Undead Prophecies – Sempiternal Void

I’m beginning to notice a bit of a trend amongst modern Death Metal bands, and by beginning to notice I mean this has probably been happening for a while now. Loads of newer acts like Horrendous and Gruesome are quite eager to strap on the Nike high tops, leather jackets and reminisce about the good old days when guys like Chuck Schuldiner and his outfit Death were blowing the Thrash dudes out of the water with albums like Scream Bloody Gore or Spiritual Healing. Undead PropheciesSempiternal Void (Listenable Records) sure as shit sounds like they’ve been inhaling the ash of whatever’s left of Morrisound Recordings. Continue reading

Mirror Queen – Scaffolds of The Sky

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Quick question for you… how many heavy metal records do you need in your life? I was thinking about this the other day when my pile of vinyl and CDs needed tidying up. I have a LOT of stuff and so the thought- albeit a fleeting one- passed through my mind that perhaps I had enough. Luckily that thought quickly evaporated from my mind, due in part to the excellent new record from New York City reprobates Mirror Queen.

On this second album of heaviness, the portentously named Scaffolds of the Sky (TeePee), the American outfit treat us to another slab of infectious NWOBHM/ Prog loveliness that might not be the most original record you’ve heard all year but certainly pushes a number of buttons marked “hot”.

Mirror Queen’s take on guitar rock is both nostalgic and forward facing. The agreeable blend of twin guitar harmonies and unfettered wig outs recalls the days when the likes of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest were slugging it out for the heavy metal championship of the world but Mirror Queen imbue their art with an additional progressive flourishes: listen carefully to ‘Strangers in Our Own Time’ and you will find lashings of Dutch Prog outfit Focus as well as some cap- doffing to Deep Purple, for example.

There is a progressive sensibility to all of Scaffolds of the Sky; from the psychedelic lyrics to the slightly woozy and trippy guitar parts that are both hypnotic and ethereal. There’s a dirty and gritty riff underscoring ‘Quarantined’ which gives it a welcome roughness whilst you’d lay a not inconsiderable sum of money that ‘Vagabondage’ was recorded in 1975 rather than 2015, such is it’s authentic blend of progressive heaviness.

‘Wings Wetted Down’ has its origins firmly rooted in mid period Pink Floyd and Black Sabbath and ‘At the Borderline On the Edge of Time’ is as space-rock as you’d expect from a song that is surely taken from the well-read copy of “Song Titles that Hawkwind Haven’t Yet Used”.

And there you pretty much have it. Mirror Queen know what they like, and what they like is Prog and heavy metal. These are, of course, very good things to like. Scaffolds in the Sky won’t win any prizes for originality but it does win plenty of praise in these quarters for its unpretentious, straightforward effective rock schtick.

 

7.0/10

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MAT DAVIES

Roadburn Festival Announce New Additions

roadburn festival 2015 logo

Roadburn Festival has new additions to their 20th edition of the festival, taking place April 9-12, 2015 in Tilberg, The Netherlands.

Roadburn 2015’s curators Wardruna’s Einar “Kvitrafn” Selvik and Enslaved’s Ivar Bjørnson have almost completed the line up for their event on Friday April 10. Loop main man, Robert Hampson and Swedish psych heroes, Agusa will both perform alongside Focus, Death Hawks, Sólstafir and others. BardSpec – the Ambient project/band from Enslaved composer/guitarist Ivar – will also perform at the event. Einar will present a workshop which will delve into his approach to music and the extensive creative concept behind Wardruna´s ongoing ‘Runaljod’ trilogy as well as his approach and study of the runes and other Norse esoteric arts. He will demonstrate a selection of the oldest Nordic instruments, play fully accoustic Wardruna music and there will also be time for questions from the audience.

