Animals as Leaders: Weightless

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Animals as Leaders: Weightless
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Animals as Leaders: Weightless
Progressive Metal, Progressive Rock
Prosthetic Records
November 8th, 2011
Release length: 48:08
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Two years have passed with the Progressive instrumental group Animals as Leaders stormed onto the scene. Surprisingly, the group obtained a large amount of popularity with what seemed like little to promote them, and a release that carried plenty of flaws, even for a new group or debut offering. Prosthetic Records plays home to the band once more, and bring listeners the group’s follow-up release, Weightless. But, does this effort at all change the band’s landscapes, or does it share similar flaws with it’s debut?

The audio quality to Weightless is actually rather nice. The audio doesn’t really sound crystal clear, though does come thorugh modern with a digital recording touch that feels a little less-than-sleek. This helps give the music a slightly rougher edge that you cannot help but admit works with the varying Rock and Metal approaches found in their material. The guitars have a pretty strong distortion aside the cleaner sound for the solo, both working fantastically to capture the heavier nature of the music and just make many of the songs sound richer. The drums match the guitar in volume perfectly all around, though the snares a little less prominant in the mix. The cymbols ring loudly whenever struck, and the bass kicks have a very obvious click that shutters out much of the other instruments, but luckily not enough to completely dominate the mix and drown others out. The bass here is also pretty obvious, which works in favor of the guitar since it backs that instrument up a good deal of the time, adding a strong punch to the already impact making music of Animals as Leaders. And really, it has to since these are all instrumentals, and given how rich each track sounds, it’s clear that this release was handled to cater to that very issue.

But, this also really finds a good deal of Synths and Industrial effects thrown in from time to time on almost all the songs. “An Infinite Regression” starts out with some technical acoustic guitar work as some synth-driven music comes into the background to establish a slight atmosphere, continuing on as the actual song kicks in and thensome. It honestly does work with the music and does give off a bit of a more modern, mechanical environment to the track, which works with the heavier music being presented on this release. Those songs often end up giving the release a slightly darker tone, which is what happens off and on with “An Infinite Regression,” though it still largely has a bit of an upbeat traditional Progressive tone that can take you on a journey if you allow it to. “Odessa” is a much darker song, keeping the listener grounded with heavier riffs, some intimidating distortion on the guitars that sounds a bit deeper then other tracks, and often can even have a bit of a groove to the music that, when coupled with those synth effects, really makes for a nice twist. The ending of this track is enough to make the listener feel as if the journey was a misinterpreted cyber-punk world, which is a little unfortunate since the rest of it doesn’t really cater to that idea, and given the tones of that section and many other tracks to follow, such a premise behind the band’s foundation would have really been something spectacular since it’s clear they can reach atmospheric levels like that.

That more Science Fiction-fueled atmosphere that closed “Odessa” reappears even stronger with the track “Earth Departure,” and given a title like that it better have that kind of tone to the music. The track itself is another darker song with a heavy synth-driven sound at times that works to establish the setting for the song, as well as keep it flowing to allow richer atmosphere-only passages to flow smoothly into the heavy and often a little more intricate guitar work and drumming. This is one of the few tracks that can genuinely get your head bobbing along to it, as much of the release is meant to just generally leave you feeling as if you should just be witnessing what’s going on, or allowing it to take you somewhere to experience something through it’s music. However, it’s the about equally dark track “Do Not Go Gently” that finds some more chugging groove-based riffs that really can muster a solid urge to headbang along to it, leaving this one of the more interesting tracks of the release for a completely different reason compares to “An Infinite Regression” among others. “Cylindrical Sea” is also worth taking note of. The song’s lighter tone and more upbeat atmosphere, though some heavier passages exist, work well with the more technical approach and building intensity that grows from start to finish and ends on a more intimidating level, all feeling natural from the start to the rather haunting, fading end. It’s also a bit unfortunate that “To Lead You to an Overwhelming Question” has to start after the interlude “Espera,” as the two seem to sound better without that track in the middle. The haunting conclusion of “Cylindrical Sea” makes for a good fluid shift into “To Lead You to an Overwhelming Question,” but in the end you can’t really capitalize off that since a more atmospheric little-more-than two minute song comes between them and doesn’t carry that creepy atmosphere over into the far heavier song that it preceeds.

This isn’t to say that the darker, heavier songs here are the best experiences to be found. If you look at this album in a manner that would have vocals in it, you can pinpoint some shorter tracks that act more as interlude instrumentals, and there are a few present. “New Eden” easily comes off as one of these, as it’s a rich experience, but unlike the others here. The track is a little more upbeat overall with a deeper atmosphere that both reflects the traditional Progressive style of being a musical experience you can be swept up by, as well as give off a slight tone similar to the rest of the more mechanical or Science Fiction sounding tracks. You also have “David” which is another laid back song that’s a lot lighter, but overall manages to really come off rich and even emotional in what the band offers, making for a fitting conclusion to the entire album, and one of the better instrumental interludes that isn’t really considered an interlude you’ll end up hearing. You also have “Espera,” though it’s not really the most impressive one of the three, finding a more space-driven vibe amid more synth material that doesn’t stand out too well, or even really fit in with the overall tone of the album.

Overall, Weightless by Animals as Leaders really shows a great deal of advancement from the group. Musically, this album is rather tight from start to finish, and despite cycling between more upbeat tones and darker atmospheres many times in one song, the trasitions here are largely strong enough for these shifts to make some sense in the long run, and leads to a rather fluid album that is quite enjoyable. There’s a good deal of more technical work found throughout the release against some laid back elements, all of which either keep you grounded or tempt you to go off with the music for some kind of experience. The only part about the album that feels a little lacking is that not all the songs manage to muster up a strong, believable environment which makes going on that journey with the music a little less then rewarding since you feel that you don’t really get the full experience ou were promised. But, overall, fans of Progressive Metal or even Rock will find plenty to enjoy about this release, and how it nicely bridges both styles as well to the point where it all just meshes together to the point where you won’t notice nor care whether the approach is one or the other. If you happen to get the chance to give Weightless a spin, it’s a release that’s solid enough to give you a few solid spins, as well as have you come back to it on many an occassion.

01. An Infinite Regression – 3:33
02. Odessa – 4:22
03. Somnarium – 4:24
04. Earth Departure – 5:20
05. Isolated Incidents – 3:55
06. Do Not Go Gently – 3:49
07. New Eden – 2:47
08. Cylindrical Sea – 4:42
09. Espera – 2:18
10. To Lead You to an Overwhelming Question – 5:00
11. Weightless – 5:27
12. David – 2:32
Overall Score: 8/10

Digital review copy of this release provided by Prosthetic Records.