Animals As Leaders
Weightless


2.5
average

Review

by Thompson D. Gerhart STAFF
November 9th, 2011 | 102 replies | 16,467 views


Release Date: 2011 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Tosin Abasi puts forth an average effort and the rest of the new trio can't pick up the slack.

There's something about Tosin Abasi that you've just got to admire. He's always managed to play bulky, seven and eight stringed guitars with both the precise, elegant motions of a ballerina and the rapid, crunching power of a hailstorm ever since Reflux's The Illusion of Democracy. And 2009's self-titled debut proved that Tosin could pull it off with only the help of Periphery's Misha Mansoor providing mostly behind-the-scenes production, programming, and effects. If Animals as Leaders proved anything, it was that Tosin is a clear master of melody and a clever hat at manipulating djent chugs to mesh with acoustic arpeggios. Yet he's never seemed the kind to brag or assume a "godly" stage presence ala Steve Vai.

And, if anything, Weightless shows that Abasi is more than willing to slink back into the shadows. Truth be told, there were flags that this could occur. Tosin never really wanted to take on the full mantle of a solo project, after all, having once thought the idea an "egotistical" concept. While his attitude eventually turned around as far as making the album was concerned, it seems that his attitude towards creating music is still skewed towards a band mentality and, perhaps after all of the self-involvement with the debut, maybe Tosin just wanted to lay back a little bit.

In either case, it's clear that the Animals as Leaders of Weightless is not the same as the Animals as Leaders of Tosin's debut. Arguably, the entire concept of Animals as Leaders has even changed from a solo project to that of a trio. While Abasi and collaborator Mansoor wrote all of the tracks on the debut and Abasi performed all stringed instruments, Weightless finds new members Javier Reyes and Navene Koperweis chiming in not only as session and touring players, but as musical collaborators on each and every track.

Granted, it's hard to say that Abasi loses complete creative control due to this fact (there ARE only three members of the band, after all), but it simply feels like he let himself slip into the background on this one. And it wholly impacts the style, focus, and sound of the album. With the trio mindset, the guitar-focused, energy-infused sound of Animals as Leaders has been replaced by a down-tempo, electro-jazz product that feels boxed and awkward, compared to the free-flowing and experimental debut.

While focus never seemed to be a problem before, it feels like Weightless muddles each instrumental layer together in such a way that it's hard to follow any track on the album. The drums, for instance, are high enough in the mix that they seem to command attention away from dynamic leads at many points, while Javier and Tosin seem to compete rather than complement at many points, making it hard to follow one guitar over another. The absence of a traditional bass also weakens the album, removing the element that created a smooth, rhythmic undercurrent which allowed their self-titled release to flow seamlessly from one track to another.

Similarly, while Animals as Leaders used electronics and keyboards to create an atmospheric backdrop for Tosin to solo over, Weightless arms itself with so many electronic sounding effects at times, it becomes questionable how the band intend to carry on touring without some manner of keyboard player. Some of this can be ascribed to the quickly strummed and abused, down-tuned djent tone of the low strings used by Abasi and Reyes to partially emulate a bass. Oddly enough, when this tone was initially presented on their initial effort, the tone was welcomed: a little crunchy riffing underneath the distorted tapped virtuosity of "CAFO" was nothing short of complimentary; while the same riffing on Weightless's "To Lead You To An Overwhelming Question" attempts to complement clean, jazz-styled soloing to adverse effect.

However, the tin-plated tone the higher notes on the fretboard take on in order to create electronic noise are far from welcome and are a similar distance from the perfection heard in 2009. Along with the abandonment of the Abasi spotlight, it seems the penchant for swept, acoustic passages that once brought warmth and character to the sound have also been mostly eliminated, to a depressing effect. Even on openers to songs such as "David," which could easily incorporate this style, the more bass-styled jazz tone incorporated feels like a shove away rather than an embracing pull towards the sound.