Other bands added to the event include:

Briqueville
Moaning Cities
Your Highness
King Hiss
Tangled Horns
Ashtoreth
Miava
Gnaw Their Tongues
Abrahma
IZAH
Hypnos
Verbum Verus
City of Ships
Big Naturals
Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell
Death Penalty

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Roadburn Festival 2015 Adds Eyehategod, Focus, Black Anvil & More

Roadburn Festival 2015 Line Up Poster

Roadburn
2015 just got a lot sludgier with the addition of NOLA sludge legends Eyehategod. The New Orleans five piece will join the likes of Fields Of The Nephilim , Enslaved and Bongripper at next years event which will take place from the 9th to the 12th April. Also added to next year’s event are prog rockers Focus and post-black metallers Tombs.

 

Press release:

Nola’s Eyehategod To Inflict Double The Anguish And Pain On Roadburn 2015

Dutch prog rock legends Focus confirmed for Ivar Bjørnson’s and Einar “Kvitrafn” Selvik’s Houses of the Holistic at Roadburn Festival 2015

Tombs, Black Anvil, Death Hawks and Pekko Käppi & K:H:H:L have also been confirmed for Roadburn 2015.

We’re beyond excited to welcome seminal New Orleans, Louisana sluge-legends Eyehategod back to the 20th edition of Roadburn Festival at the 013 venue in Tilburg,The Netherlands, with two sets of their unique, Southern hardcore-blues-sludge-and-doom on Thursday, April 9 at the main stage, and in HetPatronaat, Friday, April 10.

With its hateful, hopeless, anguished vocals set against extra-slow Iommi-inspired riffing,Eyehategod are credited with founding sludge-core, one of the most vital new genres of metal to emerge from the 1990’s. Countless bands have followed their footsteps, and after more than 20 years of creating some of the most corrosive, vile music known to man,Eyehategod still hasn’t lost the piss and vinegar, propaganda, and despair that fueled them back in 1988.

Over the years, Eyehategod have had more than their fair share of hardship, and recently suffered the tragic loss of drummer and founding member, Joey LaCaze. The new, self titled release from Eyehategod, the follow up to 2000’s Confederacy Of Ruined Lives, sees LaCaze’s drum tracks appear posthumously on this classic of the genre.

The album personifies desperation and addiction in the various backwaters of forgotten America, punctuated by the N’awlins sound of rebellion and pollution resulting in triumph over adversity. Come experience transcendence through malevolence as Eyehategoddeface Roadburn 2015.

We’re equally excited to announce that Dutch prog rock legends Focus have been confirmed for Houses of the Holistic, Ivar Bjørnson‘s (Enslaved) and Wardruna’s Einar “Kvitrafn” Selvik‘s curated Roadburn event on Friday, April 10 at the 013 venue inTilburg, The Netherlands.

With their unique brand of progressive rock, Focus established themselves at the start of the 70s as the most successful and appreciated of all the Dutch pop-rock exports. Fronted by founding member Thijs Van Leer, and best known for their hits Hocus Pocus,House of The King and Sylvia, as well as critically acclaimed albums Moving Waves, Focus 3 and Hamburger Concerto, Focus regrouped with a fantastic new line up in the early 2000s, which resulted in several well received albums, like Focus 9 / New Skin and Focus X.

Focus today consists of Thijs van Leer on vocals, flute and keyboards, and famed Focus drummer Pierre van der Linden, who joined the group on their second album Moving Waves in 1972. Internationally renowned for his rhythmic skills, Pierre remains a defining factor in the Focus sound. Bassist Bobby Jacobs, who comes from an acclaimed Dutch musical family and guitarist Menno Gootjes, who participated in Focus at an earlier stage, complete the band’s current line-up.

“If you know anything about prog beyond “old Genesis, not the new stuff”, you know Focus – an extremely influential band for any band in the progressive tradition that came after them; whether its progressive Metal like we try to fool around with, or purer retro-prog (a funny combination of concepts, by the way)”, says Enslaved’s Ivar Bjørnson. “Focus embodies everything that is true “Prog” for me: the incorporation of the classical elements, the tongue-in-cheek playfulness across times, genres and geography – and of course extraordinary musicianship. These highly vital legends has also shown amazing form live these days, so having freakin’ FOCUS accepting our invitation for our curated day. To put it simple, straight-forward and un-proggy: a dream come through!!!”

