ALBUM REVIEW – “The Joy of Motion” by Animals As Leaders

A famous saying suggests that “writing about music is like dancing about architecture”. One could consider a text review of instrumental music doubly ridiculous, as the lyrical content of a song at least provides something that a writer can evaluate through words quite legitimately, the lack of such a “lifeline” in a music review making it even more difficult for the budding critic. However, a need to focus on the music itself does allow a fresh perspective for both listener and reviewer. In the case of Animals as Leaders, this is hugely beneficial – there is so much going in the musical makeup of the trio’s work that any attempt to put vocals over the top would probably sound inappropriate, and detract from rather than add to the music.

Very few albums this year will be as aptly titled as The Joy of Motion, for never once does it stand still. Tonal shifts from steamroller eight-string guitar riffs to deft melodic passages are effortless, moving just fast enough to keep the listener on their toes without sounding disoriented. A more fleet-footed affair than its predecessor Weightless, the set of songs that make up this album move in a more effortless flow and avoid the occasionally laboured feeling of what directly preceded it. Cuts like ‘Physical Education’ and ‘Crescent’ have a spring in their step and power everything forward very nicely while retaining a clear sense of direction.

The different musical landscapes explored on this album are never less than impressive, and often remarkable when realised to their full potential. The acoustic-driven, introspective lurch of ‘Para Mexer’ and the shuffling jazzy noodling on ‘Another Year’ leave the world of metal entirely and show how multi-talented this group are. In contrast, ‘Tooth and Claw’ is crushingly heavy yet never turgid, spiralling riffs contorting in a vicious tornado of energy. Final song ‘Nephele’ incorporates yearning intimate moments before building to a towering mechanised conclusion. As a whole, The Joy of Motion is a gorgeous piece of work.

Guitar work from Javier Reyes and bandleader Tosin Abasi is of course shockingly good in the technical department, but they also understand how to concoct a beautiful melody. Credit must also go drummer Matt Garstka for a hugely impressive performance, slotting into both the hammeringly fast and measured slower grooves with ease, as well as producer Misha Mansoor (of Periphery fame) for giving every individual texture room to breathe without sacrificing the impact of the big riffs. Background touches ensure you’ll find something new every time you listen.

One of instrumental rock’s most lauded acts for a reason, Animals as Leaders have created another excellent album in The Joy of Motion. Jazz influences flow into the metallic melting pot as if the two are natural bedfellows, and the contrast between heavy and soft, light and dark is done to perfection. Best experienced as an entire body of work, the record swoops and dives, punching with full force before dancing into the sky whimsically. Virtuosic musicianship aside, the songwriting is top-notch, and that’s what makes The Joy of Motion such a joy to listen to.

Rating: 8/10

[Michael Bird]


‘Air Chrysalis’



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