Now over 5 years since their comeback Traced In Air, progressive metal legends Cynic have firmly settled into a new sound that pretty much got ironed out on successive EPs Re-Traced, Carbon Based Anatomy, and The Portal Tapes. Now down to the trio of Paul Masvidal (vocals, guitars, keyboards), Sean Reinert (drums), and Sean Malone (bass, stick), Cynic return with their first length opus since Traced in Air, the oddly titled Kindly Bent to Free Us. All of the extreme metal leanings from their early '90s debut Focus are gone (though they hinted at them a bit on Traced in Air), as the band seem more content as a progressive rock act with some jazzy, atmospheric elements. And you know what? That's pretty much OK at this point, because the band sounds as refined as ever here, and perhaps we can say more 'mature' as well.
Fear not, Cynic's ability to create complex, weaving soundcapes remains intact throughout this new album. "True Hallucination Speak" and the bombastic title track contain no shortage of intricate passages, counterpoint, and muscular riffing, with Malone & Masvidal laying down some impressive exchanges under which Reinert delivers his always impressive rhythms. "The Lions Roar", as well as "Infinite Shapes" sees the band concocting some soaring melodies that draw from '70s prog rock as well as bands like Anathema, Porcupine Tree, and Katatonia, with Masvidal's lush vocals really setting the stage alongside textured musical arrangements. Metallic jazz-fusion/prog rock is all the rage on the exciting "Gitanjali", while tracks like "Moon Heart Sun Head", "Holy Fallout", and "Holy Fallout" offer up plenty of atmospheric soundscapes and lush, rather than chaotic, passages, opting for mood over complexity.
As a gorgeous construction of true 'art', Kindly Bent to Free Us is really hard to fault. This is a beautiful album at times, though for some it's going to be perhaps a tad too laid back on some tracks, but as long as you go into this album with an open mind and don't expect another Focus or even Traced in Air, you will really appreciate and enjoy the 'progression' of Cynic at this stage of their career. Groundbreaking they might no longer be, but I'll take this over much of what's out there today.
1. True Hallucination Speak
2. The Lion's Roar
3. Kindly Bent to Free Us
4. Infinite Shapes
5. Moon Heart Sun Head
7. Holy Fallout
8. Endlessly Bountiful
9. Earth Is My Witness (Deluxe CD Book exclusive bonus track)