Kindly Bent to Free Us

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When one thinks about progressive rock, it's easy to imagine it as an almost academic pursuit with groups of men, armed with degrees in composition and Chapman sticks, trying to convert the secret math that rules the universe into musical notation. Playing against this seeming lack of approachability, Cynic deliver Kindly Bent to Free Us, an album that, while most definitely in the realm of prog rock, has the kind of open, unpretentious air that makes Rush such an easy-to-love band. Though Cynic continue to stray further from their heavy metal beginnings, they still haven't abandoned them, fusing layers of melody and jazzy chord progressions with searing, distorted guitar work, perfectly combining both sounds without letting one distract from the other. This sense of balance gives the album an open feeling, leaving enough room between the many layers at work that the listener can enjoy them without feeling overwhelmed by their density. Where Cynic's metal past really comes through, however, is in their ability to build and maintain momentum. The songs of Kindly Bent to Free Us are always moving forward, making every moment feel like an essential part of the musical journey and not a pointless exercise in musicianship. And while Cynic's songwriting here is far from simple, their ability to create cohesion between the many elements at work in their music is a boon to the listener, providing the opportunity to enjoy the depth and complexity of the music without needing to spend an excessive amount of time trying to make heads or tails of it.

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