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Gordian Knot biography
Formed in Portland, Oregon, USA in 1998 - As of 2015 the status of GORDIAN KNOT is unknown.

GORDIAN KNOT is the brainchild of progressive metal musician SEAN MALONE, considered to be one of the most highly respected and skilled fretless bass players from the progressive metal scene. Sean MALONE is best known for his work with CYNIC, an experimental progressive metal band formed in the late-1980's, and later reformed in the mid-2000's. GORDIAN KNOT is an entirely different band to CYNIC, where the emphasis is on highly technical and progressive rock and metal music with jazz fusion elements. There is more freedom for instrumental experimentation and far less reliance on vocals. In fact, the first GORDIAN KNOT album, the 1999 self titled "Gordian Knot" is an entirely instrumental affair.

GORDIAN KNOT isn't a band in the traditional sense, more-over it serves as the creative outlet for Sean MALONE to pursue his own musical ideas in collaboration with some of the leading musicians from the world of progressive rock and metal. In the first GORDIAN KNOT album collaborators included John MYUNG (DREAM THEATER) and Ron Jarzombek (WATCHTOWER, SPASTIC INK). The second GORDIAN KNOT, 2003's "Emergent", included collaborations from Steve HACKETT (GENESIS) and Bill BRUFORD (YES, KING CRIMSON), as well as past members of CYNIC.

To date GORDIAN KNOT have released just two studio albums, the entirely instrumental 1999 album "Gordian Knot", and the more experimental 2003 album "Emergent". On both albums Sean MALONE plays fretless bass, keyboards and most impressively a very unique and unusual instrument known as the chapman stick, which is played upright using the tapping technique first developed by Steve HACKETT in the 1970's.

Biography by AndyJ

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3.92 | 155 ratings
Gordian Knot
3.77 | 164 ratings

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Showing last 10 reviews only
 Gordian Knot by GORDIAN KNOT album cover Studio Album, 1999
3.92 | 155 ratings

Gordian Knot
Gordian Knot Experimental/Post Metal

Review by Memo_anathemo

3 stars With a great combination of musicians, starting with Trey the Great Gunn, this ensemble known as the Gordian Knot have created a wonderful instrumental album, obviously remarking the extraordinary way of playing the warr guitar, stick and chapman stick by three incredible bass players: Trey Gunn, Sean Malone and John Myung. Probably, the songs have some low points and high points in each, something that makes the album not as excellent as other albums I've heard instrumental. However, it is very clear and noticeable that these musicians know what they do. Just for gist, I tell you when I heard this album for the first time, I really liked the opening track 'Galois', which sounded completely like Vangelis in a Bladerunner style. Really good album.
 Emergent by GORDIAN KNOT album cover Studio Album, 2002
3.77 | 164 ratings

Gordian Knot Experimental/Post Metal

Review by b_olariu
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Second album Emergent issued in 2003 by this discret band Gordian Knot even featuring well known musicians from prog field is a fairly good offer but in places lacks some soul. Some top notch musicians here, besides the head of the band Sean Malone ex Cynic we have some respected and outstanding musicians like Steve Hackett, Bill Bruford, Sean Reinert ex Death and Paul Masvidal aswell from Death fame, Jim Matheos from Fates warning ,so big line up, but what about the music. Well, the music is quite experimental jazz fusion with progressive metal elements added in the mix, the result is ok, but some passages are aimless IMO. The musicianship is excellent like on Muttersprache by far the best tune from the album, the rest are ok nothing more nothing less. Technical playing , but with aimless arrangements. 3 stars.

 Gordian Knot by GORDIAN KNOT album cover Studio Album, 1999
3.92 | 155 ratings

Gordian Knot
Gordian Knot Experimental/Post Metal

Review by Aspiring hope

5 stars Seldom is the solo project that delivers such a praise-worthy, enjoyable and respectful ensemble of fine composition. This one stems from the unnoticed mind of Sean Malone, bassist for Cynic. Indeed Cynic itself is a powerful group, whose reputation would easily top Gordian Knot, however, I've found the latter to be no less fantastic than the previous and not just a fragment of the Cynic sound and style.

