25 July 2015

Animals As Leaders - The Joy Of Motion

Certainly one act I should really pay attention to more often, and as I'm listening to this 2014 offering The Joy Of Motion, I really wish to God I'd reviewed this last year. One of the members Tosin Abasi I recognise as a well learned Technical Metalcore (or Mathcore if you like) guitarist and I have watched his masterclass snippets on several Ultimate Guitar Podcasts. He's more akin to a seven string Ibanez and he's always willing to demonstrate a few licks he's picked up in short space of time.

Animals As Leaders is formerly his solo project, now Javier Reyes and Matt Garstka he has on board as fully paid up members yet on first impressions of hearing the opening few minutes, this is like a supergroup that nobody's ever heard of. Intrigued? Read on then. The band name that Tosin adopted is from Ishmael, a Daniel Quinn novel which basically deals with one character, akin to the origins of man and his role at the centre of all things in the universe and of its significance. Sounds Orwellian to me but still a third eye opener nevertheless.

It's the first indications that we're looking at a seriously underrated act and I did mention the opening track without going into depth. If the first tune is to make an impact, it needs to have a few hooks, one following another backed up by some serious mathcore drumming and Kascade ticks all the boxes here. Opening shop is  Javier Reyes' calm Symposium styled guitarring before Tosin's metal traits, but I'm also very impressed by Gartska's speedy yet very calculating skinswork, a la Carl Palmer (one of the greatest in the world by the way). If Kascade intended to knock me for six, then certainly the intention and impact worked to a tee.

Less pace on track two Lippincott, the bridges resemble Jeff Wayne's War Of The Worlds and less metal based, but still very compelling yet two hooks and without warning four minutes is up already. Next up is Air Chrysalis which makes the album more mellowing, well at least until midway in when Mr Tobin's intense seven string leads starts to make its musical illustration, but again, all over far too soon for its five minute existence. Another Year follows a same format of jazz fusion and metal hints, but there's more feature on keyboards by producer Misha Mansoor, maybe not as raucously organised this time but a hint that the whole project is not confined to the three core band members.

I would like to call this a concept album, but I'm not sure if I would get away with that even for a progressive piece. At present, no track runs much more between four and five minutes, but all very intriguing so far for the eager listener. Physical Education, not a bad tune maybe a little stuck in the filler status but certainly not disappointing as the more listens I give it. Tooth And Claw is a welcome return to the spiky edge, I really enjoy the  two, maybe three Iron Maiden layered guitar bases, especially as Tosin Abasi evidences some enlightening influences. Midpoint of The Joy Of Motion now, and while there's a threat that the beats may becoming similar, Mr Tosin's leads right at the beginning really mean business, lightens up halfway, then a few more differing loops and twists in the plot keep up the intrigue factor.

Track number eight is The Future That Awaited Me. Like Joe Satriani, it's really difficult to remember the titles as instrumentals, but it's another one that sounds like a heavy influence from The Alan Parsons Project. Previous track was my top contender, but this less heavy version is also in with a shout. Aside from the Jazz Fusion, Prog Metal order of the menu, next track Para Mexer is opened with Spanish nylon strings, which I suspect was from the hands of rhythm guitarist Javier Reyes. It's been a welcome change, and sets The Joy Of Motion in good stead for the final three tracks.

The Woven Web is more bass driven, sounds like Mark King going hell for leather and is the dominant force throughout its whole four minutes. Misha Mansoor is another well learned contribution to the Animals concern. I try to imagine what the instrumentalists were thinking at the time they composed their tunes, in Mind-Spun, the police siren riffs for me give a rare dark sense of foreboding, and well, a rare break from the theme of airiness. Final track Nephele restores some of that airiness until the Jeff Wayne-esque effects return close out. I haven't mentioned much about it, but like the others on the album, it forges its own path in its own inimitable form.

Here and now, I'll confess I was expecting great things from Animals As Leaders and actually they've delivered the goods right on time. It's just a shame that in general expectation is an unquantifiable thing that can't measure up your thoughts if you're relatively new to Jazz Fusion, Djent or Prog Metal. The Joy Of Motion is for me a wheel oiled machine and Tosin and Co have gifted the listener with a real meaty little project. Actually, maybe project isn't the appropriate term but certainly a fantastically beautiful offering. An album either hits me or doesn't. If not, then it usually takes a few listens before it really gets under your skin in the best way.  I haven't bought any CDs for a good 12 months now, (sorry I still don't do album downloads, I'm ashamed to say) but it's now time to get out my Christmas wish list....

9 out of ten. Almost perfect....almost.
Best Track : Tooth And Claw

Buy The Joy Of Motion here on Amazon
Listen to the album here on Spotify
Deezer listeners can alternatively click on this link
Official Animals As Leaders Facebook page here
Official Animals As Leaders website here

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