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Music / Cynic

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This page is about the band. If you were looking for a trope about cynics, see The Cynic.

Hey comrade
What will it be like on the day we face our mortal life
We’re all given the misfortune of loss
But that’s a gift we call impermanence
—Cynic, "Nunc stans"

Describe Cynic here.

A cynic is a follower of the ancient Greek philosophy of Cynicism, which taught that people should live a life of virtue in agreement with nature...

Oh, you mean Cynic the band.

Cynic is a band from Miami, Florida. Their music could best be described as a combination of Progressive Metal, Technical Death Metal, and Jazz Fusion. They were formed in the late 1980s by guitarist/vocalist Paul Masvidal and drummer Sean Reinert (both of whom played in Death at one point) as a Thrash Metal band. A notable early member of Cynic was bassist Tony Choy, who later joined fellow Florida group Atheist. After recording several demos and developing their style more towards their current sound, they signed to Roadrunner Records and recorded their debut album Focus, considered a landmark of Technical Death Metal.

Cynic broke up in late 1994 and the members went on to various other musical projects. Paul and Sean reformed the band with a new line-up in 2006; this was followed by extensive touring, a second album, Traced in Air, and an EP, Re-Traced.

In late 2010 Paul and Sean decided to continue Cynic as a duo and use guest musicians on future recordings. Their third album, Kindly Bent to Free Us, was released on Valentine's Day 2014, and featured their regular session bassist Sean Malone rounding the group out into an effective trio. The sound of the album was radically different from Focus or Traced in Air, with no growled vocals and a stripped-down sound.

In September 2015, Sean Reinert announced on Cynic's official Facebook page that the band has broken up again, due to "artistic and personal differences". However, Paul announced on his personal page shortly afterwards that Reinert did not confer with Paul himself or Sean Malone about the breakup or the subsequent cancellation of the band's European tour, and hopes to be able to continue with a different drummer.

Reinert passed away on January 25th, 2020; he was 48. Malone passed away on December 9, 2020, at age 50.

A notable element of Cynic's sound is the use of a vocoder on most of Paul Masvidal's vocals, giving them a robot-like quality. This was originally for practical purposes - Paul was in danger of losing his voice while recording Focus - but has since become part of their Signature Style.

Cynic bassist Sean Malone has a Progressive Rock and Jazz Fusion band called Gordian Knot.


  • Paul Masvidal - Vocals (from 1988), guitar, keyboards, programming (1987-1994, 2006-present)
  • Matt Lynch - Drums (2017-present; 2015-2017 as live-only member)
  • Dave Mackay - Keyboards, bass synthesizer (2021-present)

Former Members:

  • Sean Reinert - Drums (1987-1994, 2006-2015, died 2020)
  • Sean Malone - Bass (1993-4, 2008, 2011, 2012-2020, died 2020)
  • Tymon Kruidenier — guitar, death growls, guitar synth (2008–2010)
  • Robin Zielhorst — bass (2008–2010)
  • Santiago Dobles — guitar (2006–2007)
  • Jason Gobel — guitar, keyboard (1988–1994)
  • Tony Choy — bass (1989–1993)
  • Chris Kringel — bass (1993–4, 2006–7)
  • Tony Teegarden — keyboards, death growls (1993–4, 2006–7)
  • Jack Kelly — Vocals (1988)
  • Mark Van Erp — bass (1987–9)
  • Russell Mofsky — guitar (1987)
  • Esteban "Steve" Rincon — vocals (1987)

Live Members:

  • Max Phelps - Guitar, vocals (2011–2015)
  • Brandon Giffin - Bass (2011-2014)
  • Dana Cosely - Keyboards, death growls (1994)


  • '88 Demo (1988) - first demo
  • Reflections of a Dying World (1989) - second demo
  • '90 Demo (1990) - third demo
  • Demo 1991 (1991) - fourth demo
  • Focus (1993) - first album
  • Traced in Air (2008) - second album
    • Traced in Air Remixed (2019) - Exactly What It Says on the Tin; remixed version of second album with clearer bass parts, plus some instrument parts that were left off the original album, but also with Harsh Vocals turned down in the mix or completely mixed out
  • Re-Traced (2010) - EP with re-arranged versions of four songs from Traced in Air plus one new song
  • Carbon-Based Anatomy (2011) - EP
  • The Portal Tapes (2012) - a reissue of the demo recorded by Portal (not that one), a band formed by members of Cynic in The '90s after the latter broke up
  • Kindly Bent to Free Us (2014) - third album
  • Ascension Codes (2021) - fourth album


