REVIEW: Animals As Leaders – Weightless

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Album: Weightless
Artist: Animals As Leaders
Genre: Instrumental Prog Metal
Label: Prosthetic Records

When Animals As Leaders dropped their self-titled debut in 2009, it’s safe to say that this brainchild of Tosin Abasi and Misha “Bulb” Mansoor blew the minds of just about everyone in the music world away. Two years later, it still is in heavy rotation for many listeners, even as the release of the band’s follow-up record, Weightless is about to be released. This time written by Tosin, Navene Koperweis, and Javier Reyes (now the permanent lineup), the band’s sound still remains quite similar to their first album, but naturally features many differences.

The first noticeable difference is the more heavy addition of electronic sections. While the band doesn’t sink completely into the world of electronic music, they do often blur the lines between what is or is not a synthesized sound. Combined with Navene’s wild yet precise drumming and the impeccably staccato guitar playing of Tosin and Javier, Animals As Leaders have stumbled onto a litany of complicated textures that brings an entirely new dimension to the band’s sound.

Not only does the band branch out texturally on Weightless, but musically as well. Harmonically, Weightless is a considerable amount more varied and deep than Animals As Leaders, adding more depth to one of the more interesting aspects of Animals As Leaders’ existing sound. Still employing the thick chug riff and spacey guitars, the mood fluctuates more now than it had previously, and moments such as “Earth Departure” and “Weightless” demonstrate this best, conveying feelings not really explored by the band before such as triumph and fury.

Due to the added complexity and depth of Weightless, the songwriting has also taken a step forward, deviating farther from the overly gratuitous shredding and guitar solos to really focus on songs. Instead of letting Tosin wander through his seemingly unmatched guitar prowess, the band has opted to focus on really memorable moments and riffs, whereas their previous release was a bit of a wash (albeit a fantastic wash). The songs on Weightless do not run together, and are all distinctly different (this is not to say the album lacks any sort of cohesion, but each song has its own character).

Though it may have been hard to imagine before, Animals As Leaders have clearly stepped it up on this release, further distancing themselves from their colleagues. It’s easy to get lost in the shuffle of technical, prog, and dject bands in recent years but Animals As Leaders have found just the right way to do this: just plain be more talented than anyone else can even imagine being. Though I thought it after hearing their last album, I really don’t see how it gets better than this.

Listen to this album. Definitely one of the best metal releases of 2011.

Score: 10/10
Review written by: Jordan Munson

In case you live under a rock, here’s an embed of “Isolated Incidents”–one of the first songs released from Weightless:

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