Cynic was formed in November, 1987 by guitarist Paul Masvidal and drummer Sean Reinert. To finish up the lineup, Mark Van Erp (later of Monstrosity) was added on bass and a friend named Jack Kelly was added on vocals thus making Cynic a four-piece. This early incarnation of Cynic was focused on making only brutal death metal with primary influence taken from bands such as Venom, Possessed, Kreator and Destruction. It is this lineup that would later be featured on the release of their first, self-titled demo in 1988.
After Jack left in 1988, Paul took over vocal duties, Jason Gobel 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 within. This lineup soon began touring the south Florida area and bootlegs exist of them as far back as May of 1988. Soon after, Mark left the band, Tony Choy was added on bass and 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 in the south Florida area. This new lineup would remain intact until at least 1991.
At this time, the bands' influences were already starting to change. While they were still listening to contemporaries like Atheist, and were still inspired by seeing how "sick" some bands would get to express themselves, their technical, musical and creative abilities were growing, and consequently, they began listening to more technical forms of music. Their primary influences soon included jazz and fusion, such as Chick Corea and Allan Holdsworth, but also bands such as WatchTower and Frank Zappa. This change in technical abilities 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 speed/death metal type band, although the band themselves didn't really consider themselves to be death metal. The music had the technicality of progressive speed metal, with the brutality and 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 new Death record (at the time), "Human", with 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. 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 some work on Master's "On The Eighth Day, God Created Master", and Jason worked with Monstrocity, 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 doing the Death record, then tour with Death and come home briefly before going on tour again for their own record. For unknown reasons, this didn't happen and they went straight into the Death European tour for the rest of 1991. Their lack of touring the states lead to a decline in their apparent popularity, at least in the band's eyes...
Cynic was now scheduled to go into the studio in October of 1992 with Scott Burns to record their debut album. Unfortunately for everyone (especially us!!), Hurricane Andrew destroyed Jason's house which also housed the band's rehearsal facilities. Their plans to record were put on hold until March 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. Chuck instead got ex-Dark Angel drummer Gene Hoglan to fill in. During this time, Cynic was working with ex-Viogression vocalist Brian DeNeffe. Also around this time, a track from Cynic 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. Tony Choy left the band to become Atheist's full time bass player and the band had to scramble to find a replacement. After going through numerous bass players (including Chris Kringel more than once), the replacement they finally settled on was Sean Malone, an employee of Morrisound Studios where the band had recorded their previous demos. After putting together the songs for the new record, they were finally able to record, and on 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 than anything else as well.
After the release of "Focus", Cynic went on a European tour supporting Pestilence. By this time, they had added a fifth member again, 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. Tony also did the keyboard parts because Sean Reinert was too busy on drums to do them. Due to his schoolwork, Sean Malone could not tour with the band so Chris Kringel toured in his place. 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.
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. During this time, the band parted ways with Tony and borrowed Dana Cosley (from a local Florida band called Demonomacy) to do the death vocals and the keyboards for the rest of the tour. At the end of the summer, Cynic had to back out of a scheduled appearance at the Milwaukee Metalfest, due to unfortunate circumstances with their record label, the details of which are still undisclosed.
After the tour, Cynic began work on a new album. Rumor had it that they were again working with ex-Viogression vocalist Brian DeNeffe. However, while working on their upcoming album, bassist Sean Malone left, citing those famous "creative differences". His split with the band was amicable, however, and he continues to work with Sean R., Paul and Jason to this day.
Sometime during the fall of 1994, while still supposedly working on the new album, Cynic disbanded. The members couldn't decide which direction the band should go in and ultimately decided to go their separate ways.