On the first listening this pearl was quite a surprise `cause I expected a “real” Cynic-sequel with those awesome jazzmetal fusion. But as I took my time I realised that Gordian Knot IS the real sequel, for the fusion tends to become less metal but more jazzy, serene, gloomy, at times frolic and relaxed but always in the breathtaking musical alloy that the ex-Cynics Jason Malone and Sean Reinert have the faith and feeling for. Indian style rhythms blend with keyboards, playful strings intermingle with the everflowing strokes and perfect beats of the drums which are wellplaced and transparent. Plus there are great guest-musicians from Dream Theater, Watchtower and King Crimson. Ahamkara, redemption`s way…
In early 1998 The Laser’s Edge signed Sean Malone, a former member of the avant-garde metal band Cynic, for the release of his upcoming instrumental solo album Gordian Knot.Gordian Knot was conceived as a project to demonstrate Malone’s abilities
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Often times with music I will just put it on in the background of whatever I’m doing, be it driving or work or whatever. With Sean Malone’s Gordian Knot, this simply cannot be done. This album must have one’s full attention devoted to it to truly appreciate it. Building off of his debut solo album titled “Cortlandt,” the self-titled Gordian Knot album is Malone’s most masterful work to date.
Often times when these “super-groups” of musicians form, the technical skill of the music is superb but the writing tends to be lacking. In Gordian Knot, not only does Sean Malone play bass, keyboards, and stick, but he also composes every song, so no instrument or note sounds out of place. Gordian Knot features not only Malone and Sean Reinert of Cynic, but also Trey Gunn of the infamous progressive rock band King Crimson on touch guitar, John Myung of Dream Theater on stick, guitar prodigy Ron Jarzombek of Watchtower and Spastic Ink, and the debut of guitarist Glenn Snelwar, who also co-wrote three songs with Malone and Reinert.
Every song on the album is utterly breathtaking it its own way. The album consists of nine titled tracks and one unlisted track called “Grace,” which is actually featured as a live track on Gordian Knot’s second album. While each song has its own unique sound, they all fit together as one collective work in the progressive genre. Some may have expected a heavier sound due to the background of the members (especially Malone, Reinert, and Jarzombek), but in no way will fans of Cynic and Watchtower be disappointed. This is an album for those who appreciate music, it is not something to head-bang to or even tap your foot to, it has to be absorbed.
Out of the dozens of CD’s that I own ranging from blues to metal, Gordian Knot’s self-titled album has and will always have the distinction of being the one album that I can say with complete confidence, is absolutely perfect.
Remember those cool instrumentals with which Rush used to sprinkle their albums? Imagine a whole album’s worth of those, if they were written by a composer with jazz training. Bassist/stick player Sean Malone has created just such an album with Gordian Knot. It’s an amazing amalgam of lush textures, jazzy melodies and rock power. A couple of metal-oriented guitar players guest star here, including Spastic Ink’s Ron Jarzombek, and Dream Theater bassist John Myung and King Crimson touch guitarist Trey Gunn add some licks as well. Malone’s old Cynic bandmate Sean Reinhert contributes the drums. The real star here is Malone, though, not for his admittedly remarkable bass and stick playing, but simply because he’s a strong composer, sort of a cross between Robert Fripp and Charles Mingus, and his excellent tunes will hold up. While there are some noisy parts, this is most definitely NOT a metal album, but rather an exceptionally well-composed, arranged and performed progressive rock/jazz fusion record with the emphasis on the melodies, rather than solos. Can’t wait for volume 2!
Having become addicted to Sean Malone’s (bass and stick) and Sean Reinert’s (drums) work with Aghora (a band led by a great and relatively unknown guitarist, Santiago Dobles), I just had to seek out all other work by this standout rhythm section. The only other album featuring the great duo to be found on Amazon. was Gordian Knot. Fortunately enough, Gordian Knot also happens to feature another extraordinary musician, King Crimson’s Trey Gunn, whose touch guitar contributions (both with Crimson and Gordian Knot) make up for a great bassist AND a great guitarist. Adding to that, the album also features some ’stick’ contributions from Dream Theater’s bassist, John Myung.Considering the extraordinarily talent involved, expectations were about as high as they could get, and, surely, you’ve already guessed that they’ve been met (unless you think there is anything higher than a five star rating on Amazon.com).The closest to an accurate classification of Gordian Knot I’ve seen is “progressive rock jazz fusion,” but, as with all significant works of art, classification is not very appropriate. There’s a lot of diversity here, with influences ranging from jazz and metal to new age, ambient and world music. The intuitive (seemingly improvised) compositions are very intricate and unpredictable. They weave and flow seamlessly through low, mid and high tempo, aggressive, sombre, trippy, surreal, ‘metal,’ funky, …. passages, constantly exuding deep feel and vital energy (both Yin and Yang). Yes, there is a distinct King Crimson flavour dispersed throughout the album, but is that really surprising, considering Trey Gunn’s involvement? The arrangements are very interesting and not too dense. The production is crystal clear and pleasing to the ear. I’ve never heard of the two guitarists on the album, Ron Jarzombek & Glenn Snelwar, so I was pleasantly surprised with how well they live up to the standards of quality and originality of their more accomplished colleagues.Overall, the album is immaculate and highly addictive, from start to finish. Although it’s probably essential for musicians, it’s much more than a “musician’s album” (I’m not a musician). Highly recommended for anyone with a taste for superior musicianship and challenging and original compositions.I can’t wait for the next Gordian Knot release, featuring prog legends Bill Bruford , Steve Hackett and Jim Matheos.
