Published Nov 11, 2016Two of the better showings in progressive metal this year share a common thread. Devin Townsend's Transcendence saw the multi-instrumentalist get the members of his group involved in the record's writing stage more than ever before, having a noticeable impact on how the finished product played out. With The Madness of Many, Animals as Leaders have done the same, giving a welcome refresh to a sound the trio have undoubtedly mastered.
Still as technically talented and led by eight-string duo Tosin Abasi and Javier Reyes, the band blend their jazz and electronic influences with their tech-metal roots in stronger fashion than on 2011's cold, calculated Weightless and 2014's hook-heavy The Joy of Motion.
Pulsing circuitry creates the groove all instrumentalists follow on "Ectogenesis," while "Inner Assassins" features some programming help from Machinedrum (who had Abasi guest on his Human Energy earlier this year) if you listen close enough. Most breathtaking is the use of classical guitar, which adds wonderful Latin flavour to the seven-minute stunner "The Brain Dance" and equally haunting "Apeirophobia," focusing on nylon strings in a way the band haven't since their Abasi-led debut LP.
In instances where they do put metal ahead of all else, the band put an emphasis on groove. Abasi's unique thump technique gives needed life to passages other technical players would simply pick their way through, as Reyes and drummer Matt Garstka lock in to drive these sputtering rhythms home with power and proficiency. (Sumerian)