Simply put, on the debut, Tosin had a clear vision and idea of how to piece together the elements of a great album with a guitar virtuoso at its forefront. He knew how to match tones and complement his own playing style. Now, on Weightless, it seems Tosin has given up a great deal of that direction to appease and include Javier and Navene (who were in charge of engineering and mixing, respectively, effectively muscling Tosin out of the production picture for his own group). The resulting sound is muddled, confused, and clearly forced - a far cry from 2009's beautiful introduction.



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user ratings (802)
Chart.
3.7
great
other reviews of this album
ANJ45 (3)
Some of the great melodies that made the first one a classic are still present here, but altogether,...

Zettel (3.5)
A great follow-up? You bet....


Comments:Add a Comment 
AtomicWaste
Staff Reviewer
November 9th 2011



1918 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

I don't know how you release an album this boring after a debut like that.

seifer
November 9th 2011



1006 Comments


good review really loved the first album, well i guess i wont be picking this up

MO
November 9th 2011



17364 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

I find this album to be awesome, but I've given it a shitload of listens. I find lots of the hooks are well hidden and you have to dig for them (the ending of Earth Departure, ending of Weightless, etc). The drums are definitely way to audible (guess that was expected with Navene producing most of it).

That being said, great review man.

Digging: Soundtrack - Turok 2: Seeds of Evil OST

howNowBrownSow
November 9th 2011



11 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Good review.

I found myself liking this more and more, the more times I listened to it, and the more familiar with it I became. Great album.

AtomicWaste
Staff Reviewer
November 9th 2011



1918 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

I really do wish that I liked it more, but I find it to be incredibly boring whenever I listen to it (and I've listened to it lots, just to TRY to like it, being that I like Tosin as much as I do). It has its merits as a new-jazz type project, but other than that.

Meh.

If all Tosin really wants to do is record with a band, he needs to get Reflux back together.

FruityCatOfDoom
November 9th 2011



2059 Comments


Nice review.

I really enjoyed the first album and I really am curious about this with all the mixed feedback its getting. Probably check it out later today.

Zorak
November 9th 2011



3188 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

I agree with many of your points. The electronics detract so much from what I liked about the s/t. This whole album seems forced and awkward. The only song I really like off of it is Isolated Incidents.

Philalethes
November 9th 2011



244 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Couldn't disagree more with almost every part of the review. First off, Animals as Leaders has always been a band. While Tosin did record more of the parts on the debut, this project's intention has always been to be a progressive instrumental band.

Secondly, I think the fact that this record is a lot heavier and darker than the debut CD caught a lot of people off guard. There are still all the amazing technical guitar playing skills showcased throughout the album. Furthermore, Tosin has turned up his jazz compositional techniques, as the progressions have become way more complex than first CD. The lead that he comes up with over the top of "To Lead You to an Overwhelming Question" is nothing short of amazing.

I think that a CD that would highlight more of the clean jazz sound on the debut CD would be cool too. If I had to guess what direction they would of took with this album that would have been my guess. This album is still amazing for what it is, and Tosin is continuing to showcase why he is the best guitar modern metal.



FruityCatOfDoom
November 9th 2011



2059 Comments


@Philalethes

Go write a review then.

Zorak
November 9th 2011



3188 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

someone's butthurt

AtomicWaste
Staff Reviewer
November 9th 2011



1918 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

First off, Animals as Leaders has always been a band.


No, it hasn't always been a band. Tosin was specifically conscripted to record a solo album by Prosthetic records after Reflux disbanded. There's a reason the only personnel on the debut were Tosin and Misha, and there's a reason Misha never toured with Tosin.

There are still all the amazing technical guitar playing skills...


He's an amazing technical player. I'm definitely not saying anything to the contrary. As I said, I love Tosin's playing. But there are too many distractions, too many electronics, not enough sense of direction, and, really, not enough Tosin on here. He gave too much control to Javier and Navene, and I feel that it shows.

There's some merit to the built up jazz technique, but it doesn't mesh right with the distortion. Like I said, they layer clean jazz leads over djent chugs and it sounds distracting and off-putting. Does it make the lead bad? No. Does it make the rhythm bad? No. Does it make the sound bad? Yes.

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts and a lot of the parts here are boring to begin with, to be honest.

