Animals As Leaders - _Weightless_
(Prosthetic, 2011)
by: Johnathan A. Carbon (7.5 out of 10)
When I listen to progressive metal I always feel there is someone standing over my shoulder judging my reactions. Animals As Leaders is a Washington DC based progressive instrumental band who allows themselves to be classified with the "Djent" movement. "Djent", for the unfamiliar, is either a riffing technique popularized by Meshuggah and other progressive metal bands or a remote island in the Mergui Archipelago. Djent, as a musical style, shares many elements with metalcore, progressive and technical metal but usually ends up being way too emotional for my tastes. Animals As Leaders circumvent this aspect by performing their music instrumentally. The band seems to have overcompensated this position by creating a dense and complicated patchwork of technical bravado seasoned with "goddammit how are these guys so good" jealousy.

_Weightless_ is the band's second release and marks a departure from their 2009 self-titled debut. While the components haven't changed, Animals As Leaders have increased the heaviness in their delivery while allowing the progressive liquid to flow in tubes of iron. Additionally, the band has gone through a minor line-up change and now boasts two eight string guitarists and live drumming. While Tosin Abasi still heads the project, the group dynamics have changed, leading to a more interesting and rewarding record.

_Weightless_ sees the band matured and devoted to a more complex brand of songwriting. Compared to their previous effort, songs possess more depth and character without the need to impress. _Animals As Leaders_, while possessing some memorable characteristics, lacked the definition when things became heavy. New songs like "Odessa" and "To Lead You to an Overwhelming Question" shine with obvious help lent by outside forces. While some songs like "Earth Departure" still possess those unchained progressive moments of wild noodly flight, the anchors of gargantuan riffs is a sober reminder how badass this band can be.

Instrumental music has always held a certain charm due to its reliance on music as a narrative. Without the aid of vocals or lyrics, emotions and storytelling are conveyed in terms of riffs and passages. I have no idea what story _Weightless_ is telling me, but I do think there is a giant Thunderbird involved. I may be only a passing visitor in the great arena of progressive metal, but I think I found a friend I can converse with.


(article published 1/11/2011)

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