Cynic
Kindly Bent to Free Us


3.0
good

Review

by Jacquibim STAFF
February 7th, 2014 | 202 replies


Release Date: 02/14/2014 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A case of a good album still equating to failure.

Having carved their own legacy through the distortion of tradition and frequent stylistic reinvention, Cynic stands as one of the most acclaimed and universally respected progressive acts of today. Having never been ones to repeat themselves, it does seem slightly misguided to berate Cynic for a shift in direction. Fans longing for a Focus part two will not be sated by Kindly Bent to Free Us, and truth be told, never will. When Focus dropped in 1993, it was the antithesis of tradition – a jangly yet brilliant synthesis of jazz fusion, progressive rock and death metal – peerless to the extent that over twenty years later, it is yet to be even vaguely imitated. This is what gives Cynic their mystique. To expect a Focus part two is to misunderstand Cynic’s vision entirely, which is where Kindly Bent to Free Us both succeeds and falters to varying degrees.

Musically stripped down compared to its predecessors yet intrinsically Cynic-y, this album was always going to divide the fan base, one side applauding the band’s resilience in creating something new, the other disconsolate by the album’s relative simplicity. Kindly Bent to Free Us concretely marks Cynic’s migration from progressive metal to rock, the minor traces of metal that permeated Carbon-Based Anatomy now entirely absent. The band’s technical prowess, while still obvious, is subdued and sparsely flaunted. Rarely does Masvidal’s guitar work or Reinert’s drumming delve into the same kind of rhythmic complexity that characterised both Focus and Traced in Air. More often than not, it’s the bass of Sean Malone that adds the extra dimensional touches, ubiquitously oscillating away as the guitars focus more on interplay and timbre than rhythm. The spacey sections that once served as relief mechanisms are pushed the foreground, paired with catchier riffs and drum patterns more reminiscent of those of Aeon Spoke than anything Cynic have previously released. Juxtaposition of the vibrant and the tranquil proves to be the album’s biggest asset, the title track and “Holy Fallout” being the best examples of this by virtue of their excellent pacing and diverse instrumentation.

While more self-possessed instrumentation is potentially an advantage if atmosphere becomes the main focus, the lack of said atmosphere proves to be the album’s Achilles heel. Without the persistent, exemplary rhythms characteristic of previous work, Kindly Bent to Free Us underwhelms with surprising regularity. “The Lion’s Roar” comes across as Cynic’s attempt to break into the charts, structurally indistinguishable from a mundane pop-rock single and instrumentally redundant. While an exceptional guitarist, Paul Masvidal’s vocal performance is little more than a nuisance here. The omnipresent vocoder effect does little to mask the flat, dreary delivery, which doubles as being the conveyor of some laughable lyrics. The sound engineering doesn’t do the music too many favours. Apart from some generous mixing on the bass, the general sound is a little compressed and flat, partially depriving the album of the “spacey” aesthetic that was intended. Despite the production however, tracks such as “Gitanjali” and “Endlessly Bountiful” still manage to come across as surprisingly ethereal through the use of instrumental accents and layering. Though a mixed bag, the album generally hits more than it misses.

Kindly Bent to Free Us is case of a good album still equating to failure, given that it’s the product of a band where excellence is considered a prerequisite. Even at their most pedestrian, Cynic still manage to outdo a number of their contemporaries, but it’s difficult not to be overcome with pessimism when the band’s back catalogue beckons. Nevertheless, Kindly Bent to Free Us succeeds in introducing a new chapter in Cynic’s career, albeit one that is clouded in mere cautious optimism from a fan’s point of view. The formula for another brilliant album has been conjured, and this album may well have just been a rough transition, only time will tell.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
BigPleb
February 7th 2014


47338 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

Great review again, easy pos.



The closer on here is p dreadful though, imo.

Digging: Every Time I Die - Low Teens

tempest--
February 7th 2014


18924 Comments


pos can you just get auto-features pls

BigPleb
February 7th 2014


47338 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

Feels super contrived, like they took the 'dreary' sound as far as they could go so just threw in an 'epic' closer instead.



That being said, when this album hits its hits hard (in a soft way haha.)

BigPleb
February 7th 2014


47338 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

Well, considering you are better than most staff-writers on here I think not.

VermTheImpaler
February 7th 2014


1359 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

After the low rating I expected the worse, but it was enjoyable. Still, is not at the same level of their old shit. Anyways, those low ratings of 2 are a complete joke

DrHouseSchuldiner
February 7th 2014


5643 Comments


Jac ur reviews are great as always so have a pos,prob wont rate this cuz i cant give a cynic album negative rating but hey we still have focus m/m/

BigPleb
February 7th 2014


47338 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

Well not really, every review you've done is concise and none of them meander.



Most Staff on here write extremely well but don't have the consistency that you possess.

tempest--
February 7th 2014


18924 Comments


fuck the system if your review is good enough it should be featured Jacob can suck it!

VermTheImpaler
February 7th 2014


1359 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I'm only mean with scene crap fans, shitty mainstream rap fanboys, limp bizkit followers and ironic hipsters. For the other stuff I'm more tolerant and civilized

BigPleb
February 7th 2014


47338 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

You'll be Staff in a couple of years Jac, guaranteed.

Wizard
February 7th 2014


20045 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Had this for a few days now and I have no idea what the fuck to think!

Digging: Neurosis - Fires Within Fires

greg84
Emeritus
February 7th 2014


7555 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Great review, Jac.

Digging: SubRosa - For This We Fought the Battle of Ages

EvoHavok
February 7th 2014


5517 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Great writing! Someone make this guy a contrib already.

Wizard
February 7th 2014


20045 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Oh and great review Jac, I do agree on some points but man, I'm torn between "some parts being so over the top prog retarded that it's good" to "this is totally lame".



Surprised I didn't see a contrib status under your name yet : ).

MeatSalad
February 7th 2014


16512 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

Done

Digging: O'Brother - Garden Window

CalculatingInfinity
February 7th 2014


5794 Comments


Looks like I'm not checking this out then.

InfamousGrouse
February 7th 2014


4042 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Heard half of this and it was pretty uninspired yea

BigPleb
February 7th 2014


47338 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

It would be kinda cliche' to say 'this requires multiple listens' but its kinda true.

CalculatingInfinity
February 7th 2014


5794 Comments


Ah well, looks like I'll be listening to nothing but the Welcome to the NHK OST for this month then.

EvoHavok
February 7th 2014


5517 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

You can listen to Focus if you haven't already.



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