The album draws from various contributions, few taking the star-role popularity-wise. Glenn Snelwar provides electric and accoustic guitars, beautiful and carefully placed throughout the music; adequately exhibited in Reflections. Powerful and fierce guitar technique heralds from the creative touch of Ron Jarzombek, delivering quite unique and challenging solos. Trey Gunn fascinates subtly with his addition of Touch/Warr Guitar interplaying nicely with Sean Malone's Chapman Stick. Although, the occasional solo spot can be heard, such as in Singularity, perhaps the most balanced track, in which technical drive, melodious tunes and collective interplays are easily demonstrated. Sean Malone spends the majority of the album behind the stick, as well as keyboards at some point, but those who grew hungry of the technical prowess from his signature fretless bass playing will find a wonderful reminder in Rivers Dancing, the uptempo piece drawing the most of Cynic's influence. Former bandmate Sean Reinert provides flawless drumming throughout the entire record, as is expected from such a solid musician, and lastly, John Myung joins in on the band for additional Chapman Stick in a couple of tracks, with little from his influence standing out.

In the whole, the composition is incredibly well thought and original, driving through melody and experimentation multiple layers of articulate conjunctions; all of this never, in my personal scope, appears empty of purpose, nor a surplus of over-production. As quoted from Glenn Gould, on the back of the CD case: "The purpose of art is not the momentary ejection of adrenaline, but rather the lifelong construction of a state of wonder and serenity." This one statement mirrors Gordian Knot's ambitions the most, as the album grows and never ceases to amaze in its complexity and richness of sound, for with each listen there is a gradual construction from ourselves of new elements we hadn't found before. It has been a few years and I still unearth from different angles new and exciting aspects. All in all, Gordian Knot is an intricate, refreshing and beautiful masterpiece that I can only imagine to leave the listener excited for the subsequent album (sadly, also the last in this project's repertoire).

 Emergent by GORDIAN KNOT album cover Studio Album, 2002
3.77 | 164 ratings

Gordian Knot Experimental/Post Metal

Review by kluseba

3 stars This album is for a very special and particular public: open-minded progressive rock fans that don't mind if an album has a jazzy sound and world music influences. I consider myself as a very open-minded person and that's why I gave this album several tries.

It is not easy to get an approach to this album even if the musicians are all very talented and trying to impress and surprise you. But if you take your time to give this album a chance, you will discover many details and interesting passages. The songs really grow on you, but when you listen to this stuff first, you will feel mixed up as there are many random sounds and no chorus, no melodies, no vocals that you could keep in mind. There is a great nothing in your head when you listen to this album for the first time and you might think that band really somehow plays whatever it wants like in a jam session.

There are indeed some songs that exaggerate on this point. The so-called intro "Arsis" is a jazzy tuning in of a bass guitar mixed with some moments of silence. "Grace" is announced as a live song but has nothing of a live atmosphere and presents some random structures and strange melodies in over eight minutes that can become really long and boring if you don't play an instrument yourself or could appreciate the employed techniques. The strange "The brook the ocean", my second favourite opus on this album, works surprisingly well with its random sounds and reminds me a little bit of Genesis' "The waiting room" or Pink Floyd's "On the run" with a little bit more moderation.

There are also some more rhythmic and straighter songs like "Muttersprache" and "Some brighter thing" that are easier to appreciate and could almost please to some purist metal heads. My favourite song is though the very diversified and mystic "A Shaman's whisper" that includes many world music elements and interesting sound structures.

I would say that this album is very interesting from a technical and artistically point of view but it lacks of a straight line and decides to present many particular styles instead of only one particular style which adds a certain compilation and jam mood to the album. It is amazing to listen to this album to learn an instrument or to use this album as an ambient record while you are cooking, reading or simply relaxing, but even though there are many different styles presented on this album, I wouldn't call it profound. A little bit less of all would have been more intense and inspiring in my opinion. That's why I consider this album as an interesting experience worth listening to but not as a masterpiece as many people call it.

