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cassette craze chronicles XII (feat. ASSUMPTION, CYNIC and QRIXKUOR)


I am not the rabbit in the headlights. But I am the little kid staring into the light of the spacecraft's tractor beam. And with this I'm already amidst the review of the first tape of this new bunch...

CYNIC - Ascension Codes (2021)

Being a Cynic fan has never been easy for long. After their immortal debut "Focus" in 1993 the group disbanded and the impact of their legacy only grew and grew, until they finally reunited and graced us with the new masterpiece "Traced In Air" in 2008. Which was also the year when I finally had the chance to see them live for the first time.
The following years saw tours, the release of several EPs and also the reissue of their abandoned  post-"Focus" project Portal under the Cynic brand. But after their third complete studio album "Kindly Bent To Free Us" also followed a new, and this time painfully nasty break-up. The biggest gut punch however followed in 2020, when with both former drummer Sean Reinert and bassist Sean Malone two exceptional talents (and half of the "Focus" line-up") were taken from us.

Noone would have dared to demand a new Cynic album from Paul Masvidal at this point, but despite the pressure which lies on a work under such circumstances, he finished "Ascension Codes" in his friends' memory. And what he has created here is not only honouring the band's name by being unique and forward-thinking as ever, taking the Cynic sound into a new era, but it also masters the split between completely overwhelming the listener with its sheer mass of musical ideas and still providing a beautiful place of solace for our grief.
His main collaborators are drummer Matt Lynch, whose performance is absolutely mind-blowing and definitely soaked with Reinert's influence. Malone's parts however haven't been given to a new bass player at all, but are performed by keyboardist Dave Mackay - and it works better than you could have ever imagined.
There are several more guests, which I cannot all ascribe to their instrument, because the credits are a little bit encoded, but standig out as familiar names are "light language teacher" Amy Correia, who we know from the "Carbon-Based Anatomy" EP and "reptilian colective" Max Phelps, who toured with the band in 2011.

The overall sound of Cynic ten years later is much more synth-centric and also features more prog rock elements, especially in the sense that there are longer instrumental passages and tracks than on previous releases. With interludes between all "real" songs and even the almost audio drama-like ambient sequence in "DNA Activation Template", this album is a full version of what "Carbon-Based Anatomy" hinted at: a story-telling concept album which weaves Erich von Däniken alien Jesus lore with Indian philosophy, ascension and rebirth myths. It's pretty abstract and out there, but it also feels very sincere and takes you on a coherent journey from the seeds of humanity to overcoming mourning and reaching our own final "Diamond Light Body".

"Ascenion Codes" is as technically ambitious as progressive music can possibly be and almost overloaded with sounds, but the album always gives you the chance to just float in its stream of transcendent, consouling energy.
I cannot imagine how Paul Masvidal could have made this any more perfect than it is. Even the cover artwork by Martina Hoffmann is a tribute to her departed partner Robert Venosa, whose works graced all Cynic releases since "Focus". What a tribute to the two Seans - and what an unbelievavle, unexpected gift to all of us.

Seasons Of Mist has made sure to present it beautifully in all formats, including the tape (which is sometimes a little bit... overlooked). Nonetheless this is very likely to be an album, which I'll also get in at least one other version.

QRIXKUOR - Poison Palinopsia (2021)

The scope of the wayfare onto which the British trio Qrixkuor drags us isn't far from Cynic's "Ascension Codes", the destiny and means of transportation however are completely different. When you read the band's name and see that "Poison Palinopsia" only consists of two tracks of over twenty-four minutes length each, you could probably assume some kind of creeping doom, but no, both "Serpentine Susurrus - Mother's Abomination" and "Recrudescent Malevolence - Mother's Illumination" are predominately made of fast and brutal blackened death metal.
Based on the classic sound of Morbid Angel, Dismember and contemporaries, but drenched in modern disharmonica of the Ulcerate and Portal (no, not the Cynic-Portal!) kind, Qrixkuor's sound at first doesn't seem too suitable for this gigantism, yet somehow both tracks don't come across as randomly stitched patchwork, but like two seriously cohesive, logically flowing songs. It certainly isn't the unintelligible sewer echo growling which helps to order the chaos. But especially the lead guitar themes and sounds tie this hellish maelstrom of insanity together.
Add some piano and string passages, which breathe the spirit of Morbid Angel's dungeon synth interludes at just the right places and you have one of the most daring and thumping extreme metal albums of the year.

ASSUMPTION - Absconditus (2018)

And now to something a little bit older:
There's not much for me to write about the second album from the Italians Assumption, which I haven't already said in my short review of its predecessor "The Three Appearances" before. Other than that the band's sound is even more refined here.
It's still an amazing take on the funeral doom subgenre, which pairs the influence of doom death classics like Winter, Celtic Frost or Asphyx - including the prominent gutteral vocals - with Morbid Angel lead guitars and various psychedelic, classical and other elements, which can be surprising, but never feel out of place. Especially remarkable is the haunting flute, which carries a third of the six minutes of "Resurgence", the short song in the middle between two fifteen minute epics.
"Beholder of the Asteroid Oceans" then reflects all sorrow beyond the stars in cosmic grandeur. So I'm ending this cassette craze chronicle just how it began: with an ascension.

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