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Chuck Schuldiner's Death got pretty clinical with the odd time signature, and Atheist got pretty busy with their complex arrangements, but Florida's Cynic simply threw the progressive metal playbook out the window. Their groundbreaking 1993 debut Focus meshed metal and jazz on an unprecedented scale, and explored the creative possibilities of this strange musical hybrid to a degree which has yet to be equaled. For Cynic, the traditional framework of death metal songwriting served as a mere foundation over which the band would take flight, yielding moments of mind-blowing diversity and inspiration (and, occasionally, dumbfounded confusion) on multi-faceted tracks like "Veil of the Maya," "I'm But a Wave To...," and "Textures." Never mind the contrast of time-traveling proportions created by their dual vocalists and clashing stone age-style death grunts with robotic computer-processed melodies (the latter a clear influence on digi-metallers Fear Factory). And yet, as suggested by its title, their stunning sonic collages were uncommonly focused and concise, avoiding the time transgressions of most progressive metal to achieve even greater impact. Simply put, Focus remains a wholly original and widely respected release among the small progressive metal community, many of whom still regard it as the ultimate statement in the genre.

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