  • Album Title Drop:
    • Traced in Air: "The Space for This"
    Soft omens
    Traced in air
  • Book Ends: Traced in Air begins with the song "Nunc fluens" and ends with "Nunc stans", which are two philosophical views on the nature of time. See Gratuitous Latin below for further explanation.
  • Design Student's Orgasm: From Focus onwards, the band's album artwork has consisted of various paintings by the psychedelic artist Robert Venosa. It's quite possibly some of the most colorful art you'll ever see in a metal album.
  • Fading into the Next Song/Fake-Out Fade-Out: Done with "Integral Birth" into "The Unknown Guest". The former fades almost completely out, then the latter starts fading in.
  • Foreign Language Title/Gratuitous Latin: "Nunc fluens" and "Nunc stans", which translate literally as "flowing now" and "abiding now", respectively. More broadly, they refer to two different views on the nature of time, as mentioned above: the former suggests that time is eternal, without beginning or ending; while the latter suggests that time does not even exist, and that distinctions between past, present, and future have either fallen away or never existed in the first place. They both originate from the Anicius Boëthius quote "Nunc fluens facit tempus, nunc stans facit aeternitatum" ("The now that passes produces time; the now that remains produces eternity", a quote from The Consolation of Philosophy).
  • Genre Mashup: A mixture of death metal, progressive rock, jazz fusion, ambient, and Latin jazz. Some later releases also add a fair amount of influence from Electronic Music.
  • I Am the Band: Paul Masivdal is the only constant member.
    • Sean Reinert used to count as this too, until he very publicly severed all personal and professional ties with Paul.
    • Sean Malone may count as this as well considering the only time he hasn't officially been in the band since he joined was during the Re-Traced era.
  • Lead Drummer, Lead Bassist: Apart from Masvidal, who has been the only constant member, Sean Reinert and Sean Malone are probably the best known members of the band, owing in large part to their skill at their respective instruments and the central role drums and bass play in technical death metal (and in jazz, which heavily influences all of Cynic's music).
  • Lighter and Softer: Re-Traced, though not in a bad way. Lyrically Cynic tend more towards positive lyrics about philosophy and spirituality than many of their peers.
    • Focus was this when compared to the demos, which were jazzy technical death/thrash. Focus was just barely death metal and was mostly just prog with a very heavy Mahavishnu influence.
    • Traced in Air was this when compared to Focus, for that matter, and Kindly Bent to Free Us seems to be this compared to both of their previous two full-lengths.
  • Minimalistic Cover Art: Re-Traced uses some of the same paintings as Traced in Air, but reduced to line drawings.
  • Mistaken for Romance: Paul Masvidal and Sean Reinert. Just because they're both gay doesn't mean they're attracted to each other...
  • Mood Whiplash: A large part of what made Focus unique at the time it was released was how effectively it was able to do this - it shifts on a dime from old-school tech death to a weird, futuristic mix of prog rock, ambient, fusion, Latin jazz, new age, and whatever else they felt like playing; and it somehow pulls this off without the transitions feeling forced or sudden.
  • New Sound Album: None of their albums sound too much like each other. Traced in Air was a bit mellower and more upbeat, with Harsh Vocals in a less prominent role (the remix cuts most of them out entirely), and Kindly Bent to Free Us is really just a straight-up Progressive Rock album with relatively little metal influence remaining. Focus and Kindly Bent are both somewhat presaged by the demos and EPs that preceded each of them, respectively, however.
  • Rearrange the Song: Re-Traced has Lighter and Softer remakes of four songs from Traced in Air, with acoustic instruments in a more prominent role, but ironically, also more influence from Electronic Music.
  • Recut: Traced in Air Remixed is Exactly What It Says on the Tin. The Harsh Vocals are removed, but depending who you ask, the instrumental clarity is improved, particularly that of the bass.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Ironically they are on the idealistic end, despite what their name may tell you. (The Greek philosophical school of Cynicism was also quite idealistic, however, and that seems to have been the source of the band's name, rather than the modern understanding of cynicism.)
  • Soprano and Gravel: Paul and Tony Teegarden on Focus and Paul and Tymon Krudiner on Traced in Air. A very unusual example, given the synthesized nature of most of Paul's vocals.
  • Surprisingly Gentle Song: "Textures", an instrumental jazz fusion song on an album full of Mood Whiplash-inducing Technical Death Metal. Later on, their sound got too gentle for this trope to apply much any longer.
  • Technical Death Metal
  • The Man Behind the Man: Sean Malone was this for a very long time following the reunion. He did eventually start touring with the band again from 2015 onwards. Sean's reasoning for not touring was his teaching and family commitments.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Sean Reinert, Tymon Kruidiner, Robin Zielhorst and Jason Gobel have all made this very, very public. Oh dear.
    • Death's "The Philosopher" is a Take That! song about Paul written after this happened between him and Chuck Schuldiner; based on the lyrics, it appears that Chuck saw him as an annoying rich kid who thought that he knew everything but really just wanted to be John McLaughlin a little too much.. Paul did attend Chuck's funeral in 2001, however, and even helped out with the Death to All tribute tours. He also denied that him and Chuck had any problems for a very long time. Either he's lying or he's got his head in the clouds, or possibly a combination of the two.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: The lyrics. All of them.

It was not death
It was not life
It was love