Never try to predict what you’re going to get from a Cynic album.
Though Cynic have always seemed to exist on the fringes of the metal scene, drawing as much on jazz and experimental rock as they did death metal, this newest album sees them twist their sound in more directions than ever before.
The result is somewhat amorphous; it would be impossible to pin down the songs on this record with one genre classification. “OK,” I hear you say, “you just want to be able to neatly categorise this in your record collection, get over it.” It’s not really a case of that though – I’m not so sure these songs entirely belong together, despite being (mostly) excellent pieces of music. A notable common denominator between tracks could be found in Sean Malone’s excellent bass work, which sounds more like Gordian Knot on a Cynic record than ever before, but the songs are wildly different from each other.
I can get over this though. I promise. Once I stop wringing my hands about this not being as accessible as, or ‘the next’, Traced In Air (I was secretly hoping for that, I’ll admit my prejudice now), I can really get into Kindly Bent To Free Us; the elegant, organic shapes of Moon Heart Sun Head; the ever changing textures of Holy Fallout; and a track that sends goosebumps racing across my skin every time, the euphoric The Lion’s Roar.
A major criticism of the album which seems to be rife amongst fans who have been listening to the public streams is that there is something off with the mix. Unfortunately, I have to agree with them. As much of a masterpiece Focus was in terms of songwriting, it always seemed a bit murky. Traced In Air and Carbon Based Anatomy seemed to suggest that this was perhaps the result of recording an album in the early nineties, but the return to an occasionally muddy sound with Kindly Bent is pretty disappointing. It does trigger some nostalgic feelings, but also makes me pine for some more clarity. I really want to hear every detail, but irritatingly, it’s not uncommon for the complex layers to wash over each over and cause arrangements to blur.
It’s quite a short album, closing with the track Endlessly Bountiful which definitely owes something to My Bloody Valentine. It’s not heavy in the slightest, but closes the album with perfect harmony. At first listen it might not be all that convincing, but with repeat forays through the entire album it really starts to grow on you – in fact, I’ve had it on repeat pretty much all the way through typing this up.
Kindly Bent To Free Us is a bit patchy in places and the production issues let down the record.
But the riddle-like lyrics, cryptic song titles, dreamy melodies and outright elation of the album culminate in a brilliant new direction for a band who have proved time and time again that they should be counted amongst the most imaginative artists in the progressive scene.