Animals as Leaders


Written by: MGA on 24/11/2011 12:39:31

When Animals as Leaders quietly released its self titled record in 2009, it marked a distinct turning point for instrumental music and metal in general. Most impressive of all was that the album had to be referred to as "its self titled" rather than "their self titled," because the man contributing the Meshuggah-esque djent riffs and shredfest solos was just Tosin Abasi. Aside from production and drum programming from Periphery's Misha Mansoor, Animals as Leaders was more recording project than band, and the album – while good – very much reflected this.

However, as the album continued to pick up steam and acquire the accolades, Tosin would eventually go on to take Animals as Leaders out of the darkened studio and turned it into a full-fledged band, culminating in the addition of guitarist Javier Reyes and drummer Navene Koperweis.

With Tosin sharing writing duties with Javier and Navene this time around (and Navene contributing production), their sophomore release, "Weightless," is the first effort from Animals as Leaders as an actual band. And a lot has changed in the two years since the self titled – the main difference being that djent has absolutely exploded. As with any dramatic spike in popularity came a saturation of the music scene with djent also-rans, and with saturation came the rumblings of backlash and the accusations of gimmickry. This left Animals as Leaders in the unenviable position of having huge expectations set on their second album but a skeptical base that would be ready to pounce if they created the same record that made them relevant in the first place.

But Animals as Leaders handles this pressure gracefully on "Weightless". It's still very much Animas as Leaders, but "Weightless" clearly shows a band that wasn't content with sticking to the same formula. The double-edged sword that is djent is still present on the album, but it's no longer at the forefront of the instrumental onslaught. Tosin's eight-string tapping and shredding is still there, but it's much less self-indulgent and actually fits comfortably within the context of the track.

What's gone are the more headbangable, over-the-top moments that were fan favorites from the previous record. And while they will be missed, the types of songs that are in their place represent a songwriting improvement. "Animals as Leaders" had the frustrating quality of having two extremely distinct categories for their tracks: the heavy and the soft. Because of this, there was very little flow to the record as just when one would be getting into the groove of a heavy djentfest, a soft and jazzy track would come out of nowhere and completely throw things off. "Weightless" meshes the two styles and makes the album more coherent. The heavier moments do remain – "Do Not Go Gently" has some 2009 AAL riffage – but they're accented by softer moments.

"Weightless" shows Animals as Leaders at their best, and in years to come it will be looked back upon as one of the classic releases within progressive, instrumental metal.


Download: An Infinite Regression, Earth Departure, Isolated Incidents, Do Not Go Gently
For the fans of: Cloudkicker, Periphery, Tesseract
Listen: Facebook

Release date 04.11.2011
Prosthetic Records

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