I've always thought of Gordian Knot as a full band with revolving membership, though technically it's really a solo vehicle for onetime Cynic bassist Sean Malone, who writes and arranges the bulk of the music and invites outside contributors to apply their own styles to the material. The "band's" debut album was released in 1998 and boasted rotational combinations of a lineup containing Sean Malone (Cynic) – bass, Chapman stick, and keyboards; Sean Reinert (Cynic, Death, etc.) – drums; Trey Gunn (King Crimson) – touch guitar; Ron Jarzombek (Watchtower, Spastic Ink, etc.) – guitar; Glenn Snelwar (At War With Self) – guitar; and John Myung (Dream Theater, etc.) – Chapman stick.
As one would expect, the general style of the album leans towards various realms of progressive rock with smatterings of more aggressive tendencies that could more or less be deemed metal, but I remember that at the time of its release I was somewhat undecided on a lot of the songs on the record. I've never been all that big on progressive rock as it is, and a lot of this stuff was a little strange and atypical compared to my usual listening habits back then in terms of general atmospherics and such. However, it didn't take long for me to grow quite fond of the material's strong melodic undercurrents, and to this day I really admire the feeling and emotion conveyed by many of these tracks. In my experience this can be quite a rare occurrence – not just within instrumental music, but especially within music that's so technically complex and intricate, not to mention songs routinely topping six or seven minutes apiece. But there are elements within these songs that capture both exceptional musical proficiency as well as truly moving sentiments.
Sometimes it can be hard to tell which contributor is playing any given section of music, both because of the way the CD booklet credits the material and due to the complicated and ever-changing arrangements of the compositions themselves. That being said, "Rivers Dancing" has always been my favorite track on the album, and the final guitar solo in the track, which I believe belongs to Jarzombek, is simply among the most amazing and intense guitar solos I've ever heard in my life. That lead has been one of my absolute favorite fucking solos of all time ever since I first laid ears on it some eight years ago, and that will never change. Beyond that, check out the gorgeous acoustic guitars and totally insane panning/layering going on in "Reflections"; while the impressive "Grace" takes things in an entirely different direction with a lush, abstract excursion into fluid melodic ambience. I've really come to love this record over the years, and had it not been for my complete adoration of Cynic I'd probably never have stumbled upon such a gem at all.
Gordian Knot "Rivers Dancing"
This record is still readily available, and I highly recommend it to anyone with even a passing interest in "progressive" music. So pick up a copy if you enjoy the above tracks, and look into the second Gordian Knot release as well:
@ The End Records
@ Relapse Records