Album Review: ANIMALS AS LEADERS The Madness of Many

You don't know who Animals as Leaders are?! Ok ok, I'll do this as briefly as I can. At the age of twelve, Tosin Abasi's fingers were cut off in a middle school woodshop class. Through the miracle of Steve Vai and Meshuggah gene-splicing, top-notch doctors were able to restore young Tosin's hand digits via robotic fingers. After re-occurring nightmares where a lion, ostrich, and panda bear ran the country, he decided to fittingly name the band as such and went on to release three studio records that captured the hearts of the nerdiest metalheads across the nation (but in all seriousness, this group is absolutely magnificent and if you haven't delved into their previous LPs, I'd certainly recommend to do so).

For their fourth album, the trio chose to go the self-produced route for these ten tracks, which mixes stylizations of prog, jazz, electronic, and of course, djent. Perhaps using the term djent in describing the material on this record is a bit ambitious as the band leans farther on the experimental progressive side than the heaviness connotation that is associated with djent. I'll go further into the this later on, but if you're on the edge of your seat questioning if The Madness of Many is headbang-worthy, you may hold some disappointment.

Basically, Animals as Leaders have transitioned from being a band capable of touring with After the Burial to an act more equivalent to Intervals' style, which in my opinion, is quite a large distance in the metal spectrum. This transformation isn't necessarily a bad thing, but can leave fans who had an attachment for the group's heavier aspects feeling left out. Fortunately, these heavy attributes aren't completely absent as shown in "Cognitive Contortions" or "Private Visions of the World," but the majority of the compositions are quite similar to the likes of Chon or Plini. And while, it is completely natural and commendable for a musical group to expand from their initial genre, this lack of heaviness presents the dilemma of if Animals as Leaders can continue to deliver the wow factor.

The most immediate response to the dilemma proposed above would be a hesitant "sort of." I can confidently claim that nothing on this album is as intense as "CAFO." However, the band has never previously explored such an immersive avant-jazz realm as intricately as on "The Brain Dance," which provides absolute acoustic beauty. Other notable tracks akin to this new notion of absolute technical immersion include the Indian-tinged "Arithmophobia" and lead guitar frenzy of "Ectogenesis." It is no doubt that Tosin Abasi, Javier Reyes, and Matt Garstka have been virtuosic gods in past releases, but these compositions provoke pure eccentricity compared to the hard-hitting pieces on The Joy of Motion or self-titled.

I think there's something further to say about this absence of a wow-factor in this album in pertains to the music's memorability. On The Joy of Motion, at least half of those tracks possess elements of hooky riffs or interestingly unique electronic sounds. Perhaps the band challenged themselves to stray from elements that provoked catchiness, but I honestly do miss that aspect of the band. This could even pertain to the bizarre song titles like "Backpfeifengesicht," which certainly did have a peculiarly strange flow, but mostly didn't reach as weird as my expectations were held with such a nonsensical track name. And lastly to end this point, I'm unsure if the reason behind this less dynamic sound can be blamed on production, but I can assume if it was handled again by Misha Mansoor, it possibly could have had more alluring electronics.

Overall, it's easy to understand the immense amounts of talent and skill woven throughout The Madness of Many, but the memorable impact becomes a bit blurred in all the technicalities. It took approximately five or so full listens to start comprehending some of these tracks and therefore I think it should be noted that this LP holds a growing likeability rather than being instantaneous. Although, I have no qualms with Animals as Leaders' attempt to push their impressive virtuosity further with this release, it would have been likely more of an enjoyable listen to throw in a few hooks to reward our ears after all the complexity. This may not be the best release of their catalog, however The Madness of Many is layered thick with rhythmic exploration that will leave the internet and fans truly inspired.

Score: 7.5/10

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