One of the stories on the front page of today’s Los Angeles Times was about a local Metal band called Cynic. Since I’ve mostly abandoned Metal as a genre since the 80s, I’ve got no clue who’s been out there the last couple of decades. And apparently Cynic has been around quite some time. The core of the band, Paul Masvidal and Sean Reinert, have been playing together since the early 90s. They’ve had time to form a band, break up and do side projects, and reunite with a new album that was released in February.
Wikipedia and itunes both classify Cynic as a Progressive Rock band, and there certainly are Prog elements to their sound; this isn’t what Metal typically sounds like these days. There’s a jazzy, Indian sound to their music that makes them a little more than headbangers. But listening to the title track of Kindly Bent to Free Us reminds me of 80s Metal powerhouses like Queensryche and artier combos like Kings X. Masvidal’s vocal delivery is all 80s. I’m not sure I’d want to listen to this stuff all the time, but it is definitely a trip down memory lane—even though it’s brand new.
So what sets the somewhat anachronistic Cynic apart from other bands on the Hard Rock scene? Masvidal and Reinert are both gay. That’s not really a big deal in most entertainment circles these days, but it’s huge in Metal/Hard Rock. Apart from Judas Priest singer Rob Halford, there just aren’t a lot of out musicians in this genre (and Halford didn’t come out until he’d been in the business something like 20 years). Metal is notoriously homophobic (not to mention sexist and racist). There’s not a lot of acceptance of difference in this musical world. Fans are primarily young, less educated, white males whose views are . . . unenlightened, to put it kindly. Although Masvidal and Reinert have been out and proud on a personal level for many years, they’re just now breaking the public barrier.
Of course, their style of music is more likely to attract a more open-minded sort of fan. The kind of dudes (and dudettes) who don’t quite fit in with the rest of the hard-partying headbanging crowd. The ones who might feel some kinship with a couple of guys who are members of a historically marginalized group. Metal fans in general feel alienated from the rest of mainstream culture; they probably wouldn’t be listening to metal if they didn’t. By coming out, Paul Masvidal and Sean Reinert are hopefully showing listeners that who they are isn’t limited to either the music or their sexuality, that being authentic to themselves is about embracing all aspects of their lives. Maybe their presence will make Metal a more open place for all people. It really is a brave new world out there, and Cynic are helping to break out of one more closet.