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Cynic Kindly Bent To Free Us album cover
3.54 | 199 ratings | 10 reviews | 18% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
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Studio Album, released in 2014

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. True Hallucination Speak (6:03)
2. The Lion's Roar (4:34)
3. Kindly Bent To Free Us (6:27)
4. Infinite Shapes (4:57)
5. Moon Heart Sun Head (5:21)
6. Gitanjali (3:58)
7. Holy Fallout (6:35)
8. Endlessly Bountiful (3:52)

Total time 41:47

Bonus track on 2014 SE:
9. Earth Is My Witness (4:32)

Line-up / Musicians

- Paul Masvidal / lead vocals, guitar, keyboards
- Sean Malone / fretless bass, Chapman stick
- Sean Reinert / drums

- Alan Watts / spoken word (5)

Releases information

Artwork: Robert Venosa

CD Season Of Mist ‎- SOM 300D (2014, France)
CD Season Of Mist ‎- SOM 300D (2014, France) SE Boxset with a bonus track

Thanks to mbzr48 for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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CYNIC Kindly Bent To Free Us ratings distribution

(199 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(18%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(40%)
Good, but non-essential (30%)
Collectors/fans only (8%)
Poor. Only for completionists (4%)

CYNIC Kindly Bent To Free Us reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Conor Fynes
4 stars 'Kindly Bent to Free Us' - Cynic (69/100)

As someone gets older, it's inevitable that some degree of mellowing out will occur. While the pessimistic among us might chalk it up to losing steam and passion, a more realistic way to look at it would be to see it as a reinvention of perspective, a natural development that comes with insight and experience. At least such has been the case for Cynic. Death metal was indelibly changed in 1994 with Focus, its unique blend of death metal, prog, jazz fusion and space ambient remains a unique statement that has never been repeated, even with the release of Traced in Air in 2008. With such a distinct and firm grip of style, Cynic would and could have forged a remarkable career without having changed a thing about their sound...

As it so unfolded (and as anyone who has been following the band will be able to tell you) change was exactly what happened for Cynic. Fast forward to 2014; fans are up in arms over Kindly Bent to Free Us. I've heard it called everything from a masterpiece to the worst piece of garbage this side of Cold Lake. As is usually the case, the truth is somewhere in the middle. Cynic's third album may lack the 'instant classic' masterpiece appeal of their first two, but the band's evolution into mellower depths has still yielded an impressive set of material. Death metal purists should go back to polishing their Demilich records; Kindly Bent to Free Us isn't quite what we had been expecting or hoping for, but its solid songwriting, tight fusion musicianship and a knack for atmosphere have made for a successful prog rock record.

Two things have changed most prominently with this record, when compared to their past work. Most notably, the growling has been tossed out entirely, instead lending the weight of the vocal duties to Paul Masvidal's fragile cleans. Even though the preceding EP Carbon- Based Anatomy followed the purely clean format, a far greater emphasis in the music have been placed on clean vocals, drawing it closer to a more traditional rock format. Secondly- and far more importantly- the atmosphere and tone has filtered out much of the dark heart and melancholy. Check out a song like "The Lion's Roar", and everything from the trademark synthesized vocals to the tight and peppy guitar riffs deliver a vastly different emotional atmosphere than what one might be used to from metal or even progressive rock.

The musical approach feels more straightforward on the surface, but Cynic deliver an impressive level of sonic depth to the performance. Kindly Bent to Free Us enjoys a masterful quality of production and recording; this is headphone music at its most sublime. "True Hallucination Speak" fleshes out an otherwise straightforward rock tune with effects manipulation that would have sounded incredible even on its own. Masvidal's guitar tone has some bite to it, but there's an evident emphasis on clarity. Sean Malone's bass tone has been getting a fair bit of recognition as well, and for good reason; his fretless bass lines sound like they've been drawn from a purely jazz context, and sound incredible when placed among Cynic's rock (or metal) foundation. I don't mean to imply that Cynic's songwriting relies on production wizardry or strong musicianship to get by, but Cynic's execution is far more impressive than the substance of the work itself. The only exception to this lies in Masvidal's vocal performance itself. Although I don't think he is a bad singer, his fragile vocal style really needed the growls to balance it out, and the almost ubiquitous 'robot' vocorder effect feels less like an artistic statement at this point and more of a way to pad an otherwise thin performance.

