Kindly Bent To Free Us review by Cynic

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  • Released: Feb 14, 2014
  • Sound: 9
  • Lyrics: 8
  • Overall Impression: 9
  • Reviewer's score: 8.7 Superb
  • Users' score: 8.4 (23 votes)
Cynic: Kindly Bent To Free Us

Sound — 9
Cynic originally formed in the late '80s as a progressive metal band, and then took a long hiatus from the mid '90s until 2006. Since re-starting their music career they've continued to move into more and more experimental realms with their particular brand of progressive music. Since returning their musical evolution has sped up to the point where they couldn't even be recognized as the same band who released their earliest work. This only marks the band's third full length release, and it contains 8 tracks and clocks in at just over 40 minutes. The album was recorded by the band as a 3 piece, including the two original members and Sean Malone, who has played bass for the band (at least in the studio) since 1993. 

The album opens up with the track "True Hallucination Speak," which definitely seems to borrow the vibe from a lot of early experimental psychedelic rock. The rhythm sounds like something straight from some of the more adventurous ELP releases from back in the day. Like any good prog track, "True Hallucination Speak" changes gears when you start to think you have it figured out as a song. "The Lions Roar" is up next, which starts out sounding very much like an alt rock track, but quickly changing into something else entirely. The bass guitar began winning me over on this track and for the rest of the album became a strong focal point for me, as a listener. Next up is the title track, "Kindly Bent to Free Us," which is like a trip into the minds of the band, with several worthwhile twists and turns (not to mention some of my favorite guitar parts from the album). "Infinite Shapes" is up next, which seems to really play with sounding aggressive and laid back in shifts, creates one of the most interesting soundscapes from the album. "Moon Heart Sun Head" was absolutely my favorite track, in large part because of the guitar solo on that track, but also because there was something indefinable about the track that really grabbed me. "Gitanjali" is carried in large part by the opening bass riff which runs through a large part of the track, but also has one of the best chorus/hooks on the entire album. "Holy Fallout" seems like a musical story going on, much like a lot of classical music feels to me, especially the bass and percussion which really carried this track. The solo on this track was also really interesting. The album closes out with the track "Endlessly Bountiful," which is a truly beautiful track and a good track to close the album out on. I enjoy how the track builds itself up to be huge, and then recedes back to being a quiet track. As a whole, I think this is one of the most perfect progressive albums I've heard in a long while.

Lyrics — 8
Paul Masvidal completes all the vocals on the album, marking the absence of screamed metal vocals from their album. Paul's vocal style is instead clean and melodic, and oftentimes augmented with a vocoder. The lyrics are essentially what you would expect from a psychedelic experimental progressive band, which is essentially what Cynic is at this point. Here are some lyrics from the opening track, "True Hallucination Speak": "Bits, a handful of irregular bits/ A colored glass colors the light/ Warms up my spine/ Stars, flat six-pointed stars/ Hexagon like baby blocks/ I've sewn a cloth/ True hallucination speak/ Inhale/ You better get a friend to help you/ Exhale/ Against the stream/ You've got to make amends with the truth/ Glide, a living language collides/ Chrysanthemum like mandala/ Gave birth two eyes/ True hallucination speak/ Inhale/ You better get a friend to help you/ Exhale/ Against the stream/ You've got to make amends with the truth." The lyrics stay very abstract through the vast majority of the album in a way that kept me very engaged in the album both musically and lyrically.

Overall Impression — 9
I love progressive music that isn't scared to be a little bit experimental and doesn't necessarily sit too tightly entrenched into the popular progressive sound, which makes this release by Cynic one of my favorite releases so far this year. The band may have alienated some of their longtime fans lately as they've moved away from their metal roots, but what they've evolved into is still a very awesome band, in my mind. The musicianship is flawless throughout the album and the mixing is genius. I have absolutely zero complaints. My favorite tracks for this album, which were very hard to choose as I loved this entire album, but I would probably say "Moon Heart Sun Head" is my favorite. I also enjoyed the tracks "Gitanjali" and "True Hallucination Speak" a lot. I can't wait to hear their next release.

25 comments sorted by best / new / date

    The world is definitely a better place each and every time Cynic decides to be generous enough to grace us with new music.
    woah. this is my first time hearing these dudes...stoked to check out more.
    Start with Focus, it's old and fantastic, then move on to Traced in Air. These guys just GET it!
    Once you're done those, the only things left are the Portal Tapes demo from 1995, Re-Traced, and Carbon Anatomy EP. And you can't go wrong with those either.
    There's also the 80's and 90's demos before they went towards the robot-prog sound that started with Focus. When they were an early Tech Death/Thrash band.
    Thanks for reminding me of this band. I had a short Cynic period long time ago. I started out with a couple of songs from the new record, but quickly went over to Focus. That shit is great.
    ThiThis album reminds me the most of Portal, I guess because it embraces more of the 'feminine' side of the album, as well as the spaciness. I feel like I shouldn't like it. I really don't like the vocals, nor do I think they always fit the music, the lyrics irk me, and there's always the kid in me that wishes they put out something like Focus, which this isn't. But I love fusion and ambient music, and I think this album is a great blend of pop, fusion, and prog. I could see this album alienating a lot of people, and I don't think a lot of the criticism would be off base. But it's a beautiful, dynamic album with great performances. I was definitely hoping for something heavier, if not 'weightier' but it's still a great Cynic album.
    People who liked Cynic only for the heaviness never understood what made them unique in the first place. I mean, Focus is not what it is just because it's a metal sounding album.
    Sounds good, also sound like these guys are into heavey Psychedelics, they don't even make it subtle.
    My Last Words
    Focus was heavily inspired by psychedelics but I don't think Paul and the guys are using them anymore..
    Some of the most beautiful and technical music of all time. Even without the heaviness, Cynic is still amazing.
    From what I've heard of this album, the music is absolutely wonderful, their best since Focus, but the lyrics are shit-caked arsehair. It's not like their lyrics were ever particularly good, but at least they were tolerable.
    Agreed. The lyrical theme is interesting but the way the lyrics are presented is corny. Focus and Traced in Air has great lyrics though.
    I like the fact that they're moving further away from metal, in fact, this is what I expected them to do stylistically after Traced In Air. I just wish the songs themselves were a bit better. Still decently enjoyable, just not up to Traced in Air's standard
    Having heard about Cynic for many years (mostly hearing about them through the band Death), this is the first time I've actually listened to them. I'm kicking myself for not having checked out this band earlier.
    If you like Death, check out Cynics first album, Focus. It's far better than their newer stuff in my opinion although I've still massive respect for this band.
    I think they should separate Aeon Spoke from Cynic. I'm big fan of both bands but combination of them sounds gay.
    well very interesting. I still prefer Focus, but this is very different and interesting.
    I haven't decided yet if I like this more or less than Traced In Air. But damn, is it ever good!