Review Summary: Some of the great melodies that made the first one a classic are still present here, but altogether, Animals As Leaders' new album just isn't quite up to par with their self-titled debut.
I fell in love with Animals As Leaders when I saw them perform live during the summer slaughter tour of 2010 (of all the places to find a progressive instrumental metal group), mostly due to the guitarist, Tosin Abasi. His playing was phenomenal live and the drummer was absolutely crazy. The band made some of the coolest melodies I'd ever heard, using major jazz influences mixed with just an experimental array of styles. It was a huge surprise, seeing as how early they started on the lineup. I was expecting an average death metal group, not a full fledged tech/progressive band.
This album, while still pretty good, does not give me that sort of feeling however. While the first record had the perfect mix of melodious jazz chords, djenty poly-rhythms, and echoing digital effects to add slight percussion, this album seems like it focuses way more on the digital beats, and less on Tosin Abasi's brilliant guitar patterns that we all listen to this band for. It seems like they decided to take the elements of what is more mainstream as far as prog metal goes, and leaves out a lot of what made Animals As Leaders such a unique group in the first place. The guitar work is there, but it doesn't seem like that's as much the focus here, and strays into different paths now and then. In other words, it deviates from the original, which certainly isn't always a bad thing. The real issue here is lack of creativity.
This album definitely has it's bright points, in tracks such as Somnarium and Earth Departure, where the guitar and melody seem like the main focus again, for the most part. I also don't have anything against metal with djent influences in it, and I think that groups like Periphery and Textures do it perfectly. It's just not done as well here, and the mixing and production are pretty uneven.
People are having very mixed feelings about this album, and I can certainly see why. It is neither as creative nor as harmonious as the self titled debut. Tosin Abasi still gives a good effort, but the mixing and occasional overuse of heaviness is what off-puts it for me. Decent record, but compared to their other one, a big disappointment.