BEST OF 2011: Animals As Leaders – Weightless

2009’s self-titled record from the Tosin Abasi-controlled Animals as Leaders was a favourite among some of the Hearwax staff; all fans of his previous metalcore outfit Reflux were not only happy with the record, but stunned by its balance of technical precision and songwriting prowess. With assistance from Periphery‘s Bulb aka Misha Mansoor, Tosin had birthed a record that was a direct result of his vast excellence in music theory. But it felt like it lacked something – fun. It was so impressive skill-wise, that it forgot to be enjoyable to the more common listener.

In addition to just being flat-out better than its predecessor, Weightless shines in its ability to pander to the average groove-demanding metalhead. The wrongly-titled “An Infinite Regression” (I like the title, but it is inaccurate) opens the record with an off-time groove, leading to a track centred around a 6/8 time signature that is not only impressive in regards to Tosin’s guitar wizardry, but its ability to be damn fun. Ex-Animosity drummer Navene Koperweis contributes in this regard – his drumming is not only impressive, but has a natural human feel to it (to be fair, the first record’s percussion was all done via drum machine) that makes its grooves even groovier.

The rest of the record follows suit, throwing enough skill at the listener to delight even the most theory-trained ear, but countering it with inventive grooves that undoubtedly brings the ruckus in a live setting. Tracks like “Cylindrical Sea” and “Do Not Go Gently” are worthy additions to a year-end “Best of” playlist for this ability (goddamn those grooves are catchy).

More than that, Weightless is quite simply a more realized record than the band’s self-titled effort. Sure, Tosin tried some things before that were surprising and original, but the self-titled felt constrained around a central idea – “I really want to put out an instrumental metal record”. Weightless does more than that – it succeeds as a record, instrumental or not. It shows a confident Tosin, and avoids being Animals as Leaders II by improving upon it in every aspect and by being more damn fun.


  1. Mark Bushnoe wrote:

    I only gave this a handful of listens, but I honestly got a nearly polar opposite reaction from this review.  I liked the feeling of having real drums and a lot of the melodic ideas felt like they elaborated more than the self titled, but it just had a serious lack of hooks for me.  I admired the self-titled’s ability to catch serious groovage without really worrying about heaviness and even sounding like the guitar is sitting in your lap at times, and I felt like some of the tastiest grooves on the first album were some of the clean guitar parts.  This album doesn’t have anything that can match ‘On Impulse’ for me.  I like the overall sound, and the overall idea, but I feel like I was waiting for something to happen that just never did.

    • hearwax wrote:

      It’s funny…I had the same initial reaction through my first few listens as well. But after that I started to realize that there is more unity, focus, and fleshed out ideas on this record than the self-titled. I love both records, but this, to me, is what AAL is trying to achieve. 

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