Friday, March 7, 2014

Cyrax - Reflections (2013)

Listening to any number of bands, you can usually pick out one or ten of the influences that brought them to this point in their career. Whether it be bands who gave them ideas, or entire genres that made them fine tune their sound, everyone has the laundry list of those who came before that they tip their hats to. The greatest success, though, is being able to take those influences, and turn them into something wholly unique, something you can call your own. Otherwise you become a glorified cover band. Cyrax, a new five piece act from Italy, have given themselves quite the conundrum. Their influences are many and diverse, a huge sampling or artists both heavy and avant, new and old. But as they try to find their own way in this world we call metal, their feet seem to be finding paths of those who walked before, rather than trampling new ground. And, for better or worse, their debut album, "Reflections" is exactly what the name would seem to indicate. But that name is the first, and possibly last thing on this album that truly makes sense.

If you've come looking for something conventional, you may have stumbled into the wrong neighborhood. Techno beats begin Doom Against True Hell, enough to make you question whether you've selected the wrong album from your playlist. They don't leave, but merely fade into the background during the bulk of the song. However, their presence is off-putting much of the time, especially in an album that boasts a very classic metal sound. The precedent that would seem to set is a disturbing one, one that makes each tracks beginning to be an anxious moment. My Kingdom For A Horse a strange track when taken on its own, but even stranger when compared to what the album looks like as a whole. Even the song's vocal hook is hard to digest, repeatedly pounding the title into your frontal lobe. The rest of the track is a sing-songy journey, only salvaged by a great sense of melody in the guitar leads. With even progressive more complex riff, The Moore Of Venice is the most serviceable chunk on the album, leaning more towards classic prog rhythms and away from dance club thumping beats. But even here, the interlude detracts from much of the momentum that had been built. There is little to no sense of flow or structure, which wouldn't be an issue of things didn't feel as disjointed as they do. The midway point and surrounding pieces could pass for a b-side from UK avant metallers Hell, if not for the subsequent breaks.

A symphonic opening comes as a huge surprise, especially given the title of the song it precedes is Fight, but with this album, it may be best to throw any ideas of the norm aside. stuck between an orchestral beginning and some beautifully sung male and female operatic vocals is a straight forward heavy metal middle, complete with virtuosic guitar performance. But, as before, the rhyme or reason in getting from start to finish is lost somewhere. The second half of the album struggles to stay afloat, with few bright spots left to carry the immense weight. Thunderlight has all of the emotional feel of true power metal, but falls short in so many ways. Like an M. Night Shyamalan movie, there are enough twists to make each one progressively less effective. broken into 45 second chunks, you can find a lot to enjoy, but combined into one track, it is a mess. And when you've stumbled through five tracks, the sixth one, a skewed ballad, is not the sort of relief you need. The album isn't a trainwreck, despite many of the faults we've covered thus far, but Feel The Essence Of Blues is far from the ideal album closer. Horns, walking bass lines and a full chorus of voices sounds like a match made in heaven, but misses the mark.

It's completely OK to not get it. There are tons of albums that are released every year that many of us might listen to, shrug our shoulders and simply admit that we don't see the appeal. Cyrax is a band with a million influences, and they try to exercise all of them all of the time. Unfortunately, that just isn't a formula for success. The album feels hectic and disjointed, with many of the songs sounding like a handful of clips taped together. The flow that is so essential in modern music just isn't there, and it means the listener doesn't have any central theme or sound to hang on to. As a result, "Reflections" fails in the most fundamental way; it doesn't give people a reason to keep listening, start to finish, or come back for more. By no means am I speaking in absolutes or facts. Different strokes, after all. But if this musical collective wants to appeal to the masses, they are going to have to narrow the scope of their music, and go for quality of output rather than quantity of styles.


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