Animals As Leaders – The Joy of Motion

album by:
Animals As Leaders

Reviewed by:
On 12 March 2014
Last modified:23 February 2015


Instrumental progressive rock group Animals As Leaders released The Joy Of Motion, which contains 12 intense songs that progress through pleasant waves. The disc has great sound quality and song variety.

Animals As Leaders - The Joy Of Motion cover

The Joy of Motion is the third album by instrumental progressive metal group Animals As Leaders, released through Sumerian Records. This 12-song release seems like a quirky collection of hundreds of freely associated aural ideas, abruptly or tangentially assembled. First the ideas congeal in to riffs, then verses, then “heads” or choruses, and finally, songs. Sonic idea differentiation is easy to listen for. Versatility seems to be the name of the game here, with each song offering multiple genre salutations and motives. The Joy of Motion definitely lives up to it’s title, being a very kinetic CD.

Overall, the mood could be described as calming, or relaxing, despite some very definite spikes in tempo and aggression. Like experiencing a late spring rainstorm, the songs progress through pleasant waves of varying intensity. Is this a heavy metal record? Not in the slightest. Distorted guitar is not diagnostic of heavy metal. It’s much more contemporary jazz fusion blended with progressive rock on show here. Like many other releases in these genres, it’s not the most accessible music, and requires a certain open mindset to fully appreciate. That said, it is an album of contrasts and exceptions.

The guitar parts seem to be equal portions fusion, jazz, and progressive rock. The general drum tempos and accents are more reminiscent of hard rock or heavy metal. And the bass? When you can hear it, it’s a sublime underpinning. Since the only “vocal” is an extra highly distorted part or texture within “Mind Spun”, the record is left to instrumentalists to hold listeners’ attention. One thing that’s really apparent on the album and not credited anywhere is the keyboard line. Found in every song, there is at least some hint of synthesizer or keyboards. Well, whoever played those keyboard parts did so, first of all very well, second very pervasively, and third, well balanced to the other instruments.

Parts of songs like “Another Year” combine a smooth jazz and modern progressive fusion element. The band experiments with acoustic, Latin-flavored leads on “Para Mexer”. “Air Chrysalis” does throw fans who are looking for something a little more easily digestible, a bone. “Physical Education” brings the funk, then weaves it in to a progressive rock context. “Tooth And Claw” is the closest to a metal tune, with that bendy low-pitch string on Tosin Abasi‘s and Javier Reyes‘ guitars brought in to frequent use, along with a staccato double-bass drum attack (courtesy of Matt Garstka), and sparse shreddy breaks. “Crescent”, at times, mixes a modern rock feel with an odd tempo ‘drone’ of similar notes.

It’s one of those records that you can’t tap along to on your desk, unless you’re used to working out odd time signatures on the fly, or you’ve listened to this a couple hundred times to commit it to memory. There are a lot of undertones and production extras that layer the songs to greater effect – “deep listening” only brings a greater appreciation of the effort required to produce these tunes. A critique is that the music infrequently ‘breathes’. Motives within songs are very note-dense, full of flourish and production sparkle, with little time spent on blank space. There are plenty of pauses, but airy “sonic space” isn’t a salient feature of the album. This causes it to sound a little backing-tracky in spots. Like a great songwriting demo, this isn’t necessarily even a remotely bad thing: imagine the creativity this record will spark with guitarists and musicians, as they invent their own leads or parts as they “play along with” the disc.

Adept and beautifully executed, overall, the disc brings welcomed and fresh ideas in to the progressive fusion sphere. Highly recommended for music fans who are looking for something that’s decidedly different, The Joy of Motion is a well-produced, crisp, high quality disc that will tickle your fancy.

Track Listing with Run times:
Kascade (5:23)
Lippincott (4:22)
Air Chrysalis (5:05)
Another Year (3:50)
Physical Education (4:40)
Tooth and Claw (4:23)
Crescent (4:23)
The Future That Awaited Me (4:33)
Para Mexer (4:29)
The Woven Web (4:07)
Mind-Spun (4:35)
Nephele (4:31)

Band Line-up, including special guests:
Tosin Abasi – eight-string guitar
Javier Reyes – eight-string guitar
Matt Garstka – drums, percussion
Misha Mansoor (Periphery) – production, seven-string guitar
Adam “Nolly” Getgood (Periphery) – mixing, mastering, bass guitar
Diego Farias (Volumes) – additional guitar
Navene Koperweis – programming, additional drums

Official Band Facebook Page

Instrumental progressive rock group Animals As Leaders released The Joy Of Motion, which contains 12 intense songs that progress through pleasant waves. The disc has great sound quality and song variety.

About Iris North

My formal position is: editor and music reviewer. I joined the PlanetMosh army in 2012. I enjoy extreme metal, 'shred' guitar, hard rock, prog rock, punk, and... silly pop music!