Cynthesis formed as the reunion of three founding members of progressive metal band Zero Hour: the twin brother guitar/bass pairing Jasun and Troy Tipton and vocalist Erik Rosvold. Zero Hour is another of those well-known, highly-regarded bands I never really got into or clicked with, but I was curious to check out their new work if for no other reason than liking many of their label mates on Sensory. And while DeEvolution has its moments, it ultimately doesn't click with me any more than Zero Hour did.
DeEvolution is a concept album telling the story of leaders of an industrial civilization that brainwash and exploit an indigenous tribe's shaman. At times it reminds me of Queensrÿche
's Operation: Mindcrime, but I think only in that the delivery and presentation evoke that grand rock opera style. There's something unsettling about a lot of the music and vocal delivery -- an odd atmosphere -- that ultimately plays into the concept. That atmosphere is a big part of the CD, in fact, and interestingly is arguably a bigger part of this progressive metal album than anything more directly "metal." A perfect example is the ambient, atmospheric five minutes of "Shallow World." Throughout the album, though, Rosvold carves an identity all his own without easy comparison to any other prog bands in this vein.
The most straightforward of the metal comes on "The Edifice Grin," which opens with a heavy riff section before somewhat abruptly transitioning back to a slower, softer section. Most of the metal influences come in the various instrumental passages. "Divided Day" opens with a minute of shredding guitar (and bass, but more on that in a minute), and "Incision" has a jagged guitar riff opening and a slow headbang-inducing passage in the middle. But both of these also include long ambient or mellow passages, and both in weird places compositionally: particularly on "Divided Day," the guitars seem to be setting a breakneck pace, and then drop the listener off a cliff to the ambiance. It is perhaps this that turns me off the most about some of the songs; progressive music should challenge the listener and expectations of song structure, but it should not pull the rug out from under the listener so dramatically, so frequently, and with so little apparent reason.
And now, yes
, the bass. In addition to the unique vocalization, Troy Tipton's bass is one of the most unique and noticeable things about these songs. The bass is ever present, frequently as a melody instrument on its own, and is very high in the mix, rather than being locked in the lower frequencies holding the rhythm section together. It's a nice touch, actually, and adds a lot of interest to the music.
Ultimately, this is another album where I can appreciate what the band is trying to do, but I think it's a misstep. There are lots of great technical fireworks and a few great riffs, but some infuriating compositional choices can make it a difficult and unsatisfying listen.