Cynic was formed in November of 1987 in Miami, Florida by Paul Masvidal and Sean Reinert . Paul and Sean were elementary school classmates when they first started making music together. After a series of mini-projects and explorations, they decided to seriously seek out other musicians. For junior high, Paul was sent away to boarding school in upstate New York where he found bass player Mark Van Erp. Mark eventually moved to Miami along with his friend Jack Kelly who was added on vocals thus completing the first official Cynic line-up. This early incarnation of Cynic was focused on making brutal death metal with primary influences taken from bands such as Venom, Possessed, Slayer, Kreator, Destruction and Dark Angel. It is this lineup that would later be featured on the release of their first, self-titled demo in 1988.
Cynic parted ways with Jack in 1988, and Paul took over vocal duties. Jason Gobel (whom they met at a show they performed at) was added on guitar and and in 1989, they cut their second demo, entitled Reflections Of A Dying World, consisting of four songs. All of the songs on this demo were of the speed metal/thrash genre, with even some punk elements incorporated. This lineup soon began touring the south Florida area and bootlegs exist of them as far back as May of 1988. Soon after, Mark was out of the band and Tony Choy was added on bass. In 1990, Cynic released their third demo (also self-titled). This helped to gain them a large following throughout southern and central Florida, as well as their constant touring and cameo appearances (opening for national acts) in the South Florida area. This new lineup would remain intact until 1991. During this time, the bands' influences were beginning to dramatically change. While they were still listening to contemporaries like Atheist and Death, and enticed by the sheer intensity of these extreme forms of music, their musical and creative abilities were growing, and consequently, they began listening to more complex and eclectic forms of music.
Classic jazz, bebop and fusion groups such as Mahavishnu Orchestra and Allan Holdsworth began influencing their work. Artists such as Pat Metheny and Frank Zappa, 20th Century classical music and even certain forms of pop were expanding their record collections. This change in technical and creative skill had already made its way into their songs as the band took a great leap forward in musicianship for their second and third demos. By the early part of 1991, Cynic had evolved into a progressive death metal band, although the band themselves didn't consider themselves to be death metal. The music had the technicality of progressive metal with the brutal vocal qualities of death metal. They cut a fourth and final demo in 1991 (financed by Roadrunner Records) consisting of three tracks. Two of these tracks would, in a drastically different form, make it onto their debut album. In April of 1991, Paul and Sean played on the groundbreaking Death album Human alongside the band's mastermind Chuck Schuldiner and Steve DiGiorgio of Sadus. They described their relationship with Chuck as "very laid-back", and were able to help Chuck with the writing by giving him input, which had been missing on the earlier Death records. The result was a classic record, and Death even got some MTV airplay for their video "Lack Of Comprehension".
At the same time, Tony Choy was filling in for the late Roger Patterson on Atheist's Unquestionable Presence, also a great album in its own right, and guesting on Pestilence's Testimony of the Ancients. Paul did guitars on Master's On The Eighth Day, God Created Master, and Jason worked with Monstrosity (whom Mark Van Erp joined), playing lead on their Imperial Doom album. All of this guest work helped to enlarge the fan base for Cynic, making them, according to Roadrunner Records, "...the most popular underground act to never record an album." Cynic was planning to record their first full-length album on the Roadrunner label after recording the Death record, but Paul and Sean decided to complete the tour cycle for Death's European tour through the rest of 1991. These and other delays were part of what expanded Cynic's popularity and also gave them more time to develop their sound. Immediately upon Sean and Paul's return from Death's European tour, they scheduled to go into the studio in October of 1992 with Scott Burns to record their debut album , when catastrophe hit.
Unfortunately for everyone, Hurricane Andrew destroyed Jason's house along with the band's rehearsal facilities. Their plans to record were put on hold until March of 1993. Incidentally, this also interrupted Chuck Schuldiner's plans for the next Death release, Individual Thought Patterns, for which Sean Reinert was his first choice as drummer. Sean decided to put his energies back into Cynic. Chuck hired ex-Dark Angel drummer Gene Hoglan (whom he met through writer / long-time associate Borivoj Krgin) to fill in. During this time, Cynic was working with ex-Viogression vocalist Brian DeNeffe. Also around this time, a track of Cynic's was finally released on CD. "Uroboric Forms" appeared in demo form on the Roadrunner compilation At Death's Door II in 1992 with a note that Cynic's debut album would be released in May 1993. May 1993 came and went and no album appeared. The band mutually parted ways with Tony Choy who went on to become Atheist's full time bass player. Soon after, Chris Kringel joined the band, whom they met through Brian Deneffe (Viogression). Chris played with the band for a while (and eventually with Portal), but logistics and stylistic differences led to Darren Mcfarland (from Atheist) whom went into the studio with the band. When things didn't work out with Darren, Cynic were back in Miami with all tracks recorded minus bass.
Days after their return, Steve Digorgio was at Morrisound recording Death's Individual Thought Patterns. One day in a phone conversation with Paul, Steve passed the phone to Sean Malone who happened to be an employee at Morrisound. Steve learned of his bass playing skills during the Individual recording sessions. After sending his bass demo to Cynic and meeting shortly after, he recorded bass tracks at Morrisound Studios (where the band had recorded their previous demos), and they finally mixed the record. September 14, 1993, Focus was finally released. With over two years since their last demo, Focus was a remarkable change from the style of any of their previous material, and quite different from anything else in the music world as well. After the release of Focus, Cynic went on a European tour supporting Pestilence. For their live shows, they added a fifth member, lead singer/growler Tony Teegarden, who had actually sung the death vocals on Focus, (since Paul was in danger of losing his voice at the time). Note: Paul sang the ethereal computer voice for all the live shows. Tony also played keyboards live. Due to his schoolwork, Sean Malone could not tour with the band so Chris Kringel came back and replaced him. The tour was cut short, however, when Pestilence disbanded.
Returning to the states in January 1994, Cynic did a few shows in the Florida area, playing the states for the first time in over two years. Malone's only European appearance with Cynic was at their Dynamo Festival appearance in the summer of 1994. Next, Cynic toured the States during the summer of 1994 supporting Cannibal Corpse. Their tour stretched over 3 months and covered most of the United States. Malone rejoined the group for this tour. Tony was unable to participate, so they borrowed Dana Cosley (from local Florida band Demonomacy) to do the death vocals and the keyboards. Tony did rejoin the group for a show in West Palm Beach which was the only show to contain all the original Focus members. After the tour, Cynic began work on a new album. In the early stages of working on their upcoming album, the band parted ways with Sean Malone. Soon after they reunited with bassist Chris Kringel who moved back to Miami and worked with the band to write and record the Portal demos.
Sean Malone's split with the band was amicable, however, and has continued to work with Sean R., Paul and Jason to this day. Part of the musical shifts at this time, were the band's decision to add a female vocalist. Aruna Abrams was found through a letter she wrote to the band while a student at Berkeley College of Music. After the band received her audition tape, she was asked to join Cynic. She moved to Miami and worked closely with the band for a year writing and recording what would eventually transform into Portal. Sometime during the fall of 1994, while working on the new album, Cynic shifted. New directions and sounds led to a name change. Cynic was complete and finished it's work under that name. The band felt urged to rebirth into a new musical concept that was born out of these changes. Portal was born. -Compiled by Brian Meloon & Jeff Litvak from various sources -Updated by Jeff Litvak & Tim Spear