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




Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

3.55 | 177 ratings

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5 stars Your old gods are dead, but they still speak. Kindly Bent To Free Us, Prog-metal band Cynic's 3rd full studio album in 22 years (long story) is not the prog album your parents used to listen to. Hell, it's not even the prog album you used to listen to. This is prog for the 21st century and it sits in some uncomfortable territory. Fronted by guitarist Paul Masvidal, bassist Sean Malone and drummer Sean Reinert, they start you on your album journey on Hallucination Speak with a fade in of light synth washes and quiet churning guitars before introducing the song proper with louder crunching guitars that immediately hands off to chunky jazz inflected drum and bass rythyms as Masdival's clear vocal presents itself. His vocals will be the first and last non alien sound that you will hear on this album. The instruments will sound familiar, naturally, but It's the music that sounds alien and not in the way that you think it would. There are ghostly echoes of the prog giants that have gone before but in ways that are almost unrecognizable. Cynic's music feels as if it is an x-ray image of prog metal or like glimpsing the spirit of a departed loved one.

There are traces of the prog metal music that existed before but it has been somehow metaphysically changed in ways that we'll never really understand. The album's second track, The Lions Roar, is more of a traditional anthemic prog metal song with subtle jazz inflections with an almost poppy chorus that belies it's complex layering. The title track is where we get into the heart of the beast which starts with slow melodic verses that switch over to waves of technical drum mastery by Reinert of manic flowing polyrythyms and intense bass drumming that is absolutlely breath taking before changing back to a slower pace as Masvidal and Malone both weave delicate melodies and a tricky time signature around him that then explodes into a locomotive powered percussion peice by Reinert supported by powerful and precise playing by Masvidal and Malone; so that it feels that a miss by any one of the three by even a fraction of a second would send the entire work crashing to the ground.

These four signature song structures are repeated before the song concludes with an extended chorus that shows how Malone is so integral in assisting Reinert maintan a sense of groove in even their most technically proficient workouts. Infinate Shapes introduces an industrial guitar sound to go along with the jazz and tech fest while Moon Heart Sun Head continues the tech magic that builds up to a good old fashioned middle eight section that is introduced by rapid foot work and a heavy hits to Reinart's toms and snare that then starts off a majestic ascending major scale guitar solo that makes you think your on your way skyward toward a some cliched crecsendo before it unexpectably reverses back on it's self where it comes to pause for a split second on a minor note before resuming a rapid spiraling climb back up the fretboard where the solo finally resolves itself and evaporates into the either. This solo will give you the feeling of being pulled forward off your feet at the speed of light and just as quickly thrown backward again before slowing regaining your equilibrium.

Gitanjali has spacey tribal like moans from Masvidal as well as more complex guitar playing throughout with Reinart back to his tasteful but never overplayed tech flourishs with creepy almost subliminal keyboard washes floating throughout the sound mix. Holy Fallout is an anthemic prog/tech metal closer that again shows off the skill of all three musicians before fading into How Bountiful, a gentle Masvidal thanksgiving tome to the earth and universe. Kindly Bent To Free US is an album that is deceptively complex and layered and demands a lot from it's listener (It took a lot from this reviewer to just remember this album's basic outline after just a few listens with songs that average a duration of no longer than 5 minutes): but it should be in every 21st century prog fans collection as it is one of those rare albums by a group on the cusp of becoming genre defining as well as genre breaking at the same time. Indeed, the old gods do speak.

SteveG | 5/5 |


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