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Animals As Leaders - "The Joy Of Motion" (CD)

Animals As Leaders - "The Joy Of Motion" CD cover image

"The Joy Of Motion" track listing:

1. Kascade
2. Lippincott
3. Air Chrysalis
4. Another Year
5. Physical Education
6. Tooth and Claw
7. Crescent
8. The Future That Awaited Me
9. Para Mexer
10. The Woven Web
11. Mind-Spun
12. Nephele

Reviewed by on May 6, 2014

"Fans of highly technical music or prog metal that dips into other genres will be right at home here, although as with other entirely instrumental outings there are issues with repetition and a lack of emotion."

It's time for another technical ride across every note the guitar has to offer from Tobin Abasi and co. with the third Animals As Leaders full-length, “The Joy Of Motion.” Like the previous albums, this is an entirely instrumental journey that passes through various layers of the metal spectrum without a single growl, grunt, shriek, or scream. Fans of highly technical music or prog metal that dips into other genres will be right at home here, although as with other entirely instrumental outings there are issues with repetition and a lack of emotion.

First, the good: music of this nature requires a constant flow of changing sounds to stay interesting, and the album does frequently succeed there. Each individual track features a variety of morphing soundscapes from technical and crazy, to dark and brooding, and then even on to uplifting and energetic parts.

“Another Year,” for instance, offers an upbeat, jazzy style that focuses heavy metal through another genre's sounds. “Crescent,” meanwhile, adds in an electronic, futuristic element, and then there's “The Future That Awaited Me,” which isn't exactly depressive, but it does have more of a gloomy vibe. A festive Latin vibe comes out in “Para Mexer,” and “Mindspun” offers the old instrumental standby of creating a whirling, up-and-down effect. Of course there's also some Opethian strummed acoustic segments sprinkled across the track listing.

Now for the downside: there are definitely times when the overly-technical nature of the music makes it sound like the songs were written and performed by a machine, and not necessarily in a good way. Despite the transitions, there are still overly repetitive tracks like “Physical Education” and the same stuttering guitar and bass “ba-dum, bup, bup, bup” gets incredibly overbearing on “Tooth and Claw.” The impressiveness of technical musicianship only takes an album so far before it starts to feel like a novelty without direction or heart.

If you've never heard an instrumental metal album before then “The Joy Of Motion” will probably be a mind-blowing experience, but if you're familiar with Scale the Summit, Exivious, Abnormal Thought Patterns, Odyssey, Evan Brewer's solo work (not to mention the earlier stuff by groups like Liquid Tension Experiment, Blotted Science, and so on) there's less of an appeal and the flaws become more apparent. Completely instrumental metal isn't quite yet an overcrowded genre, but lately it feels like it's getting there.

Highs: Lots of transitions and top-notch musicianship at a high level of technicality

Lows: There's some repetition, and if you're familiar with instrumental metal bands this one doesn't add a whole of new ideas.

Bottom line: The album is technically impressive and stays interesting for most of the run time, but it is starting to feel like the instrumental metal genre needs to expand and evolve.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)