Pekko Käppi & K:H:H:L and Death Hawks have also been confirmed for Ivar Bjørnson’s and Einar “Kvitrafn” Selvik’s Houses of the Holistic on Friday, April 10.

As huge admirers of Tombs blackened ferocity, we simply couldn’t resist bringing this primordial killing machine back to the 20th edition of Roadburn on Saturday, April 11.

Straight from the filthy sewers of New York City, Black Anvil will hail death at Roadburn 2015 on Saturday, April 11.

In related news: Tickets for the 20th edition of Roadburn Festival, set for April 9 – 12 at the 013 venue in Tilburg, The Netherlands, will go on sale on Thursday, October 16,2014.

Set your alarm and get ready to score your tickets at 21:00 CET! (20:00 UK | 22:00 Finland, Greece | 3pm East coast | 12pm West coast).

Ticket info: http://www.ticketmaster.nl/artist/roadburn-festival-tickets/875833

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Amplifier – Mystoria

Amplifier-Mystoria

 

When they come round to writing the definitive history of progressive rock music in the UK I hope they can find a nice spot, lovingly curated, for Mancunians Amplifier. Not that we should be consigning them to the annals of history anytime soon – anything but – but Amplifier seem to be one of those acts that are held dear to the heart of the already converted, but have yet to make the crossover to broader appeal. It’s hard to understand why as they have already delivered, from the sprawling masterpiece The Octopus (Independent) to the more introspective yet equally worthy Echo Street (KScope), some sublime, intelligent and inventive music.

Mystoria (Superball) doesn’t eschew all of the idea-conjuring that they are renowned for but it has a determined sense of purpose and an effervescent undercurrent that will certainly cement their reputation and should, if there is anything like justice in this tribal, social media dominated world of ours, see them reach audiences and corners of the globe yet to be converted to Mr Balamir and co.

Kicking off with the none-more-prog-rock instrumental of ‘Magic Carpet’, a blend of Focus meets Muse, it’s a gauntlet throwing statement of intent. Amplifier have rediscovered ROCK, kids, and we should all be grateful. ‘Black Rainbow’ continues in similar vein, all hard driven rhythms and evocative lyrics and you can feel yourself air drumming from about 28 seconds in (perhaps that was just me, then). ‘Named After Rocky’ sounds a bit what might happen if early Genesis had met Led Zep for a proper drink. This, for the avoidance of any doubt, is a very good thing.

‘Open Up’ is a seriously moody buzzy riffathon, akin to what would happen if Josh Homme had gotten his stoner rock hands on Matt Bellamy’s muse and, if you will, Matt Bellamy’s Muse. Highlight of the album is the brilliant ‘OMG’. It has a signature riff that Rush would kill for and a deep groove which echoes Led Zeppelin just at the point where they became their most stately and imperious. There’s a swirling pot of ideas being thrown around here, too. This is what Amplifier excel at, the musical plate spinning, often at precarious rates but with not one piece of porcelain being dropped.

Less obviously ambitious than The Octopus, Mystoria appears to be Amplifier’s attempt to distil their essence into manageable slices of aural pie. As Oliver Twist, would surely have said, please Mr Balamir , sir, can I have some more? Satisfying then, culinary friends.

 

7.5/10

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MAT DAVIES

Cynic – Lesser Key – The Reign of Kindo – Protean Collective: Live at the Brighton Music Hall, Allston MA

 

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Boston was ablaze with amazing epic geekyness for a Friday night, befitting of an evening with prog rock mastery. The music school nerds were out in force, and some death metal fans were in the crowd as Cynic made a rare appearance in Boston. They actually played this venue once a few years ago when it was called Harper’s Ferry, and on that night they played their classic Focus album in full. No one expects them to go too far down memory lane much anymore, but the band still has it’s ardent fans, many who were sporting merch from their recent album Kindly Bent To Free Us (Season of Mist). The bill was also stacked with a collection of awesome and unusual bands, but the crowd was definitely open-minded and ready for fun.

