Record sales are down. It doesn’t take as much to chart as it once did. Does that undermine the fact that Animals As Leaders, an instrumental fusion three-piece, have charted in 2014? Absolutely not.
Animals As Leaders are still an obtuse band. They’re an instrumental three-piece whose sound is based on a blend of metal, jazz and fusion and demands a certain level of involvement from their audience. You can’t listen to this band because you like the choruses, because they aren’t there. That being said, ‘The Joy of Motion’ is pretty accessible. At least by the standards of a progressive instrumental power trio.
Instrumental show boating has a back seat to a richer sense of melody, and the band’s heavier moments are much more immediate this time around. If anything ‘The Joy of Motion’ is a streamlining of the band’s sound to date. The electronic glitches and washy synths that peppered the band’s last album ‘Weightless’ are more tastefully executed here, and feel much more like a cohesive element of the bands sound and less like a tacked on extra.
The signature thumping guitar lines do sound a bit like an overly repeated trick at this stage in the band’s career though. However, and this does genuinely surprise me, the heavier movements don’t seem as jaded and as practised as I expected. The more I listen to this band the more I’ve felt their real appeal was in the clean guitars, but for whatever reason I found the aggressive moments of this record invigorating. Though the lead parts do become a bit indistinguishable to non-musos as the record progresses, despite the obviously incredibly technical skill on display throughout.
‘The Joy Of Motion’ feels much like a soundtrack than it does a collection of songs. If you’re into letting music wash over you as an ongoing experience that is in the record’s favour. If you’re after some sweet playlist fodder for the gym or the commute to work then the consistency in this album might make choosing your favourite track difficult.
That’s probably the most difficult thing about this album. Deciding how you feel about it. It’s not difficult to listen to because it’s mostly very melodic and filled with frequent grooves. It’s not challenging because the band aren’t introducing a radical departure in sound, they’re just fine tuning it. It’s not that unusual because Animals As Leaders have helped validate the popularity of instrumental music, at least in the world of heavy music.
‘The Joy of Motion’ is a remarkably consistent album, which doesn’t challenge its listener and constantly delivers on what the band’s past records have promised. With less fat. Diet Animals As Leaders if you will.
And how doesn’t want to be the Diet Coke guy? He gets all the girls. Perhaps this time around the music geeks will too.