Animals As Leaders Go Weightless

As far as progressive metal is concerned, Animals As Leaders are making some of the most interesting and brutal songs this side of Between The Buried and Me. The instrumental three piece’s discography is full of quick moving, angular leads and baffling time changes. Any time I put one of their records on, I find myself asking how they do what they do. On Friday, their 2011 release, Weightless, was repressed on a limited run silver vinyl–which gives all their sweep picking a beautiful home.

The album starts with “Infinite Regression.” Built from a jittering and bassy riff, “Infinite Regression” shows the beautiful side of Animals As Leaders before plunging into distorted madness. Less straightforwardly metal than their 2009 self-titled, “Infinite Regression” shows influence from baroque guitar patterns and math rock-esque changes.

Weightless as a whole throws off a much lighter feel than the band’s other records. Focused more on the lead and less on sludgy riffs, the record seems poised more as a jazz record than a prog-metal one. That said, Weightless has its heavy moments, but Animals As Leaders seem to use these moments more as punctuation than as the heft of the record.

Even at the heaviest point in the record, the guitar sludge tends to be in service of the lead, as in “Isolated Incidents.” The song flits between brutal chugs and masterfully arranged lead lines. The bass heavy riffs act more as a palate cleanser for another lead line. And this is what Animals As Leaders do–they write metal that is light punctuated by shadow and not the other way around.

Animals As Leaders are at the top of their game, and listening to masters do what they do best is never a bad idea. The trio understands what can be done with a guitar and how to push the envelope. Weightless, as a sophomore album, has all the complexity and nuance one would expect from a much more experienced band. Not only does Weightless have keen songs, but as a cohesive unit shows that Animals As Leaders know how to arrange a record to keep things fresh.

The penultimate and title track unfurls with a crispness that isn’t usually found. Both on record and on stage, “Weightless” shows the band’s knack for timing and the chemistry between its members. As the track washes into the outro (“David”), there is a sense of completion both in terms of this track and the album as a whole. Whereas a lot of prog-metal bands tend to orchestrate their listeners out of their bodies, Animals As Leaders manages to keep a viscerality to their songs without sacrificing an iota of complexity. Whether you’re a fan of metal or not, you cannot deny the power within Weightless.

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