Progressive music is a slippery slope these days. There are never ending definitions and derivative genres that bands can be pushed into and categorized. Metal is definitely not exempt from this. Cynic, like many other bands has fallen prey to this. They have always been a band that I appreciated, knowing their core members beginnings (being players in the version of Death that made my favorite album of theirs, the awesome “Human”) and their amazing musicianship, but never wholeheartedly followed. It has been six years since their last full-length album, the excellent “Traced in Air,” so I was of course curious to check out their newest release “Kindly Bent to Free Us,” released February 14, 2014.
Opening track ‘True Hallucination Speak’ is a great indication of what is to come on the record. Sean Malone’s patented bass work and Sean Reinert’s groovy drumming lay the foundation for this airy jam. Masvidal’s vocal is as free-flowing as his guitar playing. This sets the stage for what arguably could be the catchiest and most radio friendly song the band has ever written, ‘The Lion’s Roar.’ This track is another bouncy groove, reminding me of something put out by I Mother Earth back in ‘96.
“Kindly Bent to Free Us” continues to ebb and flow throughout the remainder of the album, taking you though jumping rhythm patterns mixed with jazzy mellowness like on the title track and ‘Infinite Shapes.’ ‘Moon Heart Sun Head’ and ‘Gitanjali’ even seem to blend together, one song growing from the other. Adjectives like I’ve used previously; airy, jazzy, jammy, bouncy, and rhythmic keep coming to mind as I listen to the album. It seems like Cynic has been listening to a lot of Umphrey’s Mcgee back catalog lately. Any of these tunes could turn into a forever jam live on stage.
When Cynic debuted in 1993 with “Focus,” they were an extension of what they had started in Death, using gnarled vocals, but also putting their own personality into the music. As they have continued to evolve, through “Traced Air” and now to “Kindly Bent to Free Us,” those gnarled vocals are gone and have been totally replaced by Paul Masvidal’s natural falsetto. This sound is a much better fit for the type of music Cynic has created on this record.
“Kindly Bent to Free Us” is a very moody record. Being that it is another big step away from their death metal roots, I’m sure that it will evoke many different moods from the band’s fan base. Depending upon what you were expecting, it can be a difficult record to get into. But when you do, it’s a hard one to get out of.