I have never gone up into space (heck, I’m no astronaut), but I always dream of feeling the sensation called weightlessness. Being a strong physics student, I know that weightlessness occurs when there’s no gravitational force, thus you’re just floating there. I can’t think of any experience that would be as freeing as that. With Animals As Leaders’ newest album, the title Weightless is very fitting; I guess I don’t have to go up into space to be truly weightless.
Let me start by giving Tosin Abasi the credit he deserves. Abasi is one of the greatest guitarists of his time, and it’s really hard to find where his talent crests off. He’s getting better and better with everything he puts out, from his beginnings with Reflux to eventually signing a solo deal, and now his mammoth instrumental metal creation Animals As Leaders. I fell in love with the band’s self-titled album, thanks to the emotional guitar openings, the insane strumming and pensive solos, all drizzled with an often jazzy feel that is shown off at the perfect times within each song.
Weightless takes this full-blown chaos and expands their sound over a canvas of spastic, mysterious electronic beats (“Odessa” and “Cylindrical Sea”) and often takes their sound into new territory, like in the rumbling, stringy “Earth Departure.” Animals As Leaders expands their sound a bit more in Weightless, including great transitions between melodies and beats. The transitions, which are smooth and often really chilling, are probably why the music is so attachable; one moment you’re getting sucked in by an insanely huge guitar riff, and the next, some jazzy, more progressive-sounding metal hits your ears, and it’s hard to let go. Tracks like “Somnarium,” where the two guitars depend on each other, and the first single, the Periphery-esque “Isolated Incidents,” have memorable guitar riffs and solos that have great replay value.
What makes Weightless so great compared to the self-titled album, however, is the fact that they’re a full band now. There’s no computerized drums; instead, Navene Koperweis takes over the duties in full force. Sounding more reminiscent of thrashier metal bands like As I Lay Dying, they fit snugly behind each bursting riff. Also, there is a second guitarist, Javier Reyes, who jams with Abasi with his deadly eight-string. The two guitars bring a lot of variety into the record as they complement each other extremely well, especially in tracks like “New Eden,” where an infinite solo transcends somewhere beyond the space-time continuum, while the powerful, driven guitar chords from Reyes keep everything dense and well balanced.
Though there is a little less emotional appeal in Weightless, there’s no doubt that it affects the listener on a vast level. At times everything is just insane, then the progressive sound chimes in, and suddenly all of my life fears are drowned out behind the sound. I’ve never heard instrumental music this well composed and this well structured, as if it’s some sort of progressive metal opera. Everything has flow to it and there’s hardly anything worth skipping over. Animals As Leaders continues to prove that they’re a band that makes classical guitarists’ mouths water (my friend’s a classical guitarist, I know what this is like).
Try listening to this album and think about being weightless; it’s nearly tangible. This is instrumental metal at its finest. Weightless is a record that showcases all of Abasi’s work and talent, along with a full band this time, and the result is something that may fully make you understand what the feeling of zero gravity is like, at least from a metaphorical standpoint. I’ve never found an album title so befitting.