Greek legend speaks of a fellow named Gordius who was made king of Phrygia. To honor Zeus (thunder god!!), Gordius tied his oxcart with a special knot, called the “Gordian knot.” Prophecy foretold that whoever managed to untie this convoluted knot would be rule over all of Asia. In subsequent stories, Alexander the Great was unable to loosen the knot so he took the easy way out and cut it with his sword (clever, eh?). Well, is this important? Maybe not. In some literature, the phrase “cutting the Gordian knot” referred to solving an exceedingly complex problem (usually by bold and crafty measures). The “Gordian knot” itself implies a very formidable challenge. And here we have a group of outstanding musicians under the name Gordian Knot. I may have been spending too much time thinking about the band’s name. Maybe it’s because the twisting time signatures will tie your mind in a knot. Or maybe they’ve found a solution to a difficult problem — combining dazzling technique with engaging songwriting through an original sound. Or maybe appreciating this music is a challenge all its own. Can you cut the Gordian Knot?Anyway, let’s talk about the music. My understanding of this project was that it was started so Sean Malone could flex his talent with the bass guitar and the Chapman Stick, compositionally and musically. He’s been known in technical music circles for a long time for his work with Cynic, the band that fused stormy death metal and jazz. To help him out, he employed Cynic compadre Sean Reinert (drums), King Crimson’s Trey Gunn (a touch guitarist with a cool name), and two relatively unknown guitarists named Ron Jarzombek (from the technical group Watchtower) and Glenn Snelwar. For Snelwar, Gordian Knot is his first recording job. Dream Theater’s bassist John Myung contributes some Chapman Stick of his own on “Srikara Tal” and “Redemption’s Way”. The end result is a superb instrumental project…simply one of the best to enter my collection.The musical content here belies Malone’s past experience with Cynic. There are no death metal stylings on this album, which affirms that the versatility of both Malone and Reinert is very comprehensive. After all, they say “specialization is for insects.” Gordian Knot’s musical world is infinitely grand, and in the end I’m not sure what to call it. I still like the term “prog-fusion,” I guess. The aural totality captures jazz, progressive rock, gentle flamenco, metal, ambient, and much more. Despite the fact that this is Malone’s baby, every member’s contribution is cohesively united with the overall vision. Glenn Snelwar is very impressive, as this is his first real album. Playing acoustic and electric, he sounds starkly original and vibrant. He steals the spotlight at times, especially with his cascading Andalusian phrasing on “Reflections”.Of course, the real star throughout is Malone. His skill is bewildering, as he gracefully straddles the line between a lead musician and a rhythm player. His twisty Stick rhythms and solos on the beautiful chaos of “Rivers Dancing” are amazing to the point of distraction. By no means, however, is this album a shred-fest. “Srikara Tal” is a 10-minute piece devoted almost entirely to a quiet, misty atmosphere, generated by exotic percussion and strains of hypnotizing melody. The unlisted tenth track, “Grace”, is beautifully meditative and pleasant. For those who like it a bit heavier, “Singularity” is a hard-hitting metal/jazz hybrid that blows the mind (even there, however, there is a slow, simmering middle section). On “Megrez”, Trey Gunn (did I mention that’s a cool name? Well, it is) plays through some dark, ambient passages. You’ll even hear Malone adapt some of Bach’s music for the Stick.We must speak with great deference of Mark Prator’s fantastic mix. Mr. Prator is a very successful sound engineer (and a killer drummer) who has worked with many artists, including the thrashy metal band Iced Earth. He can mic the drums like it’s nobody’s business, and every other instrument is warm and crisp. As a final note, in the liner notes, the band has taken a quote from Glenn Gould which should be shared. I think it captures the band’s (or at least Malone’s) mighty Weltangchauung:”The purpose of art is not the release of a momentary ejection of adrenaline but is, rather, the gradual lifelong construction of a state of wonder and serenity. Through the ministrations of radio and the phonograph, we are rapidly and quite properly learning to appreciate the elements of aesthetic narcissism — and I mean that in its best sense — and are awakening to the challenge that each man contemplatively create his own divinity.”Now I’m suffering carpal tunnel syndrome in my left hand because of this review, so I will desist at this point.