One of the hottest and most sensational movements within the universe of progressive metal these days is probably the djent movement, which has received a lot of media-attention over the last year. There is a lot of interesting djent-based progressive metal out there, and Animals as Leaders' "Weightless" is definitely instrumental djent at its finest.
From beginning to end, the release takes the listener on a journey through a dynamic, but also incredibly coherent and consistent, musical landscape, combining mindboggling odd-metered djent grooves with mellow and ambient passages - often accompanied by beats and other elements from ambient electronica (do not ask me to pinpoint a specific electronica-genre, I am not very well-versed in electronica genre category). Thus the music takes you up and down and in and out and back and forth constantly, but it is all bound together by a certain consistency in sound and approach, and this makes the album incredibly enjoyable to listen to. Most of the tracks are, with an average length of 4 minutes, actually pretty short for progressive metal, bur listening to the entire album is pretty much like listening to one long track, and it is music that you can really lose yourself in, because of the dynamism and consistency. There is also a sort of twisted sense of melody - which is particularly evident in 'Do Not Go Gently', which is a purely amazing track.
The musicianship is top notch, and I particularly enjoy the guitar solos which for the most part are incredibly virtuous, drawing on jazz fusion and jazz rock, and, of course, the capacity of the musicians for executing clock-work precise complex rhythmic figures is nothing less than impressive. And the great thing is that the music contains atmosphere, melody and virtuosic "wankery", and it is overall very expressive, so it should have a wide appeal within the community of lovers of progressive metal (I am not sure how accessible the album is to the mainstream though).
I can imagine that some might find the production to be cold and sterile and too polished, but this type of production has become an integrated feature of djent music, and I think it works to the advantage of the music, because a fuzzy production would probably prevent the listener from really enjoying all the details and quirks of this music. So, yes, the production is perhaps polished and sterile, but for the purpose of this album, this is the way to go production-wise.
Animals as Leaders' "Weightless" is an amazing effort and a challenging but very enjoyable work of progressive music, which should appeal, not only to djent fans, but more broadly to fans of progressive metal (I think that fans of jazz-tinged progressive metal will in particular enjoy this album).
(review originally posted at seaoftranquility.org)