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For the past few years, the virtuosic duo of eight stringers Tosin Abasi and Javier Reyes have been a winning combination. Now, with the newly added addition of powerhouse drummer Matt Garstka perfectly rounding out the trio, Animals As Leaders have become even more refined. These progressive instrumentalists are revered for their beautiful, creative and sophisticated blend of progressive jazz and classically influenced heavy music. After two albums – their 2009 self-titled magnum opus and it’s not-quite-as-awesome-but-still-good follow up, ‘Weightless‘ – Animals As Leaders‘s third full-length, ‘The Joy Of Motion‘, is now upon us.
In total, it’s an expertly crafted, dynamic and incredibly expressive release, one that incorporates all kinds of musical elements – from jazz, progressive metal, djent, classical etc etc. Complex chord progressions, tight polyrhythms, guitar solos and sweeps, unpredictable scales and modes, odd rhythms, and vast tempo and time signatures changes all abound.
This LP also marks the recording debut of drummer Matthew Garstka, whose incredibly technical and unique play style gives Abasi and Reyes the freedom to really push their musical boundaries even further (please see every single fucking track on this album as a reference point).
Album mixer, Periphery‘s very own, Adam Getgood makes an appearance on bass. However, he’s not the only member from the progressive metal sextet to play a part in ‘The Joy Of Motion‘, as fellow band mate and guitarist extraordinaire, Misha Mansoor is once again on producing duties. Even the band’s former drummer, Navene Koperweis, gets amongst it with some additional drumming and even furthermore, Volumes guitarist, Diego Farias, also brings some additional guitar to the fray as well.
‘Ka$cade‘ introduces the album perfectly. Like ‘Tempting Time‘ and ‘Infinite Regression‘ did for their respective albums, ‘Ka$cade‘ sets the tone and pace of the album in fine, fine fashion. This song is also a great example of how in-sync drums and guitars are with each other, how they follow one another so effortlessly.
Lead single, ‘Lippincott‘, feels much like a Periphery song, just without any vocals to accompany the music. It has a heavier, djent inspired feel and sound to it’s fine self. This works in contrast really well with the cleaner, melodic follow-up track, ‘Air Chrysalis‘.
‘Tooth and Claw‘ is another heavy number, and listening to it through big speakers or through a pair of high-quality headphones will really allow for you to feel those powerfully low tunings and intense palm mutes pommel you down into the ground. ‘Another Year‘ has some pretty gnarly tech-affected guitar melodies going on in it, and offers a stronger, yet lighter musical shade than the previous songs. ‘Physical Education‘, possibly the quirkiest song this trio have ever written, has one of the best, head-bobbing rumbling bass lines you’ll hear this year.
‘The Future That Awaited Me‘ and the purely relaxing and euphoric ‘Para Mexer‘ (which both go back to back) feel like songs from the last Evan ‘The Faceless‘ Brewer album (‘Your Itinerary‘ – go look it up now!). The cleaner instrumentation, softer dynamics and lack of down tuning and heavy distortion allow for a more relaxed feel and tone, giving you a nice break, which, for the record, doesn’t interfere with the flow at all.
The first half of the album closer, ‘Nehphele‘, is the closest the band come to being a Meshuggah copy cat on this record but before it all gets too repetitive, they switch it up with a rather chirpy, dynamic, EQ’d out, atmospheric section.
Just like their last two albums, this new batch of songs will make you feel some form of emotion, which is a true achievement considering there are no vocals, lyrics or any real catchy hooks on this album. Whether it be feelings of loneliness, happiness, an overwhelming sense of grandeur and scope, or even making you feel utter shithouse about your own musical ability – you will feel one or most of those feelings while listening to this fifty four minute cracker – everyone will feel the last one, no exceptions. However, like it’s predecessor, ‘Weightless‘, this is another heavier, more mature sounding effort. But unfortunately, again like ‘Weightless‘, it just doesn’t quite hold the stopping power and first time round brilliance of their near-perfect self-titled debut.
Animals As Leaders have once again delivered an incredibly diverse and textured package, one that is filled to the very brim with vastly technical and progressively experimental musicianship and performances. Musical teachers, professors and aficionados alike will bask in the glory of this band, and it’s an album people will talk about for a very long time. Sure, ‘The Joy Of Motion’ isn’t quite the defining classic that was their debut self-titled release, but it’s a step up from its predecessor, ‘Weightless’. This album proves exactly why Animals As Leaders are such a talked about band right now. Album four just can’t come soon enough!
Tooth and Claw
The Future That Awaited Me
The Woven Web