Protean Collective (1)

Kicking things of was Protean Collective . Protean Collective are Boston’s answer to Dream Theater, and the comparison my friends is legit. Every member of the band is a virtuoso level talent, but they also know how to write a catchy, rocking tune or three. The early crowd was full and packed at the front, hanging on the bands’ every note. When they played ‘Caldera’ off of their recently released The Red and The Grey album, there was an audible recognition in the crowd, as if everyone all said “ah, they are playing my jam!”, all at once. The entire band was impressive, but as usual we were watching drummer Matt Zappa from the far side of the stage. He was just crushing on this night. If you love progressive metal, do not sleep on this band! Coming up next was Buffalo, New York’s The Reign of Kindo. Playing a spastic mix of jumbled styles from Jazz, to Afro-Cuban, to funk, to pop, to rock; these guys interchanged styles like you wouldn’t believe. They were really phenomenal singers too, everyone of them. Their ability to share the wealth musically was very impressive, but ultimately they were not really my thing. A little too much pop cuteness, but still, you have to give it up to them for the level of musicianship and fun they bring to the table.

The Reign of Kindo (2)

 

Everyone in the house seemed to be repping Lesser Key tonight, equally hard as Cynic in fact. This really surprised me, since I consider Lesser Key still somewhat of an underground band. I suppose it would be hard to keep secret a prog metal band with a founding member of Tool as their bassist, Paul D’Amour. While most of the press focuses on this factoid, the real story is their brilliant self-titled debut EP (Sumerian) and their dynamic stage show. It’s hard not to be transfixed by front man Andrew Zamudio, with his haunting voice and performance. He is what I would term “a singer’s singer”; capable of anything. The band plays their take on post-metal/prog-metal with dynamic swells and peaks, with droning licks followed by crunching riffage. The band put on a performance worthy of a headliner, not an easy feat on this night. I don’t believe the band has toured all that much either so the amount of people in the crowd singing a long was surprising to me. I’m just glad there weren’t idiots out there yelling at Paul to play Tool songs, like I imagined. I applaud him for carving his own path and leading this new project. I for one am looking forward to more new music from them soon.

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Earlier in the night hanging outside of the venue, I bumped into Sacha Dunable, the affable singer of Intronaut and a few other bands. Sacha was teching on this tour for Cynic and he agreed with me when I claimed it must be just an experience working with Paul Masvidal on any level. They guy has a pure spirit and he is genius guitar player as we were about to find see. Armed only with a cool video screen and some clever sound clips between songs, Cynic was here to play some prog rock tonight and blow some minds. They did just that! Opening with ‘True Hallucination Speak’ the place went wild at the atypical opening song. Cynic has become a band focused on the overall sonic picture, not just a little feature piece here and there. Master musicians and performers don’t have to fall prey to the trappings of the comfortable after all. The band is always excellent live, but now was buoyed by the presence and monster bass playing of Sean Malone. As a huge prog fan and bassist, I have waited my entire adult life to see Sean effortlessly express himself in a live setting. Damn, he was flawless! Naturally Paul’s playing and singing were exemplary. If you look clearly at Paul’s fret hand, I think there is an face-sucker from Alien trying to break out of his forearm muscles and kill someone! Max Phelps has also grown into a nice compliment to Paul too over the last few years, and chipped in some occasional growls, much to the delight of the long-hairs in the room

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The set list was beautifully constructed. I joked that after ‘Veil of Maya’ from Focus was performed, the death metal heads in the room could go home. Hopefully, people stuck around. Sean Reinert has never sounded better and he was just insanely tight on the older material, especially. He seems to be in about the best shape of his life too, as he never seem to tire. There were truly some magical numbers played tonight as ‘Carbon-Based Anatomy’, ‘Integral’, ‘This Space for This’, and ‘Gitanjali’ put a smile on a lot of faces. Keeping in fashion with their approach, they closed with two new songs that went over as big as anything else they did earlier. See, Cynic fans get it, and Cynic doesn’t need haters to play along if they choose not to. I’d surmise that you would be hard pressed to find a better collection of musicians, rocking out for as appreciative a crowd as I witnessed tonight.