Kindly Bent to Free Us has certainly grown on me, at least enough for me to acknowledge it as being better than what its detractors have dismissed it has. Cynic haven't lost a shred of their technical abilities, and fans of the fusion metal template won't come away empty handed. I'm still enjoying the album, even long after the familiarity has set in. Without the context of Cynic's past achievements, I may have been more enthusiastic about it; the truth is that in spite of my enjoyment, I cannot help but feel disappointed. Carbon-Based Anatomy included, I have fallen in love with everything Cynic put out before this. Kindly Bent to Free Us, via unfavourable comparison, strikes me as more of a passing affection. " Focus has solidified its place in the legendary pantheon, and Traced in Air felt like an instant classic had been born when it came out. Kindly Bent to Free Us offers none of that awe or promise. It's a disappointment in itself that the impression has been brutalized so much by the context, but expectations were expectations. Fortunately enough, if you're able to get past that red tape and approach the album without the context, there's plenty of enjoyment and wonder to behold in the mellower approach. Take it for what it is, I guess.

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Kindly Bent To Free Us" is the 3rd full-length studio album by US progressive rock/metal act 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.

Review by siLLy puPPy
COLLABORATOR PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
4 stars CYNIC puts out exactly what i personally like in a band, namely quality over quantity and absolutely no one can accuse this unique band of flooding the market with throwaway filler. The mystery with CYNIC has always been since releasing their debut album "Focus" and then calling it a day if they would ever put out another bizarre hybrid recording. After 15 years the answer was yes! reappearing with a followup in 2008 with a new sound in with "Traced In Air" which shifted gears a bit but pretty much carried on a lot of what was expected from "Focus" with the unique death metal / jazz / space rock / ambient thing neatly assembled into a nice little package that only this band could create.

Luckily the world would not have to wait another decade and a half for a followup. The band was ready for some serious business and began releasing EPs. With "Re-Traced" we got a taste of CYNIC dropping a huge swath of their metal sound and then with "Carbon-Based Anatomy" where they cemented the toning things down in the metal department by going down an atmospheric post rock and ambient path.

That brings us to their much awaited third album KINDLY BENT TO SAVE US arriving 21 years after the debut and 6 years after their second. Anyone who follows CYNIC should expect the unexpected by now. The band has their influences dipped in so many cocktails that strangeness is guaranteed to emerge in unforeseen ways and ideas evolve as sporadically as their songs shifting from one complex time signature to another with as many tones and styles to match.

KINDLY BENT TO SAVE US may have jettisoned all traces of death metal growls and replaced them with indie rock type vocals but the musical compositions remain as complex if not more so than anything the band has released before. It's too much to grasp on a single listen. This one has taken me a while to appreciate because it is so dense and, well, unique. Of course there is a lot of what came before but on top of the sci-fi and Buddhist inspired lyrics, we get plenty of progressive metal, clean guitars, lots of staccato, complex rhythms that fuse the world of rock and jazz so seamlessly that it deserves some kind of new designated style nomenclature.

Overall, this album is a mixed bag with me. I agree with all the others that this is not as memorable as the first two releases in its scope or intensity but i totally disagree with anyone who writes this off as mere crap. The sophisticated approach on this release is phenomenal. I enjoy every single track musically and the only reason i cannot rate this album higher is because of the vocals of Paul Masvidal which don't have the inspiring effect that the music does. The consistency of the clean style of vocals just seems a bit weak in the mix. I do miss the growls for they added some much needed contrast that matches the music.

If there were to be a huge swath of vocal influences on top of the music maybe like that of bands like Darkology or Hell, then this could have been another full-fledged masterpiece of epic proportions, but that it is not, yet i really enjoy this album a lot despite the disappointment factor and my own desire to micro-manage the project to please myself. Despite it all i am certainly not sorry it was released but i hope they can improve upon this formula in the future.

