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Cynic - Kindly Bent To Free Us CD (album) cover

KINDLY BENT TO FREE US

Cynic

 

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

3.70 | 118 ratings

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UMUR
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Kindly Bent To Free Us" is the 3rd full-length studio album by US progressive rock/metal Cynic. The album was released through Season of Mist in February 2014. It's been six years since the release of "Traced in Air (2008)", but in the intermediate time Cynic released the two EPs "Re-Traced (2010)" and "Carbon-Based Anatomy (2011)". They also put out an archival release in 2012 titled "The Portal Tapes", which is a re-release of the 1995 Portal demo. Portal was a shortlived project featuring the core members of Cynic, founded after the latter disbanded. In addition to working on those releases, Cynic have also toured. Probably more than they ever did when they were initially active. So in short there are several reasons for the long break between the two full-length studio albums. Another reason is probably the core philosophy of of the band. While they definitely don't lack neither drive nor ambition, there has always been a tranquil and laid back vibe about them and a feeling that they will only release something when they are 100% satisfied with the material they've written. On this album they work as a trio consisting of Paul Masvidal (vocals, guitars), Sean Malone (bass, Chapman Stick) and Sean Reinert (drums, keyboards).

The music on "Kindly Bent To Free Us" is probably best described as progressive/alternative rock/metal with jazz/fusion elements and a psychadelic vibe. The latter is mostly due to the sometimes Beatlesque vocal lines and harmonies, but the whole atmosphere reeks incense smelling rooms and laid back days in the sun. Paul Masvidal has always been fascinated by spirituality and although some of the lyrics on "Kindly Bent To Free Us" make absolutely no sense, they still bring a smile to my face and they generally suit the tripped out atmosphere of the album well. The organic and warm sound production also supports that particular atmosphere perfectly. I'm not going to say we're completely in hippie land, but the thought of peace loving hippies often cross my mind while listening to "Kindly Bent To Free Us". On the other hand there is a sweet melancholy to the music too, so it's an album that explore different emotions.

The album features a sound that is very different from what we've heard from the band before, and yet again it sounds unmistakably like Cynic. The tracks are generally less metal oriented (only subdued clean and mellow vocals on this one. No growling) and less technical in nature and also a little more tightly structured and as a consequence more easily accessible compared to earlier material by the band. That's not to say, that the music on "Kindly Bent To Free Us" is simple or that there aren't technically challenging parts being played, because that is far from the truth. There is still fusion influenced drumming and a very busy fretless bass (chapman stick is used too) driving the music forward, but on top, the guitars, the vocals and the keyboards flow in an almost carefree atmospheric fashion. The material is greatly dynamic with both loud parts and more mellow subdued parts.

While the new musical direction probably comes as a surprise (or a shock) for some listeners, it really shouldn't if you payed attention to the musical style on the two preceeding EPs, which both featured a mellow and pleasant sound with only few metal elements. Also if you're familiar with Paul Masvidal's and Sean Reinert's alternative rock project 'on Spoke, the sound on "Kindly Bent To Free Us" might not be so surprising after all.

The 41:52 minutes long album features 8 tracks (9 if you own the deluxe CD book, which features the bonus track "Earth Is My Witness"). it's an album with a great flow, and while the material is consistent in quality and style, there are still enough variation between tracks, to easily distinguish between them. Telling the tracks apart is also helped along by the melodic and quite memorable vocal melodies. At first they might not seem that memorable, but once they get in your mind, they stick. A good example is the opening melody line in the title track, which returns in various forms throughout that track.

So is it any good? Well...this is definitely one of those releases where the listener's expectations and will to accept and embrace new musical ideas will be seriously tested. Cynic are still mostly known in progressive extreme metal circles and most of their fans probably come from that segment, and since they've considerably toned down the extreme metal elements here, the music on the album might not go down too well with the part of their fan base that still see them primarily as a metal act. On the other hand they've undeniably progressed and developed their sound in accordance with their creative muse, and it's always fascinating when an artist pursue what they really feel for instead of trying to satisfy their more conservative fans. In other words this is a fan base divider. Personally I find the album incredibly charming. I don't know what it is about Cynic, but with or without death growls, metal elements, furious fusion drumming, and blistering jazzy guitar solos, they always manage to transport me to a tranquil place and leave me in a completely relaxed state of mind. The music on "Kindly Bent To Free Us" is no exception. A 4.5 star (90%) rating is deserved.

UMUR | 4/5 |

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