Animals As Leaders – The Joy Of Motion (Sumerian Records)

Tuesday, 15th April 2014
Rating: 9/10

Time can be a punishing creature, distorting and ultimately destroying bands over time as they’re exposed to the fickle winds of the metal world. Alternatively, it can be a tool of great sculpting, allowing a band to experiment, refine, and evolve in ways no one expects. For Animals As Leaders it’s certainly been the latter, especially with the addition of new drummer Matt Garstka, who gives the band great room to breathe and flex around. Indeed this seems to have had a profound effect on the band as the shred-happy/tight nature of Weightless has given way to a much more elaborate and flowing sense of groove and atmosphere. The Joy Of Motion is an enormously enjoyable listen throughout.

Mid-album standout “Crescent” perhaps illustrates this newfound love of the slower more than any other song present, its shifting grooves and hushed take on guitar wizardry floating above fantastically earthy and jazzy drumming with a bottom end that, whether it’s an actual bass or those monstrous guitars the band uses, is a black hole in thickness. A sentence that gnarled in descriptors is at once a vain and hollow attempt at trying to encapsulate how enjoyable this album actually is, whether taken song by song for the duration (something I often struggled with during Weightless) or just picking out songs for a drive. Jazzy and reflective moments are pervasive throughout like on “Another Year” and “The Woven Web.” Abasi has mentioned in interviews leading up to the album’s released that he consciously took a step back from being constantly aimed toward flash and, throughout the album, it really shows.

For anyone familiar with AAL to this point, The Joy Of Motion will have its share of surprises and things expected. Falling closer in-line with the band’s debut, it’s still an album that pushes its own boundaries and should be a delight to experience for anyone interested in the instrumental world. Reserved and lovingly atmospheric, every song functions as a song and less as a basis for wankery and instrumental showboating (though there’s still ample chops on display throughout, from all players involved).  Closer “Nephele” sums up everything about the album, the band, and how music like this should work, beautiful and thick. Colossal indeed.

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