Mestis: Polysemy

Animals As Leaders guitarist goes exploring on debut solo album.

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It’s probably about time Javier Reyes had a bit of the spotlight.

The guitarist is a member of gung-ho instrumentalists Animals As Leaders, but it’s their flamboyant founder and fellow axeman Tosin Abasi who gets most of the glory. Reyes launched offshoot project Mestis with the debut EP Basal Ganglia in 2012 and three years later – perhaps a little too long a wait, considering the quality of that five-track record – the first full-lengther has landed.

Polysemy comes a year after the release of Animals As Leaders’ third album The Joy Of Motion, which saw the US trio refine somewhat their boisterously off-kilter djent-leaning music. Reyes takes this one further with his Mestis crew, channelling a thought-out, cultivated sound that resists temptation to indulge in shredfest freturbation and instead focuses on quality songwriting and cultured chops.

This is music for music fans, not just guitar geeks.

That said, the record features the Animals As Leaders nods we’ve come to expect. Opener Gentle Giant sparks things off with a waterfall of spiky, guttural riffola, while Eclipse judders and jerks more than a Vauxhall Vectra on a first driving lesson. However, it’s in the moments that veer away from typical djent that Mestis truly shine – the moments when the eight-string guitar goes beyond the call of duty.

Reyes is backed by Animals As Leaders sticksman Matt Garstka on drum programming, Hector Barez from Puerto Rican Grammy winners Calle 13 on percussion, and Marvin Gaye’s trombonist David Stout. Chuck in a couple of Chon members and Intronaut bassist Joe Lester, too, and it makes for some extremely powerful, outward-looking adventurism that takes aim at the pre-conceptions of what down-tuned instrumental prog metal should be. Take Menos Mal, for instance, a journey through some succulently melodic and absorbing progressions, or the unplugged Paloma, which acts as a reflective interlude of hope-speckled lamentation. Indeed, the absence of lyrics invites listeners to concoct their own imagery, and the landscape of Polysemy is fertile, while any dark clouds that seep in tend to dissipate into brighter hues.

It’s music not just for lovers of djent’s abrasive assaults, or geeked-up guitar students. Papillion is a doff of the cap to Mestis’ Latin influences, and, one of the album’s heavier cuts, Uno Mas More freights its serious groove with enough euphonic lead guitar lines to hook even the most anxious of listeners. While Tosin Abasi may get most of the attention, judging by this record Reyes is just as potent a band leader. The spotlight most definitely awaits.

Chris Cope

A writer for Prog magazine since 2014, armed with a particular taste for the darker side of rock. The dayjob is local news, so writing about the music on the side keeps things exciting - especially when Chris is based in the wild norths of Scotland. Previous bylines include national newspapers and magazines.