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An Illustrious Return: Cynic in Los Angeles

The band hit the stage once again after 8 years to breathe new life to a masterpiece.

Photograph by Ekaterina Gorbacheva

Words by Rohan (@manvsplaylist), Photos by Ekaterina Gorbacheva ( at the Knitting Factory in Los Angeles:

One of metal’s most enigmatic, influential, and creative entities made their long-awaited return to the stage on a recent Friday evening (January 27, 2023) in Los Angeles. In a show that was billed under the guise of “Uroboric Forms” and with more than a subtle wink & nod from the local promoter as to what was to potentially unfold, those that had filled the newest incarnation of the Knitting Factory were braced with heightened expectations.

They were treated to a (celestial) voyage thirty years back in time, as the band marked the 30th anniversary of their visionary masterpiece Focus with a full-album set. Fronted by founding member and cosmic visionary Paul Masvidal, the current lineup features a stellar cast that have an already rich history with the band, which includes Max Phelps (guitar and harsh vocals, he of current Death To All frontman duties), Matt Lynch (drums, a recent addition to esteemed LA progressive heroes Intronaut), Brandon Griffin (bass), and Ezekiel Kaplan (keyboards & programming).

Photograph by Ekaterina Gorbacheva

With the band set to embark on select confirmed shows to celebrate this album’s milestone, and with expectations high of more dates to be added, Cynic used this under the radar show as a way to, in Paul’s words - “iron out the kinks” - as they approach a more active touring schedule.

The evening’s set carried an unmistakable emotional heft, marking the first time the band has performed live since the untimely passing of core members Sean Reinert and Sean Malone, who both tragically passed in 2020. Flanked on both sides of the stage by silhouette images of the pair, Paul was clearly moved by the moment and seemed comforted by the reception afforded by a dedicated & appreciative crowd.

Photograph by Ekaterina Gorbacheva

Throughout the course of the set, Paul remains a captivating & cerebral figure. His vocoder-tinged vocals drift across the fluid, technical compositions, and his lead guitar work weaves effortlessly throughout the passages of each song. Every movement appears calm and considered, seemingly as if he is simultaneously the performer & the audience in the way the sounds wash over and connect with him. As a pioneering figure that this scribe has long respected and admired, it was a joy to see him perform in such an intimate setting.

Personal highlights were the gorgeous waves of Sentiment building and unfolding, the jagged fusion punches of Uroboric Forms, and the live debut of several cuts from 2020’s Ascension Codes. The whole band appeared entirely locked in and pulled off both this classic & current material with the dexterity and nuance that you could only wish for. With any luck, Cynic’s live run will continue throughout the year and audiences from far and wide will get the chance to experience and appreciate these sounds that still sound as uncompromising and impactful to this day, as they did upon their release thirty years ago. Long live Cynic, a true artistic blessing.

Enjoy a photo gallery of the special performance below.


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