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.