Just sayin'. I think if Tosin went into the studio by himself and had more put squarely on him, this would've been a much better record. As it stands, it's the really weak cousin of Scale the Summit's The Collective, as far as having a dark, jazz-inspired technical instrumental album goes.

Ignimbrite
November 9th 2011



5228 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

"Go write a review then."

this

ShinXetsu
November 9th 2011



605 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Disappointed Tosin felt that the electronic portion of his sound needed to be bumped up when it was fine being used to complement the tracks instead of being the main course like on the self-titled.

Manic_
November 9th 2011



447 Comments


this was a bit of a disappointment, some of it is boring but i still like a lot of it. Probably a low 3.5.

bloc
November 9th 2011



34499 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

Album is incredibly disappointing. Wasn't expecting it at all.

Digging: He Is Legend - I Am Hollywood

Zettel
November 9th 2011



581 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

"Tosin NEVER really wanted to take on the full mantle of a solo project, after all, having once thought the idea an "egotistical" concept.

"...it SEEMS that his attitude towards creating music is still skewed towards a band mentality and, PERHAPS after all of the self-involvement with the debut, MAYBE Tosin just wanted to lay back a little bit."

"Now, on Weightless, it SEEMS Tosin has given up a great deal of that direction to appease and include Javier and Navene..."


So, there is no solid evidence that this is NOT Tosin's true brainchild? It is a fair question, because I never thought of the new album as a true collaborative effort, no more than the collaboration between Tosin and Misha on the first album. This is from top to bottom a Tosin album to my ears. You keep insisting on the trio failure, but maybe you just did not like what Tosin had in store for this album. Which is fine, but there are too many assumptions in your review after your categorical first statement.

EDIT: Good review.

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
November 9th 2011



23649 Comments


I wasn't crazy about their debut, though I did like it. Looks like I won't be checking this out. it's a shame to hear that this is quite weak because their s/t had so much potential imo. they were great when i saw them openeing for TDEP.

good review.

and yeah to that tl;dr guy, write a review. just copy/paste that comment haha.

Digging: Trophy Scars - Holy Vacants

Zettel
November 9th 2011



581 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

"Looks like I won't be checking this out. it's a shame to hear that this is quite weak because their s/t had so much potential imo"

Then, check out the album. It would be mistake not to hear it based on this review/general consensus. You might actually like this one better. My two cents.

AtomicWaste
Staff Reviewer
November 9th 2011



1918 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

So, there is no solid evidence that this is NOT Tosin's true brainchild? It is a fair question, because I never thought of the new album as a true collaborative effort, no more than the collaboration between Tosin and Misha on the first album. This is from top to bottom a Tosin album to my ears. You keep insisting on the trio failure, but maybe you just did not like what Tosin had in store for this album. Which is fine, but there are too many assumptions in your review after your categorical first statement.


All tracks are written by "Animals as Leaders" (i.e. the Trio) rather than as Abasi/Mansoor as they were on the debut. That, the change in approach to focus more on the band as a whole (which creates confusing dynamics in the mix and in synthesizing styles/tones), and the fact that Tosin had no role in the production is mostly what I'm basing that on. It's harder to guess on this one, but if I had to venture, I'd wager they all wrote their own parts in some manner of collaborative format (thus the band moniker on the songwriting credits, rather than a name/names) as opposed to the solo format of the previous work.

But I think you're probably right in that I skirt a lot of the blame away from Tosin. Probably because I like Tosin, I loved Reflux, I really dug the debut, and this just doesn't feel like the same sort of album whatsoever to me. But, objectively, I don't know.

And yeah, check the album out. Don't fail to listen to it because of this review. It's still worth it to make up your own mind about, I just had an opinion I wanted to share, since I was real disappointed after an extreme anticipation.

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
November 9th 2011



23649 Comments


"Then, check out the album. It would be mistake not to hear it based on this review/general consensus. You might actually like this one better. My two cents."

yeah but I didn't like the first one enough to check this out when it's getting a lukewarm reception. I mean if people were raving about it being amazing and so much better or something then I might have checked it out.



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