 

[slideshow_deploy id=’8316′]

Cynic Set List:

True Hallucination Speak

Evolutionary Sleeper

Carbon-Based Anatomy

Moon Heart Sun Head

Veil of Maya

Integral

The Space for This

Gitanjali

Textures

The Lion’s Roar

Encore:

Kindly Bent to Free Us

 

Cynic on Facebook

Lesser Key on Facebook

The Reign of Kindo on Facebook

Protean Collective on Facebook

 

 

 

WORDS BY KEITH CHACHKES

PHOTOS BY MEG LOYAL PHOTOGRAPHY

 

Cynic to Embark on Second Leg of Headline Tour Soon

 

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One of the more underrated tours this summer so far that definitely should be getting a bigger buzz is the Cynic headline tour. On the strength of their excellent new album Kindly Bent To Free Us (Season of Mist) the band is embarking on coast to coast jaunt and taking with them some exciting bands to boot. Ghost Cult will be catching this tour in a few weeks near our HQ in Boston. Lucky for us Bostonians we have an abundance of great progressive music in this town with Berkelee School of Music and several prestigious local conservatoires. The second leg kicks off soon, so we will truly have a Prog Metal party in this town  on the night of August 9th.

 

 

Kindly Bent To Free Us was our Album of The Month for March this year. As Cynic main man Paul Masvidal told Ghost Cult in a wide ranging interview for the cover of Issue #16, Cynic was never intended to be a band that re-made their seminal Focus album over and over:

 

I mean it’s funny, because it’s the same attitude I have right now, the mindset I have right now, this is the same person that created Focus. They want us to to recreate a sound would have never happened had I not been this person. It contradicts the very nature of the band to try and play it safe, do something familiar, repeat a pattern, stay in a cocoon, of “we found a sound, let’s just recycle it”. That goes against everything this band represented. Especially at the beginning with Focus, we were going against the grain. Everyone was offended and everyone was confused, we had a really hard time back then. It took a while for people to come around and realize there was something there. And now they want to keep you in the same place. It’s the eternal dilemma that every artist goes through, that has a work that maybe it’s received well. It represents a time and place, and has a sort of historical reference, and people want to keep you there. They are forgetting, we change too. We evolve. Art is not a static thing. It is alive. The very nature of Cynic is to honor that process of being open and having skill as a musician, enough to develop a voice that keeps expanding and exploring. For me anything but that, would be the death of this project. It is all about a platform for freedom and exploration. Art is not a thing, it’s changing. That is how I view it. I can’t imagine it any other way.”

GC 16 front cover

 

Cynic is not to be missed live and still pulls out many an old gem live from the Focus era. In addition to drummer Sean Reinert, Cynic is joined by bassist extraordinaire Sean Malone who rarely has toured with the band, in spite of playing on every recording the band has made. Joining Cynic that night will be three other bands. The atmospheric, piano driven jazzy alt-rock of The Reign of Kindo will surely mellow out the crowd ready to rock out. Meanwhile Lesser Key will thrill fans of bands as diverse as Failure and Pelican. Lesser Key has among its ranks former Tool bassist/co-founder Paul D’Amour. And last and not least, local Boston prog metal heroes Protean Collective are opening the bill. They are still supporting their recent epic album The Red and the Grey and are calling your name if you like Scale The Summit and other modern prog bands.

 

 

 

Buy tickets to this show!

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Driven By Art – Paul Masvidal of Cynic

masvidal in studio

Some bands just conjure a frame of mind as much as a sound when you think of them. Just the name Cynic calls to mind a unique and bold sound the band has laid down in their storied career. Few too many bands these days challenge you mentally and spiritually, they way this band has. One of the leading lights of progressive metal and prog rock, their influence on two generations of bands is undeniable, and they are gladly back with us, making new music again. Their new album, only their third full-length, Kindly Bent To Free Us (Season of Mist) takes the listener on a mental and metaphysical sonic journey. Chatting with Ghost Cult chief editor Keith Chachkes at length about new music, the process of creating art, lyrical inspirations and many other topics is guitarist/vocalist Paul Masvidal. Paul casts a striking figure as a person who is more than just a creative force, but a an enlightened, modern artist who is trying to get us all on the same wavelength.

