Animals As Leaders began life as a solo project from former members of Washington D.C. metalcore outfit, Reflux Tosin Abasi, but soon snowballed into the modern metal behemoth earning praise from the guitar virtuoso Steve Vai, who labelled the band as “the future of creative, heavy virtuoso guitar playing”. Indeed, a comment from Steve Vai is not be sniffed at.
‘The Joy Of Motion’ is the band’s third release, and for a band with only two guitars and a drum kit, the record sounds heavier than Thor’s hammer. Together, Abasi and Javier Reyes (the second guitarist) have 16 strings between them. Yep, that’s pretty damn heavy!
From the word go on opening track ‘Ka$cade’, the listener is flung head first into a cacophony of guitar lines that boggle the mind and drums that are so tight with the complex time signatures and rhythms it verges on the unbelievable. Intricacy is key with this type of music in order to make it sound together, and AAL certainly nail that down. ‘Lippincott’ and ‘Air Chrysalis’ blend this type of intricate playing not only in the heavier sections, but in the mellower clean sections.
Not only do AAL deliver face melting solos and riffs, they also delve into the realms of jazz and electronia, further displaying their seemingly endless technical abilities. ‘Another Year’ is a perfect example of this diversity, as it sees the trio create a lively and slick track full of lightning fast melodies, chords that only octopuses and this band can play, and a rather Michael Jackson-esque keyboard part.
Through the second half of the LP, the sonic wall of mind-bending music doesn’t show any signs of stopping. ‘Para Mexer’ broadens the already vast musical elements with a flamenco inspired piece, and flamenco guitar playing is technical enough without bringing Periphery-style rhythms to it. The track adds to the already eclectic mix of genres and style, and amplifies the band’s outstanding technical abilities and skills.
Overall, ‘The Joy Of Motion’ is a magnificent technical/progressive metal and clearly has two of the best guitarists that the world has to offer, but on some occasion the fret wankery gets too much and allows the music to be swallowed up in a pit of noise. Other than these occurrences, this record is a solid slab of straight up metal.
Written by Ewan MacDonald