Review Summary: Thanks Tobama.
It's truly amazing to see how far Animals as Leaders has come in popularity since their formation in 2007. In an era where instrumental music is seemingly a niche genre, Animals as Leaders has picked up a large and rabid following that is only growing as time goes on. Their third full-length studio album, The Joy of Motion, continues to strengthen their reputation as instrumental music juggernauts.
The Joy of Motion is the next logical step for Animals as Leaders as a band. The music is rooted in the same blueprint that made their first two albums successful while also managing to expand their musical arsenal. The songwriting on The Joy of Motion marks a giant leap forward for the band. They've never written material that is this layered in the past. Guitarists Tosin Abasi and Javier Reyes focus more on song structure here than simply just showing off their technical proficiency. The increased focus on melodies and atmosphere make the face-melting technical solowork on tracks such as "Mind-Spun" and "Physical Education" that much more satisfying. Numerous tracks on here including "Another Year", "Para Mexer" and "Air Chrysalis" never even enter flashy technical territory; relying completely on melodic passages to drive the songs. The more subdued songwriting exposes just how fantastic the band is at writing low-key, acoustic-driven sections to break up the meatier side of their sound. Abasi and Reyes also incorporate some Latin and jazz fusion influences into the fold; giving Animals as Leaders a new facet to make their music that much more expansive. Animals as Leaders have always been brilliant musicians, but the experimentation on The Joy of Motion has managed to bring them to the next level of musical excellence.
The production from Periphery guitarist Misha "Bulb" Mansoor gets the most of Animals as Leaders' sound. I was originally skeptical with Mansoor being behind the boards after the mediocre work he did on Animals as Leaders' debut record, but he does an excellent job here. The guitars sound crisp, the drums never get buried in the mix and the keyboards/electronics don't sound stiff like they did on Mansoor's previous collaboration with the band. Mansoor shows a lot more confidence and polish in his style on The Joy of Motion than on any of his previous efforts as a producer. Animals as Leaders should only work exclusively with Mansoor in the future because they've never sounded clearer or tighter from a sound mix standpoint than on The Joy of Motion.
The Joy of Motion is without question the strongest material Animals as Leaders has crafted to-date. The music is simultaneously the heaviest, most experimental and well-rounded material of their career. They're no longer an act that exclusively centers around Abasi's virtuoso guitar talents; they have some absolutely gorgeous melodies and, are able to create a unique mood with every piece of music they write. The Joy of Motion sees a band that already had a boatload of talent get even better by adding more depth and variation to their sound. The Joy of Motion is a record that beckons for all instrumental acts currently out there to step their game up. Animals as Leaders are the undisputed kings of the genre and it's going to take a monumental effort to knock them off their throne.