Cynic – Kindly Bent To Free Us
Cynic – Kindly Bent To Free Us (2014)
Reviewed by Mark Nagy
I think when the buzz started around Cynic’s new album, Kindly Bent To Free Us, I was probably the only one in need of introduction. The band released a legendary album in the early 90s, titled Focus, that existed more in a death metal-inspired world of progressive music, which is probably why it flew under my radar for so long. After its beloved debut, Cynic returned in 2008 with Traced In Air, which by all indications, lived up to 15 years of hype. By this measure, at the time that the band settled in to release Kindly Bent To Free Us, the hype was absolutely through the roof.
All good things come to an end though, and as I was being introduced to Cynic on the first single, “The Lion’s Roar,” the very thing that caught my attention about the song was at the same time, alienating hordes of fans. Namely that, instead of technical death metal that embraced jazz fusion, I was met with jazz fusion embracing, well, itself really. I recognized that, in spite of a more streamlined genre approach, the band was brimming with talented musicians and interesting ideas, and so as older fans dropped the hype bandwagon, I was more than happy to pick it up myself.
There’s something of a curse to hype, of course, and certainly an art form entirely unto itself when choosing which song to introduce new material to listeners with, especially when that new material is a stylistic departure. “The Lion’s Roar” gave me indications of up-tempo jazz fusion, but as Kindly Bent To Free Us really unfolds, so much more of the release is somber, with post-rock leanings. The closing track, “Endlessly Bountiful”, in particular stands almost exclusively on the vocal textures of Paul Masvidal’s tastefully overproduced voice.
The band is actually much stronger with its more subtle passages, interlaced throughout the record, than the overt melodies that made “The Lion’s Roar” the standout single that it was, and yet even as Cynic showed itself as being, in fact, more talented than what originally attracted me to the album, I still find its style to be one that is very difficult to fully appreciate. There’s a lot of melodic recursion throughout the record, and as framing devices, they’re absolutely wonderful. However, the juxtaposition of the different styles is difficult for me to wrap my head around. Similarly, there’s moments like on “True Hallucination Speak,” where the atmosphere of the song feels like it’s aiming to be quite profound, except I’m hearing “Pop, pop snap crackle and pop,” and now I’m thinking about breakfast cereal.
Kindly Bent To Free Us is tremendously successful at accomplishing Cynic’s “loftier” artistic ambitions, and there’s no lack of talent or tact, but on the bottom end I find it difficult to access, and lacking in a more simple appeal to accentuate the more intricate and advanced brilliance. While I can appreciate the accomplishments that Cynic achieves, I’m just not enjoying them very much.
3.0 // 5