Animals as Leaders - The Joy of Motion 01It’s a bit early to assess the impact of the djent scene on metal overall, given that its rapid boom and bust occurred so recently, but preliminary findings are that it produced and popularized some definite keepers. One of the foremost are poised to release their third album. Tosin Abasi’s inventive instrumental ensemble took metal by an impressively subdued and nuanced storm with their eponymous début, carving out a canyon for current sweethearts like Exivious to wash into. For all of their stylistic idiosyncrasies, Animals as Leaders gets billed as a jazz-influenced prog-metal band, but I like to think of them more as a jazz group caught in an unlikely love affair with Meshuggah. Whatever you call them, and what you call them is likely to be overwhelmingly positive, you should be expecting something great out of The Joy of Motion.

The first few seconds assure you that you’re right. “Ka$cade” overcomes its silly name, prefacing a comfortably syncopated groove with a beautiful intro and rolling through enough twists and turns to impress the Mandelbrot set. Through it all is a melodic sensibility that seemed somewhat subdued on Weightless, which favored oddness and noodling over the unbridled power seen here and on Animals as Leaders. “Air Chrysalis is much more laid back and pretty, flaunting technical grooves and sanguine melodies simultaneously. It’s the sort of track that one rapidly associates with springtime; optimistic, bright, but not overbearing. There’s a sort of delicacy to it that’s entrancing, a characteristic that many of its cohort share with it. “Another Year” compliments it with bubbly melodies and electronics, the last of a quartet of melodic milestones.

The middle of the album sees some of Animals as Leaders’ best material ever, and that’s not an exaggeration. “Physical Education” builds off of a lively funk groove and an addicting staccato lead, rearing up for a hefty solo section followed by a characteristic layering of little guitar licks, ending with a reprise to the opening riff. Describing each track in depth would be tedious, yet each has such a broad palette and is so unique that focusing on any tracks above others proves difficult. Tracks without some moment of excellence, some wisp of perfection, are few and far between; the band refuses to repeat themselves, yet restrains experimentation enough to never let go of the listener. Just when “Crescent” seems to hearken back so strongly to Animals as Leaders, out come the clicking electronic blips from Odessa.

Animals as Leaders - The Joy of Motion 02Assuring you that Abasi and Reyes are still pushing out great performances would be insulting to your intelligence. While not as consistently bombastic as previous albums, this is not a trivial release in terms of technicality. In order to emphasize this, Misha Mansoor has yet again pulled off an excellent production job, leaving in enough crunch and distortion to keep things heavy while keeping every note clear. Electronics, courtesy of Navene Koperweis, are more diverse, prevalent and better integrated than ever before, adding counter-melodies and interwoven lines that fit so tightly into the fabric of the music that you barely even notice them as an alien element.

The Joy of Motion sits in between past releases, in a comfortable hammock strung up not just between metal and jazz, but between technicality and songwriting, joy and anxiety, exuberance and restraint. Animals as Leaders have truly outdone themselves, writing brilliant tracks, performing exceptionally, and pulling together the right team to polish off this vivid inflorescence. The Joy of Motion lives up to its name, more dynamic and lifelike than anything 2014 has had to offer, extending a smiling challenge for other musicians to catch it as it flies off into the sun, laughing in self-induced ecstasy.


Rating: 4.5/5.0
Label: Sumerian Records
Websites: Facebook.com/AnimalsasLeaders
Release Dates: EU: 2014.03.24 | NA: 03.25.2014

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  • Austin Turner

    Adam “Nolly” Getgood was the engineer on this album, not Mansoor as in past albums. However, Misha had a hand in the writing. Overall, good score and accurate review. I would personally put this just below the other two, but I’ve still been through every song on Youtube at least once a day. Phenominal album.

  • 4.5!, one of the highest scored of the year, I’m surprised. I’m sure they deserve it, and I hope it helps to get their touring and legal problems behind them.

  • Realkman666

    Djent.

  • André Snyde Lopes

    Excellent review. I’m definitely looking forward to listening to this one. I’d be so pissed if it turned out to be a dud (looking at you Cynic).

    • Kronos

      I was quite surprised at how not shitty Cynic was, but my expectations were really, really low. Not really a fantastic album.

      • André Snyde Lopes

        Cynic album was not bad but I think they set the bar way too high with Focus and Traced… Going into it expecting that kind of standard and listening to an “above average” progressive album was just not enough, I guess…

        • mleebs

          That new EP definitely put me to sleep. It also pointed out how you can go wrong with using Axe FX. The choice of tones on those songs were terrible.

        • Kronos

          I’d really just like another actual metal release out of Cynic. As would everyone, I’m sure.

  • Kalsten

    Listening to it right now in Spotify. I think I don’t really understand djent. All bands look the same to me. You listen to one djent band, you have listen to all of them.

    • Kronos

      That’s somewhat true, but there are big differences between this and say Vildjharta. There are a million periphery clones out there though, and all should be avoided.

  • T.J. Barber

    As I listen to this I think… I really need vocals to ground me in the song… and Cynic really needed some beautiful guitar work to make their latest really sing…

    What do I have to do to get these two bands to work together? Imagine listening to this with Paul Masvidal singing on top, and some cynic song structures smoothing out the repetitive parts so inherent in djent.

    MAKE THIS HAPPEN

    • Kronos

      Would not be opposed.

  • Jonathan Post

    Surprised to see this on AMG, even more surprised to see it get such a high score. This album is really good though, one of the best of this year so far. On another note, why are people saying how huge Djent is? It isn’t, the really noteworthy bands can be counted on one hand, and most of the other stuff is just Deathcore with 8-strings.

  • Angel R. Suarez

    ” “Ka$cade” – I almost spit out my coffee. Thanks.

  • Mike

    I just discovered this album and wow am I impressed! This is great music.