Cynic – Kindly Bent To Free Us (Season of Mist)

Tuesday, 11th February 2014
Rating: 10/10

Perhaps the most profound moment of my many hereto listens of Kindly Bent To Free Us came while walking the streets of Monterey overlooking the bay to opener “True Hallucination Speak”: a feeling of being surrounded with a seemingly infinite layers of unreality but nevertheless being at peace with every one of them. A work by a band that’s wholly in line with previous works and a testament to perpetual growth, Kindly Bent To Free Us is…something else. More melodic than anything previous but also more ornate, more densely layered, more indulgent, even.

The album is many things, foremost a complete and bloody revenge by bassist Sean Malone, who featured prominently on bright initial single “The Lion’s Roar” (seriously, it’s a happy sounding piece of work!) but he doesn’t stop there. Bass has always been a pillar of the Cynic experience but for whatever reason, didn’t seem to feature as heavily on Traced In Air – not so here. Bass dominates some songs, not only in the mix, but as an expression of the album’s melodic focus and often times as a lead instrument, such as the title track (which carries a very Focus-era vibe throughout).

The mellowing of the band, which was only loosely ‘metal’ in a bruising sense to begin with, has reached something of a complete transition here. Fortunately the harsh vocals, which at times felt arbitrary on Traced In Air are completely gone now, leaving only the soothing croons of Paul Masvidal, which only sometimes find themselves under the guise of robotic processing. Do not mistake the melodic focus on a turn for accessibility, for Kindly Bent To Free Us is arguably the densest Cynic album yet and takes awhile to sink in and reveal its many layers. The progressive aspect is kicked into stratospheric levels here with time changes and melody shifts constantly in overlapping motion.

Another über-heavyweight of 2014, Kindly Bent To Free Us is a rare piece that reaches the hype that precedes it and, in surprising fashion, manages to destroy whatever expectations remained. The spirituality, the love of the abstract and elaborate, the pulsing and ornate instrumentation and absurd melodicism. They’re all here and they’re all intoxicating. Kindly Bent To Free Us is something else entirely from what you or anyone else is likely to find in metal this year. It’s Cynic, 20 years later.

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