Produced by Cynic and Scott Burns. Engineered and mixed by Scott Burns. Recorded and mixed at Morrisound Recording, Tampa, Florida. Released on Roadrunner, 14 September 1993.
With both guitarist/vocalist Paul Masvidal and drummer Sean Reinert former members of Chuck Schuldiner’s Death when they recorded the seminal album Human (1991) I had an expectation of what this album was going to sound like. How wrong I was.
Don’t get me wrong, there are definite hints of Florida death metal sprinkled throughout Focus but this is more Death meets Devin Townsend meets King Crimson and Dream Theater. It’s technical-progressive-death metal.
The songs twist and turn, hardly settling for a moment into any kind of groove. One moment they are slow and clean, the next dark and overdriven. Masvidal’s vocals at times sound like they’ve been processed through a vocoder. Keyboardist Teegarden adds his death growls now and then for good measure.
Production-wise this album is very much of the era. The production on track three, “The Eagle Nature” has a moment around 1′ 50″ that reminded me of “The demise of history” from Sabbat’s 1991 album Mourning Has Broken (1991). In recent years metal albums have gotten bassier and punchier. This album sounds quite top-heavy and weak in comparison with say the latest albums from Lamb of God, Machine Head or Testament.
There’s an uncomfortableness to this collection of songs, as though the melodies are hanging on by their fingernails ready at any moment to fall into dissonance. Coupled with the continual time changes this isn’t a particularly easy album to listen to.
My overarching feeling is that I want to like this album more than I do. And yet each time I listen to it I get drawn in. It’s an album that demands that you pay attention or… wait for it… focus. This is nothing if not an interesting record. There’s something there for everyone: blues, rock, metal, death metal, jazz, prog… and yet, well, I’m not surprised the record company had a difficult time finding the right market for this album.
This is the kind of album I don’t think I’ll go searching out to play over the next few months but if I stumbled on it via shuffle I wouldn’t switch it off.
Review score: 65%