 

Since Cynic’s rebirth with 2008s Traced In Air (Season of Mist), the band has been slowly building up to another full-length release. From the experimental Re-Traced EP, to last year’s Carbon Based Anatomy, the band is not interested in repeating itself in any way. Paul goes on to discuss at length the process the band goes through to make a new music: “This is a record that has been a long time coming. We released a couple things in-between our last full-length, and we did a lot of touring, but I think the real buckled down days were this past year. Essentially, we delivered it last summer, after the last official tour ended, which was December of 2011 for Carbon Based Anatomy. So, it’s been a couple years. Maybe eighteen months since we’ve had this tunnel vision, delivered the record, and just trying to get it done. For me it’s just another chapter in our story. It’s hard for me to speak objectively about this music, because I just feel way too close to it. I’m excited about the songs. It’s a great collection of material. It has everything that we were going for. It does what we wanted it to do. It took a while for us to reach that place for it. When we go into the studio there is an organic way we cultivate something, that just has to happen for us. I don’t know what else to say. In terms of the art in general, it’s so subjective that it is always odd for me to try and talk about it, first person.”

Cynic_KBtFU_2014 album cover

There are bands, and then there are bands making artistic statements. Cynic certainly takes it to that level with every element of their beings. Paul of course, embodies this spirit fully, and while he is mindful of the process it takes to create this music, he doesn’t do it for the accolades: “It is just one of those things, you are doing this regardless of what all of the outcomes are. At the end of the day this is really just pure in process, driven by art. The feeling that comes from making art that drives the whole thing. It’s not the best sounding thing to say from a promotional standpoint. (laughs) That metaphor that goes ‘it’s not about the goal, it’s the journey’. It’s the nature of where this stuff comes from. We are all kind of in that head space. It’s nice to have it be loved and shared, and I want as many people as possible to hear it, but at the end of the day, that’s not what drives the process. So it feels like it’s all icing, it’s a nice thing, but again especially when the response is all positive, I try to avoid all research and reviews. I just get a sense of stuff occasionally from a friend, or someone that is filtering things for me, of how it’s going, but this isn’t going to effect what I’m doing. I just try to keep my head. I’m doing it because I love doing it, and not to get caught up in results or outcomes. Obviously there’s aspirations, but it’s not dictating the process or based on that. You just want it to have a healthy life. These songs, the music you write, especially to a songwriter, these songs are like your children. You want these kids to be loved, and for the world to accept them. To do something, not for some reciprocal process. It benefits us, just making the record. Really it’s the idea the genuine interest in having it be appreciated. As appreciated as any artist would want with their work to be, but again, that’s not the end goal. It’s just a by product.”

We chatted about the perception of the band, and how much the band is debated about in the public sphere of heavy music fans. If somehow Cynic has changed too much from its earliest efforts, being measured against your past, and the sometimes unfair expectations of fans, Paul has his own feelings on this:

I mean it’s funny, because it’s the same attitude I have right now, the mindset I have right now, this is the same person that created Focus. They want us to to recreate a sound would have never happened had I not been this person. It contradicts the very nature of the band to try and play it safe, do something familiar, repeat a pattern, stay in a cocoon, of “we found a sound, let’s just recycle it”. That goes against everything this band represented. Especially at the beginning with Focus, we were going against the grain. Everyone was offended and everyone was confused, we had a really hard time back then. It took a while for people to come around and realize there was something there. And now they want to keep you in the same place. It’s the eternal dilemma that every artist goes through, that has a work that maybe it’s received well. It represents a time and place, and has a sort of historical reference, and people want to keep you there. They are forgetting, we change too. We evolve. Art is not a static thing. It is alive. The very nature of Cynic is to honor that process of being open and having skill as a musician, enough to develop a voice that keeps expanding and exploring. For me anything but that, would be the death of this project. It is all about a platform for freedom and exploration. Art is not a thing, it’s changing. That is how I view it. I can’t imagine it any other way.”

