Sound — 9
Animals As Leaders is the name first used for Tosin Abasi's solo project, which quickly grew into a band in and of itself, and also helped to define the sound which would become a genre - djent. The vast majority of the writing on the new album was still completed by Tosin Abasi and Misha Mansoor working together, as even though Misha isn't a member of the band he has been close with Tosin since "back in the day" and they front two of the bands most widely credited with the djent movement; Animals As Leaders and Periphery. "The Joy of Motion" is Animals As Leaders' third full length studio album, and continues the trend of completely instrumental tracks, usually with two guitar parts and drums with no bass and minimal keyboards. Navene Koperweis, previously on drums, has left the band and is currently replaced by Matt Garstka. Navene is still credited on the album as "electronic engineering," and has been touring solo as Navene K on the same circuit as Animals As Leaders. There are twelve tracks on the new album with a runtime of just under fifty-five minutes.
The album opens with the track "Ka$cade," which is a very frantic track with a lot of movement throughout the whole piece. "Lippincott" has a much more classic prog rock feel to it, and sounds like what I think ELP would sound like today if they were just coming out and were a guitar-driven vs. keyboard-driven band. "Air Chrysalis" caught my interest pretty quick, with one of my favorite lead lines from the album and a very "open" feel to the song. "Another Year" starts out sounding like something somewhere between modern jazz and modern funk, but the track builds from there and gets better and better - at any given time during the track you're hearing either fairly clean guitar or you're hearing chugging or a little of both. "Physical Education" is a trip, going from an intro that sounds like funk and from there goes across the spectrum. "Tooth and Claw" is one of the heavier tracks on the album, and immediately one of my favorite tracks. "Crescent" almost feels like techno in the beginning of the track, but has one of the coolest guitar runs going on with the particular effects on the guitar giving it that epic feel. "The Future That Awaited Me" is an odd little track, sounding maybe like some experimental jazz in the earlier parts of the track, then getting really twisted from there. You have to appreciate the complexity of what Animals as Leaders does if nothing else. "Para Mexer" has a Latin feel to it, which is pretty cool for a change of pace on the album. "The Woven Web" kind of follows that feeling musically, feeling like you're following a complex woven web of music from beginning to end of the track. "Mind-Spun" is probably one of the coolest tracks on the album to me, there is a lot of the right kind of movement on the track and it kept me entertained from beginning to end. The album closed out with the track "Nephele," which is a very groove-heavy track for an Animals As Leaders song and has a lead line that was very reminiscent of Vai to me. It does a good job closing the album. It has a nice slower passage in the middle that kind of changes gears, and it maintains that vibe for the most part even when the song gets heavier again and finally closes out.
Lyrics — 10
Well, this is an instrumental album, so what do you think? I can't give this area no rating at all, and for that reason I'll give it a rating of ten.
Overall Impression — 9
Instrumental albums are tricky, because they have to have enough movement to keep it interesting, but enough in the way of motifs or "hooks" to give you that slight feeling of familiarity in the track to keep you coming back. This album definitely had the magic touch, with enough variety from track to track to keep you engaged. What Animals As Leaders really does well is uses time, dynamics and stylistic shifts in their tracks to create some truly unique compositions. I would love to see the band find a full-time bass player in the future who could operate at the same level of craft as Tosin and Reyes. I think that potentially some fans aren't going to like that a few of these tracks are very un-metal. Hopefully, people can still enjoy the genius of what Animals As Leaders is giving us in this album. It would be crazy hard to pick my favorite songs from this album because with each listen I start thinking of this album as a "whole" instead of separate songs. I would say probably "Mind-Spun," "Ka$cade," "Physical Education," "Tooth and Claw" and "Para Mexer" as my favorites. I know that is a lot of "favorites" on an album. This is a good album. Honestly, I would have named more but my list was already getting ridiculously long.