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Animals As Leaders - Parrhesia review

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Band: Animals As Leaders
Album: Parrhesia
Release date: March 2022

01. Conflict Cartography
02. Monomyth
03. Red Miso
04. Gestaltzerfall
05. Asahi
06. The Problem Of Other Minds
07. Thoughts And Prayers
08. Micro-Aggressions
09. Gordian Naught

Smart move from Haunted Shores to get their debut LP out into the world before the daddies of instrumental djent made their return.

Of all the virtuosic instrumental progressive metal bands out there, Animals As Leaders are likely the one that comes to mind first. Showing that it’s easier to be a Leader than a follower when it comes to establishing one’s reputation, Animals As Leaders formed in 2007 and dropped their self-titled debut back in 2009, before even Periphery, the poster boys of djent, had any releases out. Getting their name in early on probably helped Animals As Leaders become the big name they are today, but so did their insane musicianship; founder Tosin Abasi’s guitar skills have become legendary, and Javier Reyes and Matt Garstka are similarly outstanding in their fields. Merging djent’s polyrhythmic groove with jazz improvisation and classical training, AAL have become a musical force that arguably transcends instrumental metal.

After 6 years, Animals As Leaders have returned with their fifth full-length record, Parrhesia. It’s the longest gap between records from the trio by a comfortable margin, but at an initial glance, it doesn’t represent a grand mad departure. Seasoned veteran fans may be able to identify novel elements, but as someone who has followed the group more casually over the years, Parrhesia features pretty much what I would expect from an album from this band. There’s gnarly Meshuggah grooves, there’s more intricate riffs, there’s jazzy drumming combined with bouncy bass and complex rhythmicity, and there’s outbursts of jawdropping shredding.

What’s more, all of those components are blended together in a way such that, both within songs and across the record, there’s an engaging flow that allows the technicality to remain impressive without becoming tedious. The rousing introduction of “Conflict Cartography”, with the dizzying rhythm beneath an electric lead guitar hook, is contrasted with the dirty Meshuggah-inspired percussive groove opening “Monomyth” and the lighter, bouncy vibes of “Red Miso”. Each of these songs displays wild technical skill in overlapping fashions, but “Gestaltzerfall” mixes things up by making great use of synths and electronics; the climactic hook of this track is one of the most memorable moments on the album. Aside from a mellow interlude in the form of “Asahi”, the story remains much the same for the rest of the record, although there are additional moments that stand out, such as the sickening chromaticism in the guitar solo late in “The Problem Of Other Minds”, the insane speeds reached on “Micro-Aggressions” and the eerie introduction to “Thoughts And Prayers”, which gave me Ziltoid The Omnisicent vibes.

Unsurprisingly, Parrhesia is a jawdropping record instrumentally, and there is substance across the album that makes it satisfying from more than just a technical standpoint, with some exciting djent grooves and some memorable moments. That’s mostly how I feel about most Animals As Leaders records, so I struggle to really compare it positively or negatively to the rest of their discography. I’m not sure there’s anything here that stands out in the way that “Physical Education” or “The Brain Dance” from their last two albums did, but “Gestaltzerfall” and “Thoughts And Prayers” are both pretty great. Ultimately, I have the same issues with Parrhesia and Animals As Leaders in general that I do with all instrumental prog bands, i.e. it lacks the emotional journey and theme that my favourite music has, but for music within this style, it’s pretty great.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 10
Songwriting: 7
Originality: 7
Production: 8

Written on 23.03.2022 by Hey chief let's talk why not


Comments: 2   Visited by: 134 users
23.03.2022 - 15:12

Great review! I feel exactly the same about this album and this band in general. They are leaders, for this reason their fans, like me, had high expectations. The album doesn't bring anything new to the table, but it surely deserves to be listened. The performance is excellent
23.03.2022 - 15:19
JoHn Doe

Nice review, I'm definitely going to check it out.
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