But at least and without the glimpse of a doubt and to sum this up for you this album is simply: different!

Originally published on on October 17th of the year 2010.

 Emergent by GORDIAN KNOT album cover Studio Album, 2002
3.77 | 164 ratings

Gordian Knot Experimental/Post Metal

Review by Tapfret
Special Collaborator Eclectic & C/JRF Prog Team

3 stars Losing the name game

Sub-genre:Experimental/Post Metal
For Fans of: The first Gordian Knot, late Brand X
Vocal Style:Choral background in closing piece only
Guitar Style: Varying styles both acoustic and electric.
Keyboard Style:Some piano
Percussion Style:Standard rock kit with slit drums & congas
Bass Style:Primarily come from the low end of Malone's Chapman stick with the occasional picked electric fretless bass.
Other Instruments: Chapman Stick
You are not likely to enjoy this album if: you are expecting some monumental growth via the prog all-star lineup.

Summary: The months leading up to the release of Emergent, the bands label website included a rather embarrassing amount of advertising for the new guest lineup that included prog legends Bill Bruford and Steve Hackett. The remaining players made up almost the entire lineup of Cynic. This marketing emphasis should have been a warning sign similar to a novel at the supermarket checkout on which the cover has the author's name larger than the book title. It is not as though the music is poor by any stretch. It just sounds like a rehash of the first self titled Gordian Knot release. The exception is that there are no exclusively mellow songs, save for the live version of Grace. There is also The Brook the Ocean which has a much more traditional Jazz/Rock Fusion sound than any of the debut album. Unfortunately, it comes across as more of an accommodation to the guest percussionist than something unique to the project. The sound mix is almost identical to the debut.

Final Score: The music is good enough that someone hearing this album prior to the debut album might feel it is the stronger of the two. But simple chronology makes Emergent a less important album in the scheme of Progressive Metal/Fusion than Gordian Knot. The star power that Bruford and Hackett bring do nothing other than create a résumé entry for Malone. It is my hope that he realizes his ability as a musician/composer stands on its own without such non-sense. The album is good but not great; welcome but not essential. 3 stars.

 Gordian Knot by GORDIAN KNOT album cover Studio Album, 1999
3.92 | 155 ratings

Gordian Knot
Gordian Knot Experimental/Post Metal

Review by Tapfret
Special Collaborator Eclectic & C/JRF Prog Team

4 stars Important metal/fusion gateway

Sub-genre:Experimental/Post Metal (Some metal, but leaning towards eclectic fusion with international flavor)
For Fans of: Canvas Solaris
Vocal Style:None
Guitar Style: Varying styles both acoustic and electric. Metal guitars present on roughly half the album, but not the dominant force.
Keyboard Style:None
Percussion Style:Standard rock kit with the addition of tabla and bells
Bass Style:Primarily come from the low end of Malone's Chapman stick.
Other Instruments:Chapman Stick and Warr guitar
You are not likely to enjoy this album if: you are expecting the metal elements of this album to be as aggressive as that of Malone's work with Cynic