Review by Necrotica
2 stars Experimentation is one of the riskiest gambles in music, particularly in metal music. On one hand, there's the task of catering to the already established fanbase, but then there's either the hunger to expand that fanbase or to explore completely uncharted territory, usually with varying degrees of success. Most of the time, successful experiments have still managed to receive some sort of backlash from the community, going to show that you can't please everyone. Cynic's second album, Traced in Air, is pretty much the epitome of that phrase in the progressive metal world; while being a fantastic follow-up to the groundbreaking prog/jazz/death metal debut Focus, there was still a certain crowd who didn't think it was "metal enough" or more prominently, "long enough." If you were in the "not metal enough" category, then you're really going to be shocked at their newest effort Kindly Bent to Free Us. Then again, judging by the group's EPs following Traced in Air (Re-Traced and Carbon-Based Anatomy), there was a clear indication that the band were heading toward a softer direction. Hell, Traced in Air was already much lighter than Focus. When you get down to it, experimentation is a refreshing change when it's done well; however, this new record (reinventing Cynic's sound yet again) is nothing short of complete garbage.

Kindly Bent to Free Us is quite aptly named, as the entire experience sounds kinder and gentler than the group's previous records. You'll hear 100%-clean vocals from Paul Masvidal, as well as a more layered, textural sound based heavily on jazz phrasing and chord progressions. While the jazz influence was prominent on Focus and Traced in Air, it really becomes the forefront on this record as most of the guitar chords and bass lines are built around a jazz fusion framework, albeit frequently on the calmer side. However, the first song "True Hallucination Speak" is a bit of a false alarm, its guitar intro being quite atonal and suggesting something a bit more frantic. Even the groove it settles into is pretty technical from an electric guitar and bass standpoint, but then once the vocals enter the picture, everything sorta crumbles. First of all, Paul is not a very engaging singer for this album's more-distorted moments, often making the music underwhelming and pretty awkward. Truthfully, adding a few growls or vocoder singing would possibly have benefited these moments pretty nicely, but as is, the singing's not very fitting.

The music, while not offensively bad, seems really directionless; one of the worst things you can say about an album is that it doesn't leave any impression at all, and this album sadly nails it. "The Lion's Roar" has a verse in the beginning that sounds as if it were lifted straight from "Integral Birth" from the previous album, similar rolling drum beat and all. While it doesn't last long, it gives off a recycled feel about it and seems like a bit of a cop-out. Some song sections sound completely out-of-place and don't match with a given tone. The title track opts to build its dynamics up gradually, leading to an intense climax around the middle, when all of a sudden it just comes to a complete halt. The instruments die down, then drop off completely for a sparse guitar and bass segment before randomly bursting back into the distortion again out of nowhere. Why? Was there any purpose? It certainly didn't flow well, given its placement right in the very middle of the track. Perhaps if it was near the end it would have been able to serve more of a purpose to build to another climax, but it comes off as really awkward and unneeded.

The biggest issue with the album is that everything just becomes a giant blur after only a few minutes of listening. Nothing ever stands out or comes off as being engaging, no matter the dynamics. While "Infinite Shapes" has an extended clean intro that seems welcome to break up the monotony, the distorted portions go right back to the same old jazz chord progressions and the same slow pace. Despite the experimentation on this album, as it consists of more clean sections and even more jazz fusion and soft rock elements, I think the boys in Cynic forgot that it's not just the experimentation that defines an album, but what how you execute it as well. On another note, Sean Reinart's drumming is seriously underplayed here. He usually goes between 6/8 and 4/4 time signatures, and oftentimes his drumwork will simply follow a precise stacatto guitar and bass melody or just keep the rhythm section in check as Paul's lead work and vocals adorn the foreground of the music. Considering how talented Reinart is on the drums, this seems like a serious step back in his work with the band. Hell, despite some solos here and there, even Paul Masvidal is really subdued here as well. It's worth noting that a decent chunk of this album bears a strong resemblance to a certain Cynic side project known as Aeon Spoke, which does indeed focus more on the lighter elements of Paul and Sean's musical influences. This just begs the question: why would Cynic go this far in Aeon Spoke's direction when there's already an Aeon Spoke around? It brings the already-tenuous credibility of Cynic's recent sound change to a pile of rubble. This album is just not worth listening to for any reason other than to hear how far a band can fall in such a short time. This isn't a slight dip in quality, it's an avalanche. As the final track "Endlessly Bountiful" slowly crescendos from a soft progressive rock ballad into a beautiful burst of distortion and energy, one can only wish that this musical epiphany had occurred way earlier in the record. As it calms down and ends with a whimper, it's realized that the album ends the same way as it began... being unmemorable.

