Art and music have always been a powerful means to address and process tragedy, and Cyanotic has certainly had its fill over nearly two decades – fallen idols, brothers in arms, partners in life… with The After Effect, Sean Payne and his cohorts honor lost loved ones with an album they describe as “synthetic sonic catharsis.” Throughout the band’s tenure, Cyanotic has stood at the forefront of modern machine-driven rock and coldwave, reinventing and revitalizing the sound with a fervor that few have been able to match.
Tracks like “Crash Override” and “Sound the Alarm” stand toe-to-toe with the best of Cyanotic’s past output, striking hard with steely layers of synth, samples, and shards of guitar slicing through the mix, all set to a spine of brute percussive force; the latter song especially earns the rank of an instant classic with lines like “Static on the brain again” and the chorus of “Try your best to remain calm / No need to sound the alarm.” The same could be said of the slower but no less potent “’Building Better Worlds,’” its trippy rhythms and shimmering ambient passages still surging with a cybernetic and cinematic energy befitting its referential title, while presaging some of the album’s later, more introspective moments, such as the closing “Sleepless Prowler.” With some nice rhythmic breaks, slithery synths, and dark melodies, the song concludes The After Effect on a beautifully mesmerizing note.
A huge factor in what has made Cyanotic so beloved is the effective use of genre tropes, utilized with such proficiency and thoughtful selection that they seem as fresh as when the bands of old first did so 40 years ago. Strangely, the samples seem louder on “And Still Nothing Changes,” which in the hands of a lesser artist would seem to be poor mixing/mastering, but feels very deliberate and focused here; complete with the rubbery bass and Payne’s seething if slightly obfuscated vocals, the song is rather memorable in its own right. On the other hand, the famous lines from Blade Runner and Jacob’s Ladder that adorn the analog swells and sparsely militant drums of “Anastasia Ascends” are all too poignant in context that one can’t help but shed tears upon hearing them – not only a loving tribute to Anastasia Payne, but once again proof of how Cyanotic makes the familiar fresh again.
One must imagine that a significant portion of The After Effect was completed – or at least conceived – prior to the tragic events that underscore its release, which only augments the lyrical emotions that resonate throughout. And yet, Cyanotic has never been a band to wallow in depressive ennui, the album’s saddest moments serving as more an affirmation of life’s fragility, allowing the irresistible monotonic thrust and throb of “Are We Still Alive” to entice the listener to celebrate; sure to be a dance floor pleaser and a live stomper, the song is the album’s centerpiece, the lyrical and sampled repetitions of the title like a mantra reminding us to stand up and feel alive… to embrace living, not just surviving. Sophisticated production, intelligent songwriting, remembrance and nostalgia interspersed with a keen desire for a more vibrant future – for all of this, The After Effect is Cyanotic’s most powerful effort yet.