Summary: The landscape of Metal/Fusion would be very different without the creations of Sean Malone. His best known work prior to Gordion Knot was with Cynic and his Jazz/Fusion solo album Cortlandt. Both are highly important in his evolution, Cynic's Focus being equally so within its own Extreme Metal genre. There are those that may claim that what we see with Gordion Knot is more of Malone just providing his own personal resume of styles and a showcase of ability to "play well with others" rather than solid compositional body that facilitated further metamorphosis of the Metal/Fusion landscape. Clearly the latter is the more true of this exclusively instrumental project. This is a body of work that continued metal's push away from convention.
Gordion Knot comes with a Progressive Rock/Metal all-star cast that includes Trey Gunn, Ron Jarzombeck, former Cynic mate Sean Reinert and even a guest appearance from John Myung. Each player brings trademark stylings to the table with Trey Gunn adding some of his mixing/engineering skill. The chefs provide a menu that is both contrasting and balanced. The distorted guitars do not dominate the palette. Percussion is rugged but tasteful. Songs built with a primarily metal motif are tempered with mellow sections that allow for digestion of the complete piece. Several songs are textured with strong eastern influence that includes use of Indian percussion. The songs Redemption's Way and Srikara Tal are highly reminiscent of Shakti, the former being an ensemble of 3 tap style instruments with weaving counterpoint. The albums closer is Malone's coup de grace solo stick piece Grace, which reminds strongly of the solo guitar work of Michael Hedges and his bass counterpart Michael Manring.

Final Score: This is a project that noses right up against perfection but may not be for all. Sometimes contrast is lost in trying not to offend. The metal side in me really wanted to hear the metal grind out a little harder. But the door to opposing styles is thrust open for many that would not otherwise open it. This is more about international fusion with metal than jazz/metal fusion. This is a very strong 4 star album and an essential part of my collection.

 Emergent by GORDIAN KNOT album cover Studio Album, 2002
3.77 | 164 ratings

Gordian Knot Experimental/Post Metal

Review by DeKay

4 stars Sean Malone is among the most charismatic fretless bass guitarists and most essentially a great musician who loves to experiment. Gordian Knot is basically Malone's personal band. The line-up in "Emergent" is once again all-star, consisting of Malone's present (Paul Masvidal, Sean Reinert ) and ex-bandmates (Jason Gobel) in Cynic, Bob Brunin (Aerial Surface) on fretless guitars, the mastermind of Fates Warning, Jim Mattheos, and two legendary musicians of 70's prog rock: Steve Hackett and Bill Bruford.

This is one of my favourite albums relesed in 2003. In My opinion this album proves that Malone is one of the best bass players in the world, not only because he can play and combine metal with jazz with his unique style as only few can, but also because he can compose. All songs are great here (by the way better than in Gordian Knot's debut, more melodic and mellower).

Another thing is the orchestration. Malone got the best out of all plarers here and I don't refer to the ex and current Cynic members. His collaboration with Bruford in "The Brook The Ocean" and Hackett and Bruford in "Singing Deep Mountain" is beyond expectation.

A little bit below the level of a masterpiece. Recommended to all prog rock/metal fans. Favourite tracks: "Fischer's Gambit", "A Shaman's Whisper", "Singing Deep Mountain".

 Gordian Knot by GORDIAN KNOT album cover Studio Album, 1999
3.92 | 155 ratings

Gordian Knot
Gordian Knot Experimental/Post Metal

Review by aapatsos
Special Collaborator Prog Metal and Heavy Prog Teams

4 stars A perfect balance

Gordian Knot must be one of the very few low-profile "all-star" projects. The project-vision of a single man, Sean Malone, that keeps shifting members from one album to live performances and then to another album. A pretty odd situation that has undeniably worked out for him.

Listening to this album for about 10 years now, it does not seem to have missed anything from its initial shine and brilliance. With a line-up about which most of the big rock/metal bands would be jealous, Gordian Knot deliver an inspired album full of musical blends, a range of influences and improvisation. The "Cynic" rhythm section (Malone on bass and keys and Reinert on drums and percussion) is the rock around which the talent of the "guest" members is unveiled. Surprisingly, the Cynic-based extreme moments are very few and mainly fusion music prevails. The contribution of each member to this project is noticeable and especially the a-la King Crimson playing by Trey Gunn and the metal-fusion elements from Watchtower/Spastic Ink leader Ron Jarzombek. Both guitarists make their mark on this release where the blend of the styles produces an intriguing result.

