question. How could I regret the meant occasions? I must begin this day again.” If only they could have heeded their own advice in 1993 as opposed to waiting until 2014 to come to terms with who they really were but better late than never.
“Focus” has a whole new meaning when you hear the back stories of Sean Reinert and Paul Masvidal. In the lyrics, you can feel the pain and suffering that must have been taunting them as they were trying to pursue what they loved. But, as you can clearly see, nothing could stop them! Definitely add this to your list of must-buy albums, even if it is not your typical style because it opens so many musical doors and it is definitely appreciated.