Animals as Leaders - The Joy of Motion

At this point, what can be said by way of introduction to Animals as Leaders and Tosin Abasi that hasn’t already been said at least a hundred times before? If you think about it, though, it is somewhat remarkable that an instrumental outfit that plays such challenging, progressive music enjoys such a relatively high profile in the metal world. I think part of the reason for that high profile is how consistent this band has been from album to album; The Joy of Motion, their recently released third album, is another very solid outing from the group. For some reason, though, that doesn’t feel as satisfying as it used to.

The thing about The Joy of Motion is that it sounds exactly like one would expect an Animals as Leaders album to sound—it’s another collection of djent-meets-John McLaughlin instru-jams with some tasteful jazz fusion shredding from Abasi and second guitarist Javier Reyes. In fact, it is so much like one would expect an Animals as Leaders album to sound that, aside from perhaps being a little heavier overall, it’s pretty much indistinguishable from their last album, Weightless. I liked Weightless, and I understand why the band would be reluctant to tamper with a sound that is clearly working for them, but I can’t help but wish they had taken more risks on The Joy of Motion.

To be fair, though, perhaps one of the reasons I find The Joy of Motion to be kind of a letdown is that the music Abasi and Reyes released with other projects in the three years between Weightless and The Joy of Motion is so much more vibrant than this new album. The outstanding first T.R.A.M. album Lingua Franca, which features Abasi, Reyes, ex-Mars Volta wind multi-instrumentalist Adrian Terrazas and Suicidal Tendencies drummer Eric Moore, is more in the realm of traditional jazz fusion and easily my favorite thing Abasi has ever done. There was also the first release from Reyes’s solo project Mestis, Basil Ganglia, which has more of a Latin feel than Animals as Leaders and proves that Reyes is a formidable musician in his own right.

None of this is to say, however, that The Joy of Motion is a bad album. “Physical Education” is one of the catchier songs the band has written. The mostly (heavily effect-laden) acoustic track “Para Mexer” has the same kind of energy that made the Mestis EP so enjoyable. There’s some cool slap/funk bass on “The Woven Web,” courtesy of session bassist Adam “Nolly” Getgood of Periphery. On the whole, though, there’s not much here that we haven’t already heard from the band before.

Now, about that rumored second T.R.A.M. album… 

(Editor's note: Listen to the whole album below and let us know your opinion in the comments.)