Animals as Leaders – Weightless

Animals as Leaders

Weightless

01. An Infinite Regression
02. Odessa
03. Somnarium
04. Earth Departure
05. Isolated Incidents
06. Do Not Go Gently
07. New Eden
08. Cylindrical Sea
09. Espera
10. To Lead You To An Overwhelming Question
11. Weightless
12. David

[11/08/11]
[Prosthetic Records]

Instrumentalists Animals as Leaders have been making waves since their self-titled debut in 2009. Animals as Leaders was critically acclaimed due to mastermind Tosin Abasi’s guitar skills and after filling out the band’s lineup in guitarist Javier Reyes and drummer Navene Koperweis, they toured extensively and wowed prog nerds the world over. Weightless, the band’s sophomore album, is the band’s first group output. Watching Animals as Leaders go from home-produced solo album to world-traveling three-piece has been a treat over the years, and their transformation is realized on Weightless.

Produced in-house at Navene’s home studio and mixed by Javier, the difference in sonic quality and tone between Weightless and the debut record is like night and day. No offense intended to previous producer and collaborator in Periphery‘s Misha Mansoor, but the major problem with the debut album was that the production was considerably lacking; the drums sounded way too fake, and everything just felt flat. Weightless however sounds much more organic in comparison, especially since an actual drummer (and a fantastic one at that) handled the drum parts.

Weightless carries on with the established AAL sound and expands upon it. While there’s plenty of variance in tone and mood, there’s a much greater focus on the mellow and jazzier side of Animals as Leaders, complete with more pronounced electronic influence. The album is as technically proficient as anyone could be hoping for, but there’s more emphasis on achieving some semblance of emotionally attachable melodies than a shred-off. Of course, things do get quite interesting in the technicality department—that goes without saying. There are blistering solos and intricate riffs left and right. Things get aggressive as well, as evidenced by strong opening track “An Infinite Regression.”

The group have also moved themselves further away from the whole djent sound. Low riffs rarely rely on chugging sections to get by, and instead the guitars keep themselves moving all over the fretboard. Things do get low and crunchy from time to time, like on “Earth Departure” and the absolutely stellar “To Lead You To An Overwhelming Question,” but the atmosphere isn’t as conducive for the djent sound as it once was. Polyrhythmic riffs are cool and all, but there’s not much use of them here—a sure sign of improved songwriting if there ever was one. I mean, there could be some definite improvement in songwriting, but the trio doesn’t resort to needless crutches and filler. Songs that fall under the three-minute mark like “David,” “Espera,” and “New Eden” do leave more to be desired, though.

Overall, Weightless is a huge and excellent improvement. This is everything I’ve wanted in an Animals as Leaders album since the band’s inception. The band’s refined mixture of progressive metal and jazz-fusion is satisfying, and with production that allows the songs to feel lively, we’re looking at one of this year’s highlights.

Animals as Leaders – Weightless gets…

4/5

– JR

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