Animals As Leaders
The Joy of Motion
25 March 2014
Tosin Abasi is an interesting bloke. The eight-string guitarmanship is impressive, sure, but that’s not what I’m talking about. With his outfit Animals as Leaders, he’s turned what should be skilful but nerdy YouTube fodder into one of the most exciting and extroverted metal outfits to come out of the most recent wave of heavy progressive music.
Indebted wholly to instruments as they are, Animals as Leaders spend time thinking about the phrasing of a melody. Without the luxury of vocals, their music has had to develop its own voice. The Joy of Motion says as much about its contents as it needs to – the album is about taking pleasure in the ability of music to progress, without having to return to any point in the past. In that respect, it’s more verbose than anything you’ll hear of late.
All of the bits you’d expect to be here – atmospheric passages, syncopated riffs – are present, but it hardly seems to matter. This isn’t a Periphery record where all of the progression is bundled into noted segments; The Joy of Motion is a continuous passage of emotionally fluid music. As such, some sections feel purely incidental next to the standout tracks, and those soaring 80s-film-soundtrack solos almost always fail to sound sincere. Then again, the album soon buries those issues within some seismic djenty grooves.
Misha Mansoor, of the aforementioned Periphery, pops in to work his production magic on the record, which manages to sound crisp but not mechanical. The warmth of tracks like ‘Air Chrysalis’ are a testament to the thankfully non-clinical sheen he’s given The Joy of Motion. The replacement of vocals with the texture and tonality of Abasi’s guitar playing allows for more space for subjectivity in the interpretation of AAL’s music; this wider emotional spectrum means there’s no part of the record that couldn’t appeal to the more adventurously-inclined music fan.
Perhaps the most important thing you will need going into this Animals As Leaders record is patience. The five million+ views of their video for ‘Cafo’ are an indicator of the band’s effectiveness in compartmentalised form, but with The Joy of Motion demands a much longer attention span than that. The rewards to be reaped are much greater from protracted listening to Abasi’s unique wordless voice.
Sounds Like: Periphery, Chimp Spanner
Standout Tracks: Air Chrysalis, Tooth and Claw