cynic rehearsal 2

 

Acknowledging that we are at a zenith of popularity and relevance for progressive rock and metal, Paul took some time to reflect with us on his peers, and other bands that Cynic has inspired across several sub-genres. He remains as humble as ever and bristles at the notion that he somehow he should take a little more credit where credit is due: “It goes back to… there was an article, and this was years ago, where Meshuggah mentioned us in Rolling Stone, maybe ten tears ago. And Mikael from Opeth telling me “there would be no Opeth, if it wasn’t for Cynic.” I’m not trying to take credit, but it’s obvious that there was a mutual respect and admiration as colleagues. When I follow these bands that are doing well, like an Opeth or Meshuggah, or even the next generation of bands; like Between The Buried And Me, The Ocean; some of these new, experimental progressive bands that are almost post-metal hybrids, but very schooled; it’s an honor. I think it was Emerson who said “the end goal of any artist is to inspire another artist.” That is really the greatest gift you have and opportunity you can give as an artist. That is the job of art, to help inspire others to make more art. If we achieved this to even a slight degree, it’s pretty cool. I am in awe of that. I never imagined it would turn out this way. I never thought about in those terms, I just wanted to make cool art. It’s awesome. It’s a testimony to following your gut, against all odds. Trusting your instincts. Just being a weirdo, and knowing it, and just believing okay with that. We never fit in anywhere. We were outcasts, nerdy kids, living in south Florida, who didn’t belong in any particular scene. We went with whatever we were doing, and I don’t know how it happened except our own stubbornness and willingness to just go off on a limb. To put everything aside and say this is what makes us feel alive. We’ve all had odd jobs and other things to make a living, but this is the thing fuels our existence and gives us a better sense of purpose. Against all odds, we gave this everything we had. We really have been lucky to be able to do what we love. The rest will take care of itself. The end result of this seemingly selfish endeavor helps and inspires artists to make more art. To me, what greater honor is there, really? It’s pretty damn cool.”

 

Although since reforming, Paul has clearly been leading the vision of the band, as a whole the songwriting process is a collaborative as ever between the players. The contributions of Reinert and Malone in creating the music cannot be understated either: “Since Traced In Air, we’ve generally stuck to the same process. I flesh out songs on an acoustic level, just like a little folk ditties. I could play them all right now. Once I am content with it, I make a demo. I make a lot of demos for the guys actually, and we filter those demos and see what they organically gravitate towards. We usually write a lot of songs. And we basically filter as we go. Usually we start off with a lot of songs and narrow it down to what sounds like an album. And this could be lots of songs, whatever I am working on, because I am writing constantly. Then we basically we curate these songs, and we generate an album based on existing material. Once we do that, we’ll jam and we will flush out rhythmically the aspects and tempos to do another layer of refining and editing. Once we get past that, we cut another demo, at least two or three preproduction demos. Once we all feel like we have pushed it until we have what we going for, or a state of wholeness, since we never really feel done. (laughs) But we find out where everyone feels solid about what they are doing individually. Then we book a date and go cut a record. These things take time. The big thing with me in the context of writing for Cynic, is giving it space. I like to write, and step away and then take a look back. Tweak this and tweak that. It’s like the weather. The mind changes like the weather. Your mood changes like the weather. It’s nice to reference it through those moods. If it survives what I call the “mind weather experiment”, if it survives those waves, you have something substantial. I put it through that process, even at the demo stage, before the guys even hear the songs. It a constant, on-going disassembly and assembly process, deconstructing and reconstructing on multiple levels. It’s art! Trying to understand what it is, you never understand what it is. I don’t know what’s happening here. We are just showing up. You just make it. It’s pretty abstract. We’re not German about it! (laughs) There’s no manual. It’s very free and messy. My studio turns into a fucking pigsty every time I make a record. It’s a mess, there’s papers every where, and it looks like crap. I just get lost in it. I just held a little party at my house as just my way of saying farewell to the album, and releasing it out into the world; and one of my friends emailed me and said “so that’s where you’ve been hiding!” I don’t even realize it. You just fall off the grid because you are caught up in your process. But it’s cool. What else is there to do?” (laughs)

 

Kindly Bent To Free Us isn’t exactly a concept album, but Paul’s own journey in his life certainly colors the themes that encompass his lyrics and stories.

