Cynic - Kindly Bent To Free Us - (8/10)
Published on February 11, 2014
When cynicism wanders clear off the map.
This is the place where one of Florida’s more enigmatic metal projects ended up circa 2008 upon their reformation and the release of their last LP Traced In Air, if it is assumed that the map covers the whole of the metal paradigm. Such is the interesting state of affairs when progression comes into play, particularly if it is so pronounced that it bears mentioning as part of a band’s professed style. This isn’t to say that the reformed Cynic lacks any element of metal per say, but when inspecting the contents of their latest offering Kindly Bent To Free Us, it’s pretty safe to assume that the eclectic and more jazz-infused character that has typified their post-Focus career is here to stay.
There is both a contemplative character to this album, as well as something of an asymmetry to it all that serves to bewilder the ears, all the while maintaining a very consonant character that comes off as almost pop-like in its presentation. One might liken this to some of the more outlandish concoctions of Devin Townsend of late, though this only serves to demonstrate how far away it is from what even a steady fan of Dream Theater might expect. When listening to the longer offerings such as “Kindly Bent To Free Us” and “Holy Fallout”, a heavy free jazz character emerges that makes for an interesting foil to the progressive rock and world music elements that make up the rest of what is going on here instrumentally, which somehow fails to clash with the heavily digitized character of the vocal work.
In essence, Cynic perfectly embodies the complexities that go into abstract philosophical thought as suggested by their namesake, and it proves to be both their greatest strength and also their Persian flaw. The eclectic collage of sounds and styles serves to tickle the senses and stimulate the mind, but also tend to come off as overly intellectual and possibly meandering at times. And while musicianship is definitely not a weak spot for this project, at times the individual moving parts come off as a bit too minimalist, almost to the point of finding itself in Radiohead territory (see “Endlessly Bountiful”). If nothing else, it definitely plays to an audience that is bored with conventional music, while still maintaining a nebulous consistency that somehow manages to make its way back home.
Accessibility may prove to be the only real enemy of this album, particularly since the name of Cynic is tied with an album released more than 20 years ago with a somewhat comparable, though mostly different sound. Kindly Bent To Free Us listens more like a jazzy rock album than a metal one, especially when dealing with Paul Masvidal’s mathematically precise vocals manage to all but vanish into the haze for their overt smoothness, yet also have a cold, computerized character to them. It’s a challenging album meant for minds starved for challenge, and may shoot over the heads of anyone seeking a formally stylized listen. Essentially this is a band that has found their niche by avoiding almost every other known niche in existence.