Going into this album, I’m pretty sure everyone on the site realises I’m a huge Animals As Leaders fan. They are the pioneers of post modern prog and they hold than banner way up high in style. They great tracks that take years to fully understand, and to quote a comment on one of their videos, ‘they are the baroque of the 21st centruy’. Their tracks are heavy yet often delicate, dark yet glimmering with shine and light; each one of their tracks are instrumental accomplishments. However, this will hurt some people now and I’m sorry, I haven’t really like the singles they released prior to this album. Whilst I thought ‘The Brain Dance’ was fun and exciting, I thought ‘Inner Assassins’ and ‘Arithmophobia’ were self-indulgent, quite frankly pretentious compositions. They were genuinely difficult to listen to and lacked a grasp one of the basic fundamentals of music, melody. So let’s hope the album worked out for the better…
Well, ah this really hurts, I didn’t…Really…Like it. Don’t hit me I’m sorry! I just didn’t I found myself incredibly bored listening to it’s run time and I feel almost blasphemous saying that. Tracks just came and left leaving no impact on me whatsoever and I think that’s so unfortunate. Having loved The Joy Of Motion so dearly and having listened to it over and over for two years, I really wanted my love of Animals As Leaders to be rekindled, and I’m really not feeling it. I just think if you compare this album to Plini’s new album, it just doesn’t match up at all. It doesn’t have that songwriting sincerity or the brilliant arrangement that Plini’s new album had. Heck after listening to HUNG’s latest album and Dan James Griffin’s latest EP, I don’t even think that this one matches up to them. It just has no soul or emotion, let alone melody or cohesion. I hate using this phrase but I feel it’s appropriate… ‘It just sounds like noise’ and it does! The whole slapping thing is more of a gimmick to me than a technique that can carry the song; by the third song I was already exhausted by this approach. Not just that, the album is also way too predictable for a prog album. They use the same time signatures over and over again, and their transitions are becoming way too stagnant. I’m not taking away from the sheer technical brilliance that is on this album, but musically I just found it a little dull. The whole album felt like an extended drum solo from Matt rather than a series of tracks; that’s because we never got a single hook and we never got a consistent set of bars. Way too much over-playing has led to the downfall of this album; the guitars felt largely secondary to the drums throughout. In fact I have to say, other than three tracks where the guitars really shined, I didn’t notice a single significant guitaring moment throughout this entire album. That’s a terrible feeling when listening to a group that contains two guitarist and one drummer.
Also they way over-did the synth and electronic side of this thing; the whole album didn’t sound organic in the slightest. It sounded mechanical, clunky and rather robotic with the synths stripping away the life from the guitars. Instead of working in unison I found that the electronic stuff cut through the mix and against the guitars rather playing over it; I didn’t like that either.
Production wise the whole album isn’t great but it’s far from being bad, I’d say it’s a solid ‘good’. The drums sound deep and wholesome with a gorgeous kick sound, however, they did sound almost programmed at parts feeling more like an electronic kit than a prog kit. The toms felt as deep as the kick so it just felt like a kit full of kicks at multiple points throughout the track; try saying that fast when you’re drunk. It left the fills sounding really nasty actually; there were no unique timbres or tonal differences between parts of the kit which left the drums sounding mono-beat. The guitars clean tones sounded great, and the distorted tones sounding pretty darn good too, but there are many examples of sloppy takes in here. I must of heard at least ten instances where there was fret buzz (that’s what the site is named after so you know) and that really started to irritate me. Especially in the acoustic tracks, I found myself beginning to find it a little grating that they just didn’t retake certain sections; it just didn’t sound particularly professional. Although the parts are uber technical, you either put them in and put them in right, or you take them out as you can’t physically play them. If I played a guitar solo over a track and kept missing three or four notes over and over, then I’d change my solo, that’s what you do in music when it comes to recording. The final track in particular (which I loved don’t get me wrong) must of had at least ten to twenty missed notes which just isn’t good enough for a professional track. Thank God I’m not a classical guitarist otherwise I’d be raging super hard at that, imagine if I was Miloš, I’d never listen to your music ever again. The synths sounded okay in parts but I did find their timbres and tones a little bland; they didn’t really add anything to the track other than filling parts of the stereo field.
Musicality wise each song is conflicted for me. The technique is unreal, the ability on showcase is out of this world, but, it just didn’t sound good. Music is a form of entertainment, an art that in it’s barest form you listen to and you enjoy, here I think that was totally chucked out of the window. We don’t get a single cohesive melody other than in ‘The Brain Dance’ and ‘The Glass Bridge’, that’s not good enough for ten track album. That’s a distinct over reliance on theory rather than practicality. It meant that every single other track became completely forgettable. Just run times full of technical w******. Dull.
So all in all then I’m gravely disappointed. In my opinion this is a huge step back for the group and has thrown them right down my pecking order. Now they barely scrape my top ten for modern prog groups, being the pioneers of this genre, that’s not a good thing. I think this has left them trailing Plini and other newer acts such as the Contortionist and HUNG, pushing them into the catch-up game. Two years of hype I had for this record, so now I’m just disappointed.
Favourite Tracks: The Brain Dance, The Glass Bridge and Apeirophobia
Least Favourite Tracks: Ectogenesis, Cognitive Contortions and Transcentience
5/10 – This one hurt a lot, what a bummer.