This album is not a concept album, per se. The general running theme certainly is the nature of the mind, and our relationship to it. It’s mostly third person, some of it is personal and sometimes it’s first person. And it’s really looking at that dynamic. Essentially, this mind of ours is our greatest source of suffering and pain in the world, but also ultimately it can be the source of our liberation. It’s the paradox of the mind. Like Zen Buddhism. It’s just these meaningless riddles you keep asking yourself, like a mantra. Seeing beyond the intellect and beyond the ego and the self. Just a lot of that. Just looking inward and trying to make sense of what is going on. Each song is a varying degree of exploring that. They all explore the density of “who am I, and what’s going on here?” A lot of the album is about learning to let go. And learning to ride the waves. It’s like the metaphor of the album title, Kindly Bent To Free Us. A lot of it is from the Tao Te Jing (by Lao Su), the Chinese text, all those metaphors. Letting go, riding the waves, trees branches swaying in the wind. We must learn to bend. The stiff branches break. It’s a recipe for living. Whether we like it or not. It seems like the more unwilling we are to bend, the more we suffer, that is what is going on in your mind. It is going on around you, regardless. But we are forced to bend. We change. The nature of reality is that it is your friend. It is never conspiring against you. This war is in your mind. Being alive is a precious gift. We are lucky to be here. There’s more of that, it’s a state of mind. A state of gratitude. It’s just what is in my head right now. That is the closest I can get to it.

 

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In and around writing and recording Cynic music, Masvidal and Reinert have spent the last few years with the Death To All tour and band, formed by Death manager/producer Eric Grief. The first iteration of the tour was an all-star cast from every lineup of the band. Last year’s tour focused on the Human lineup and album. The enduring popularity of the music of Chuck Schuldiner, and Paul and Sean’s tenure in the band certainly have brought some enjoyment in hearing those classic songs live and a little closure to the fans and the players from Chuck’s unfortunate passing.

We’ve done a couple of big US runs, a big city tour. Then we did a smaller tour, all the b-markets. And we’ve done Europe. I think we are going to do one more run this summer with a handful of big festival dates and that is it. Maybe South America and Asia too, but I’m not sure. I didn’t anticipate the reaction. Chuck’s work has grown and became bigger than ever since his passing. A whole new generation of people that want to connect with it. We are doing the closest thing to it. Three of the original guys and Max (Phelps, from Cynic’s live band) doing the vocals and singing. He nailed it. He feels and sounds a lot like classic Chuck. It’s pretty uncanny. I’ve been having a good time. It’s really liberating to get up there with a wireless guitar rig and play Death songs, which are fairly easy for me. It’s an unorthodox thing. For me it’s more of an endurance thing. Here we are… I made that record when I was 18-19, I never would have anticipated twenty plus years later, I’m touring it. Especially post- Chuck’s life. The whole thing is surreal. There is a sensitivity to it. You can only take this so far. You do the work, you spread his music and share it with the world, and that’s it. We’ll see. That is what is going on, we’re trying to enjoy it. They are quick runs. It’s fun! Not a gigantic commitment, since it is not an ongoing project and there is no new music. It’s fun to get out there and play this brutal death metal, since I haven’t been in that head-space for a long time. I find it therapeutic and cathartic. I’m in such a different place as an artist and musician, when I do that stuff , I get a weird sense of purging. Like an intense workout or some kind of vigorous exercise. A vigorous intensity that has been really healthy for me to explore, this other side.

 

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Keith (Keefy) Chachkes