interesting review, although I don't care at all about what other "djent"-associated bands do.
Something has been bugging me about the production - especially the drums - and you might have explained it. It comes down to the mix. I guess I had higher hopes for the way the real drums would sound. The drumming itself is mind boggling, as expected.
I'm still undecided, but I think I enjoy the first album more, especially because of the amount of delicate tracks/parts, which here are less frequent.
It's definitely more focused, with more electronica in its DNA.
Don't normally like to comment on people's reviews because they are subjective opinions.
That being said, I don't get what your whole perception of the djent scene has to do with this as an individual album. If fans got into it thinking it was a genre and not a technique what does that have to do with animals as leaders music?
It also seems like you don't care for the jazz infusion into progressive or technical metal but you don't state what the preferable alternative is. Although you don't either clarify an alternative or why this influence is negative you then continue the rest of your review speaking about it as a definitive weakness to both animals as leaders and technical metal as a whole.
" to help dissolve the quicksand of trends and myths that engulf progressive metal, but if written as well or better than Weightless, they will join Animals as Leaders as being the pivotal change in pulling the genre out, just as they led the way into it."
I guess sentences like this are just my problem with reviews as a whole and what the blogosphere or critic community turns music into.
If they led the way in this genre then since they are the originators is it really a negative to then eschew classical jazz influences? They aren't the copycats they are the leaders so ditching a style they helped innovate because they now have pretenders seems nonsensical.
More to the point though I hate how you seem to phrase the composition of music. I can almost guarantee that Animals as Leaders (and 99% of bands that write there own songs) don't sit down and say things like "ok last album was good but now we have copy cats lets make a decision right now that we are not going to write anything with x, y and z in it."
I am in no way the same league as a Tosin Abasi but as someone who has been playing guitar for a decade and has written with lots of bands I can tell you that's generally not how it works. You either through jamming with the band or off by your own writing try and come up with something that you think is rad. What defines the music you are happy enough with to record is not some pre-set list of rules you put in place for the album. It is instead built off your entire collection of musical influences, events in your life, playing abiliity, etc. Meaning it comes from your collective experience in life not from some sort of direct rules especially as they apply to trying to fit into a fractured and contentious genre like Metal.
Inspiration and creativity are organic which is why trying to dice up their end product into specific meanings and sub-contexts is frankly just annoying.