"Too many notes...". Emperor Joseph II said this in the film 'Amadeus' about Mozart's music. To be fair, he also called it "genius". Mozart was taken aback by this, but then regained his composure and turned the tables on the good Emperor by asking exactly which notes he should remove. He, of course, had no answer because he was not a musician...or a genius.
Instrumental prog Metal played with an insane amount of dexterity and technique often elicits the same response. On first listen, one might say these things about Animals As Leaders. They might praise the skill the band exhibits, but at the same time dismiss it as noodly wankery. But if you listen to the whole album, you'll find this simply isn't the case.
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Sure these guys can play circles around most musicians, but they also have a knack for writing catchy melodies that you'll find yourself humming to yourself long after the music has stopped.
This is the second album from Washington DC's Animals As Leaders, a band that was built around the guitar playing of Tosin Abasi. The first album was originally conceived as a solo recording done after his earlier band Reflux had fallen apart, but evolved into the band that exists today. Abasi played all the guitar and most of the bass parts on the self-titled debut, but wanted the next record to be more of a collaborative effort.
Enter Javier Reyes on guitar and Navene Koperweis on drums and you have the band that recorded 'Weightless'. Now, if you were paying attention, you may have noticed that Tosin plays guitar, as does Javier, so you're asking yourself: who plays bass? Between the two of them they have sixteen strings, so they've got that covered...and then some.
The other things added into the mix are a healthy dose of electronica-inspired drum beats and guitar effects. They give the music a futuristic sound that's not altogether out of place when the musicians appear to be from another planet.
The first album featured lots of ultra smooth guitar lines, and it had more of a jazz fusion attack that was easy on the ears (think Stanley Jordan or Stanley Clarke). 'Weightless' ups the metallic ante and mixes in more than a little Meshuggah with its downtuned chug. That's not to say there's no jazz element to 'Weightless'. 'To Lead You To An Overwhelming Question' has a particularly jazz-inspired section that surfaces out of some of the fastest and heaviest playing on the album. It's little surprises like this that keep you on your toes while listening...with your ears...are you following this?
There's so much to take in here that you'll find yourself playing and replaying 'Weightless' for weeks and never getting bored. If you enjoy this kind of instrumental prog Metal, you should also check out their label mates Scale The Summit, who have also released two albums on Prosthetic. The first band that came to mind when I heard this, though, was the Sean Malone-led Gordian Knot. Each of these bands plays just the right amount of notes...no matter what anyone says.