I've never actually looked forward to the time around Valentine's Day, until 2014. If I'm giving anyone a heart-shaped box this year, that thing will have a copy of the freshly purchased Cynic album, Kindly Bent to Free Us in it. I personally feel like this is a much more grand gesture of love than any other.
Long time Cynic fans hoping for the band's return to their death metal roots will need to keep on holding, because this record ain't it. This serves as a fitting evolution from the band's most recent release the Carbon-Based Anatomy EP.
There are still no harsh vocals. Let's just get that out of the way now. It would have been pretty cool to have a contrast of Paul Masvidal and growls of some kind, but no. I really feel like that's what helped to make Focus and Traced in Air so interesting to me personally. There's still seems to be room for them, but perhaps not the personnel to do them out of the live setting. Even still, the album isn't hurting because they're absent.
The album still works really well. Much like Carbon-Based Anatomy, Masvidal is handling all of the guitar duties this round. He, unsurprisingly, knows how to accent his own playing when multiple guitar layers are present. Stepping up on this release is Sean Malone. The man has never been a bass playing slouch by any means, but there are way more segments where his basswork shines. This is perhaps because much of the album is a one guitar affair.
Then there is Sean Reinert. His drumming is impeccable as always. He knows just how to provide a straight forward beat for the other two to play over and when to perform what only can be described as "lead drumming." For the best example of this guy's monster abilities check out the title track for this record.
Kindly Bent to Free Us features songs that are unmistakably Cynic. "Infinite Shapes," a favorite of mine on the record, could have easily fit anywhere on Traced In Air. This track showcases the heavy/melodic blending the band is known for. The same could be said for "The Lion's Roar," with this song presenting a much more happy (for lack of a more applicable term) sounding side of the band. Also a great happy/techy/Cynic-y track "True Hallucination Speak," which kicks off the record and sets the stage for this journey.
There are still all of the progressive elements the band is known for with odd time-signatures, atypical chord progressions, technicality, etc, but some songs feel more straight forward. "Gitanjali" has a rather solid groove-based angle. Masvidal also seems to be incorporating more straight up guitar solos on album, and why the fuck not? The man knows his instrument.
There is also a singalong in the album closer "Endlessly Bountiful." This song simply builds and builds with vocal layers of "You're endless, endlessly bountiful!" and general ambiance before it crescendos into some lovely clean guitar noodling. This is a fitting end to this fascinating musical trek.
Over all, this is an almost perfect album from the modern version of Cynic. Honestly, my only gripe with the record is the actual sound of it. There is something wonky in the mix that I cannot put my finder on. Paul's trademark vocal effect sounds odd this time. Also, the bass guitar has an odd tone which clashes with everything else… either that or it is simply too high in the mix. I have an odd feeling I'll be in a minority being a stickler on the sound, but it's my review.
Audio stickler or not, get this one!