(Originally posted on Sputnikmusic)

Review by Prog Leviathan
3 stars Cynic has an epic reputation here on Prog Archives, blending styles from many different places of inspiration to create a sound that is artistic, dense, heavy, and challenging. It's the kind of music that gives fans of modern prog that heady, Crimson-like fix of unapproachable yet enjoyable metal. Some of the fun might come from simply knowing you've got the gusto to enjoy such an obscure and cerebral band as Cynic! Kindly Bent to Us continues that tradition, which sadly will be the group's last album, having "officially" disbanded. Yet, for a band that has produced only 3 albums in more than 20 years, I don't think that's saying much.

I have mixed feelings about Cynic's discography. I didn't care for their first album, but loved their second, Traced in Air. Fortuneteller Kindly Bent to Us isn't quite as good as that second release, but it still has a lot to enjoy. I didn't find it nearly so "experimental" or a "new direction" for the band as others described. Kindly Bent to Us has a lot going for it, it just has a harder time connecting to the listener.

The first thing to note is that overall this album is much more mellow than either of the two that preceded it. While the group's metal sound is intact, it's not as aggressive or powerful. This gives the album a more nuanced feel that is more textural than Focus, yet less complete feeling than Traced in Air. Regardless, this album still offers a high amount of dynamic and tempo changes to explore. From a songwriting perspective, the tracks are structure-less and complex. They aren't schizophrenic, but certainly don't have conventional melodies or rhythms to latch on to. It's the kind of music that demands careful listening, because the disjointed combination of sounds makes for bad background music.

There is a lot of variety crammed into the 40 minute running length, and each song has at least one stunning instrumental moment or artistic hook that pulls you into its web of sounds; though, the second half grab me much more than the first. The band's instrumental playing is very much the standout of the album.

All in all a solid purchase for those who enjoy their metal complex and highly nuanced, though I don't think Kindly Bent to Us will find regular rotation in most people's listening because of it's unapproachable. If you're new to Cynic, check out the more memorable Traced in Air first.

Songwriting: 3 - Instrumental Performances: 4 - Lyrics/Vocals: 2 - Style/Emotion/Replay: 3

Latest members reviews

4 stars Well, the Cynic have come back!! "Kindly Bent To Free Us"(KBFU) follow the previous "Traced in Air" after 6 years. Judging from the final result, the waiting has been well paid, because Paul Masvidal (Vocals, Guitars, Keys, Synth), Sean Malone (Fretless bass, Chapman stick) and Sean Reinert (Dr ... (read more)

Report this review (#1285250) | Posted by FrankPatxi | Sunday, September 28, 2014 | Review Permanlink

3 stars I think when the buzz started around Cynic's new album, Kindly Bent To Free Us, I was probably the only one in need of introduction. The band released a legendary album in the early 90s, titled Focus, that existed more in a death metal-inspired world of progressive music, which is probably why ... (read more)

Report this review (#1211394) | Posted by Daggor | Friday, July 11, 2014 | Review Permanlink

4 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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#1189931) | Posted by SteveG | Monday, June 9, 2014 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Cynic was always about change so, I cannot understand all the fans that criticize the band throughout their career for changing. I declare myself a big Cynic fan too and I always knew that this band would constantly evolve, sometimes even in unexpected ways. Finding myself in the uncomfortable posit ... (read more)

Report this review (#1153147) | Posted by Aldebaran_Well | Tuesday, March 25, 2014 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Like Marshmallow You know, I was thinking of starting this review by talking about something like Cynic's past or their influence, or maybe how this album is being unnecessarily panned, or maybe the production or the vocals on this record, but I just can't, because there really is just one th ... (read more)

Report this review (#1131376) | Posted by Gallifrey | Thursday, February 13, 2014 | Review Permanlink

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