It is interesting to observe the differences between the tracks: the album starts with a space/dreamy intro based on creaky keyboards, and ends with a mellow instrumental track based on relaxing melodic guitar themes. In the mean space, jazz/fusion, experimental metal and sophisticated acoustic passages all take in turns. Code/Anticode and Singularity are fine examples of metal/fusion and borrow some of the brilliance of Spastic Ink while Reflections is directly influenced by the 80s and 90s King Crimson era with the addition of multiple acoustic guitars that dominate the sound. The quiet but obscure atmosphere of Megrez carries the personal stigma of Gunn and should definitely appeal to KC fans.

Redemption's Way and Srikara Tal come as a surprise as they are based solely on tribal, African- and oriental-like rhythms on which the melodic slide guitars (on the former) and the obscure bass lines (on the latter) progressively build. Komm süsser Tod, komm sel'ge is another short relaxing moment, where Malone arranges a J. S. Bach composition to fit the atmosphere of the album before the storm breaks with Rivers Dancing. The track begins in the vein of a Cynic-paced tempo with various soloing guitars improvising, before going on to continuous tempo shifts from speedy to slow and back again, ending with melodic solos. Possibly, this is the most experimental composition of the album.

One of the most balanced experimental albums I have come across, Gordian Knot impresses with its quality of musicianship and blend of influences, from melodic rock to acoustic and then on to jazz/fusion and spacey, obscure passages. It thoroughly deserves 4.5 stars and fans of either jazz/metal/fusion, experimental instrumental rock or King Crimson will probably enjoy it.

 Emergent by GORDIAN KNOT album cover Studio Album, 2002
3.77 | 164 ratings

Gordian Knot Experimental/Post Metal

Review by Priamus

3 stars This is an album basicly written by Sean Malone. Sean Malone, known as a member from Cynic, great Tech Death Metal band, made with this project another kind of music. The metal has almost gone and it left an instrumental music made by great musicians. I don't like the term "music for musicians" but for this album it might be right. The music is very relaxed with great lead guitars but the harmonies and rhythms are very complex. You have to sit down and listen to that great complexity.

Also the musicians are quite known in the Prog scene. So Sean Malone recruited Steve Hackett, Bill Bruford and other for this album. If you are a fan boy of those, you won't need this album because they play not their typical style but the style that fits into the music. However it is nice to see how different they can play. The songs are all good but "Some brighter Thing" is a masterpiece. It has great hooks, great parts and weird time signatures. You should buy this album, when you like instrumental music, which is complex on the one hand but also relaxed with great melodies on the other hand. It is not the typical show off music, which is often the problem of those albums.

 Emergent by GORDIAN KNOT album cover Studio Album, 2002
3.77 | 164 ratings

Gordian Knot Experimental/Post Metal

Review by Ovidiu

4 stars After the sensational debut of SEAN MALONE'S GORDIAN KNOT,people was asking about the fact how soon a second album will come,better said how fast it will be released?!And this second one EMERGENT called came with major surprises and ,let's be fair,it's much better structured and inspired than the excelllent debut one!It's superior under all aspects to the brilliant new one,with a stellar line-up too,modified from the first one!Great manes,titans of their instruments are pushing here some sensational performances,anjoying themselves in playing some brilliant music composed by a heavenly gifted musician!The compositions are more worked and elaborated and everything-production included-is at a superior level! Undoubtedly SEAN MALONE is a very,very talented musician,a master of his instrument,and he is not only a monster in technique,but a versatile and inspired composer too!His compositions are not searching to impress the listeners from the technical point of view,not at all,but it's 100 % focused on the quality of the composition!MUTERSPRACHE is one of the most inspired compositions that Malone ever has wrote,a superbe composition with all the ingredients capture the attention of any prog fusion metal lover!It has power riffs,masterful druming rhythms and a great melodic line!FISHER'S GAMBIT is spectacular too,and very efficient,a trully inspired composition!All are very,very well done,and even the most pretentious conaisseur will get plenty of satisfaction after each audition!It's an album that will be more and more appreciated in years,a true inspired moment in today's instrumental prog metal fusion world!4,5 STARS and congratulations!
Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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