Animals As Leaders – ‘The Joy Of Motion’ [Review]

AAL Joy Of MotionFinally, on their third album, Animals As Leaders have sold out. Gone are their trademark twisting riffs and über-dense polyrhythms – all of their previous idiosyncrasies have been ironed out, replaced with a light and airy, easily digestible, radio-friendly approach sure to see them bothering the pop charts. In fact, Miley Cyrus made headlines just hours ago when she tweeted “OMG cant get enuf of da noo AAL record! Mega luv #nextalbumtobeallgent”. Time to jump ship, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Only kidding.

AAL’s music has always been less djent than djazz (a term I thought I’d coined until a Google search proved me wrong), taking the blueprint of an already compositionally formidable genre and adding heaped helpings of finger-destroying shred and uncompromising jazz fusion spice. Second album Weightless introduced intriguingly inventive electronic elements while band-centric writing yielded a set of tracks that sounded like three musicians letting loose and having fun – putting them still more light years ahead of the majority of instru-prog practitioners in the process. While still not palatable to the ears of the average AAL fan’s parental units, Weightless marked the emergence of a more…accessible AAL. For die-hard shredheads this was tantamount to treason; for the rest of us, it was bliss.

On The Joy of Motion, Animals As Leaders continue to push their own boundaries and expand into new territory. Although it arrives late in the track listing, Para Mexer offers a stunning example: A four-minute slice of delicious latin-tinged acoustic-driven grooves and melodies that sounds like Rodrigo Y Gabriela on steroids, setting your head to ‘Bob And Never Stop’ until you turn off your music player’s ‘Repeat Song’ function. The rest of the album sees AAL apply their legendary flair for universe-imploding heaviness sparingly, evidence of a gradual and graceful creative maturation. Exceptions are present (see Tooth and Claw) but a big-picture view shows Animals As Leaders’ continued progress toward the more…dare we say it…commercially appealing end of the djent spectrum.

While I doubt your mother will place AAL’s next album on her Christmas wish list, if they continue on their current trajectory Animals As Leaders 4 will prove perhaps as controversial as Weightless. For me, however, it’s great to hear a band doing whatever the hell they feel like doing. And long may AAL continue on that path – wherever it leads them.


Buy The Joy of Motion on iTunes here:

Listen to it in full on Spotify here:

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Posted on 30 March 2014

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