REVIEW album Old Subbacultcha Old Subbacultcha

Tosin Abasi's prog-metal masters Animals as Leaders impress with 3rd effort

Old Subbacultcha

Old Subbacultcha

Animals as Leaders release The Joy of Motion, their third album on Sumerian Records.


It’s comforting that in the three years since Animals as Leaders releases sophomore effort Weightless, not one single band in a scene as saturated and contrived as metal can be have come close to their own brand of progressive instrumental music. Minus a bassist and vocalist, the band, made up of virtuoso guitarists Tosin Abasi and Javier Reyes along with drummer Matt Gartska make a complex, overpowering, arresting and highly evocative din that brings to mind the percussive thuds of Meshuggah combined with the eclectic nature of rock/metal’s virtuoso guitarists. The Joy of Motion maintains the high standards set by the aforementioned Weightless and 2009’s self-titled debut, and is another dizzying collection of progressive metal with some added flourishes woven in for good measure. Just as Tempting Time and An Infinite Regression did before them, opener Kascade opens proceedings with an aural bombardment. Switching from pummelling, polyrhythmic slams to gorgeous clean guitars and dizzying off-kilter blasts at the drop of a hat, it’s an intense, thrilling and thoroughly enjoyable introduction, and sets the tone for the rest of the record perfectly. There’s no doubt that Animals as Leaders are at their strongest when at their loudest, as the crushing Tooth and Claw demonstrates, but the bouncy, paranoid clean break at its centre hints at the melodic power that the band has at its command. The unadulterated chirpiness of Physical Education, complete with a funky thud of a bass line points to a more rounded approach, sitting somewhere to the left of what could be perceived as metal, with Para Mexer pushing that envelope further with its Spanish acoustic guitars. Those unwilling to allow Animals as Leaders their chance to experiment will still be richly rewarded with the thunderous thuds in Nephele, Mind-Spun and the latter part of Air Chrysalis, but AAL’s approach has been so comfortingly left-of-centre since their inception that further experimentation should be encouraged. Criticisms can be kept to a minimum, as each of the twelve songs on offer provide at least one audible reason to return for repeat listens. The Joy of Motion doesn't offer an incredible redefinition of Animals as Leaders' template, but the original was so strong and remains so utterly unique and enjoyable that such concerns are pointless. 8/10