Review Summary: Animals as Leaders maintain their title of visionary frontiers of heavy intrumental prog with The Joy of Motion.
Animals as Leaders - The Joy of Motion
Since releasing their self-titled debut in 2009, Animals as Leaders have been at the forefront of perplexing, instrumental extended-range progressive metal. The group's lead guitarist, songwriter and artistic visionary, Tosin Abasi has seamlessly become an icon among guitar nerds and enthusiasts alike as his unique approach to extended range guitars has changed and some may even say revolutionized the instrument. Indeed, Animals as Leaders unique approach to their craft has been as influential as it is aurally impressive. With their newest release, The Joy of Motion, the group finds themselves at something of a creative crossroads, blending their signature brain-melting, low register polyrhythms with a myriad of electronic effects and heroic eight-string leads.
While Animals as Leaders successful debut record focused generally around jaw-dropping dramatic song-structures, climaxes and resolutions, The Joy of Motion favors more textured and subdued soundscapes. Shockingly barren, but not entirely absent are the furious sweep picked arpeggios and dazzling tapped licks contained in the group's prior studio efforts. In there place rests a more focused songwriting approach. The album's second track “Lippincott” shows some of the most obvious signs of song-writing maturity as it flows and alternates through punishing rhythms and melodic, string-slapped passages. The primary major-tone tinged “Another Year” is also deserving of praise as the track arguably flows better than anything else the group has done, an impressive feat to say the least. I'll save describing the final three tracks as they end record on a cohesive, cool and awesome note.
Like any worthwhile progressive release, the goods reveal themselves after repeated listens. The production on The Joy of Motion is unarguably the best in the bands catalogue. Never before has the group sounded so organic, trading in their usually highly quantized drum acrobatics with a real, natural sounding kit. Drummer Matt Garstka makes his presence known as his drumming is easily on par with prior percussion savage, Navene Koperweis. On each of the album's twelve tracks Garstka steals the show, displaying his virtuosity through an abundance of drum fills and off time poly-meters, seamlessly pulled off with professional groove. The Joy of Motion features enough song-writing variation to remain an entertaining listen all the way through, a feat many of their peers simply cannot claim. While The Joy of Motion is yet another successful notch in the group's belt, it isn't without its share of faults. Too often does the band fall back on their signature polyrhythmic grooves to get through some of the songs and the added emphasis on electronic instruments sometimes can get in the way of the instrumental proficiency instead of complimenting it.
The Joy of Motion is easily the group's least immediate release to date, and repeated listens are required in order to get the most out of it. The twelve tracks presented all hover around the four-minute mark giving the record an almost block-like, predictable and claustrophobic feel. Gone are the short and sweet romps that would often help maintain the flow of their prior records, an amenity that's missed when it's gone. Regardless, The Joy of Motion is at its perennial best when melody takes a front seat opposed to monotone rhythmic patterns. With The Joy of Motion, Animals as Leader's have released a record that they can certainly be proud of and is essential listening for fans of the genre and is definitely worth checking out for casual fans of instrumental music.