Animals As Leaders - The Madness Of Many

Guitar master Tosin Abasi is ready to show his skills again on Animals As Leaders' new record The Madness Of Many. His complex playing goes beyond djent rhythms and spidery riffs, spreading into some different instrumentation and electronic sounds.

The album begins as you'd expect, but still with a twist. The song 'Arithmophobia' kicks the album off with an Indian vibe, a sitar-esque instrument sounding and bending its note. The familiar djent rhythms soon return, powerful and spidery guitars soon sounding high above the thick punches. There are some very crazy and innovative guitar sounds on the album, some tinged with electronica will others feature variations of Abasi's signature delay.

Frantic and evil sounds continue to serve as a recurring theme throughout the record - it carries right into the next track 'Ectogenesis,' beginning with ominous electronica before the frantic guitars build the track, the rhythm tight yet sporadic. 'Private Visions Of The World' sounds like good fighting evil; the song's dreamy textures sound beautiful as the high guitars soar as if they were flying. The nightmarish djent soon kicks in, contrasting the dreamy guitars in a violent dance as the two fight stand off in a heroic battle.

What's most refreshing about this album is it's end - electronic experimentation gave the intro some color, and the acoustic guitars make the record as fresh as the start. The album's lead single 'The Brain Dance' is the first of the two acoustic-centric tracks, and is a blend of the distorted nature of the band and a light acoustic side. Our review of the song complimented its refreshing sound, and that remains unchanged in the record. It still serves as a powerful track with a sweet blend of acoustic and electric. Closing track 'Apeirophobia' ends the record on a fully acoustic note. 'Apeirophobia' is the fear of eternity, and the song, in a way, reflects that. It's a cinematic song, sounding very elegant and classical. It's gentle, but also frantic, as if running from something. The track's infinite atmosphere gives it a lot of dimension that helps it sound beautiful in its fear.

Animals As Leaders really know how to channel emotion through their art. The Madness Of Many is a solid record, and though some tracks are pretty standard for the band, it definitely shows the mastery they have at their instruments and their willingness to expand on it. A new era of Animals As Leaders is coming - The Madness Of Many is just the start.

Favorite Tracks: Apeirophobia, Private Visions Of The World, Arithmophobia

Least Favorite Track: The Glass Bridge

Rating: 79 / 100

Animals As Leaders - 'The Brain Dance'

Animals As Leaders are famous for good reason. There are few people in the world who can exhibit such a mastery of their craft as Tosin Abasi, a modern guitar legend. Their new album The Madness Of Many is out November 11, and the first single from it is 'The Brain Dance'.

Their unique blend of incredible playing and djent comes to an interesting crossroads in 'The Brin Dance'. The song actually begins with an acoustic nylon guitar, plucked with mind boggling brilliance as drums and bass slowly start joining the mix. The nylon guitar eventually becomes the band's signature electric guitar, performed with a mix of slap and plucks. The song then concludes as it began, peacefully with one final chord on the acoustic and bass.

The beauty of the song is that it truly emits fascinating imagery with only instruments, and guitar and drums at that. It doesn't need heavy, djent riffs downtuned to Drop A to be impactful; in fact, it's not wrong to say the acoustic guitar performance has more of an impact than the detuned guitars would. 'The Brain Dance' invigorates the mind as it tries to follow the sweet guitars and the jazzy vibes. The aesthetic and atmosphere of the song are pure and show the band's talent isn't limited to trudging, sludgy riffs with spidery guitar above. The talent lies in the playing itself - every element of the song soars in their own delicate dance.

Animals As Leaders are a different force on the block. There's nothing quite as evocative as they are in the format in which they perform in. The beautiful playing is sometimes heavy, but when it's softer and jazzier there is not complaint. This band is full of legendary players with underappreciated talent, and their next album is bound to be a testament to that.

Rating: 85 / 100

Periphery - Periphery III: Select Difficulty

Periphery has slowly been becoming the boy band of the djent scene. Rising like a phoenix, Periphery brought the virtual reality of djent and brought it success in the realm of metal, giving it a true messenger. Their fifth record Periphery III: Select Difficulty, however, doesn't pigeonhole them into the small space that djent is commonly labeled with (those clichéd open and first fret notes, as part of the meme). It's one of the band's most diverse records, following the same elements they experimented with in the past, as well as adding new ones in.

My favorite part of this record is that it feels like the natural progression for the band. Their last releases were a double-album, Juggernaut: Alpha and Juggernaut: Omega. The albums' songs needed the context of the story of the concept of the record to really balance them out - I didn't fully enjoy Omega because of this. The songs didn't really work too great outside the context of the album. Alpha was a much more enjoyable listen, however, because while it did also have the context of a conceptualization backing it, the album made great use of melody. The melodies on that album soared and really made the songs feel a lot more powerful. Select Difficulty brought that a step further, which is exactly what I wanted.

Melody is huge on this record. Vocalist Spencer Soleto has some truly defining moments on this record. The note he hits at the end of 'Catch Fire' is one of the most epic moments on the album. The way he belts out certain notes adds a whole other level of energy to the track. His singing style also has a certain swagger to it - it almost feels like the same pop fusions style Issues is known for. The back-half is a lot more melody-centric, and just generally less heavy in the grand scheme of things. The songs all have a softer and more alternative rock/metal sound to them. This only stays true for about every other track after the halfway mark, though. The vocals don't start making a mark on the album until the second track 'Motormouth', but they're not the focus until about 'Flatline' - the first track that feels like melody has importance and is not a backing to the thrashing instrumentals. The latter of the two songs has a massive ending to go with it, too.

Misha Mansoor is essentially the being of Periphery. His guitar work is what brought them into the spotlight, after all. Every track feels like a guitar feat - there's not one that doesn't have guitar anything less than epic. Whether it's the trashing, low-tuned pounding notes of 'Motormouth' or the sweet licks in 'The Way The News Goes...', there's always something going on. The album is full of massive instrumental movements and moments. The epic screams in the bridge of 'Marigold' are backed by a masterful metal instrumental complete with an orchestral intro and complex guitar riffs. There are layers upon layers of guitar goodness in 'Prayer Position', all of which build to an absolutely mindbending ending.

The softer moments on the record cannot be ignored, too. Massive orchestras can be easily missed if you're not careful, and they add a lot of dimension to the music. Closing track 'Lune' is half orchestral, half jamming, with beautiful symphonic pieces found interspersed within the track making it a very climactic closure to the record. 'Marigold' ends on an ambient piece for two minutes that adds a sense of aftermath to the track. The piano outro following 'The Way The News Goes...' is also a great touch.

Sadly, an album given so much acclaim does have some negatives. There are songs on this record that feels unfinished. The chorus instrumentals of 'The Way The News Goes...' are a mess, though the rest of the song leaves little to complain about. 'Habitual Line-Stepper' is another song that has great parts but feels very incohesive. And paired with their boy band position in the metal world, their lyrics sometimes don't support them. There are a lot of very cringey lyrics on the record, but one that immediately stood out that had me check the lyrics to make sure I had heard correctly are in 'Marigold': "Suck on the mother's dead tit" is a true feat of a lyric. And let's not get started on the title of 'The Price Is Wrong'...

Select Difficulty was the natural progression for Periphery. Sometimes band go in a direction that didn't fit what they were ready for, or they moved on too quickly from something they were just beginning to get a grasp of. Periphery is taking their time, and is hitting all the right stops along the way. Select Difficulty isn't a perfect album, but it's definitely up there with some of the band's best works. Lots of big moments make this album the Alpha (my personal favorite record from the band) with more riffs. There's room to grow, but the storm that is Periphery isn't going to be slowing down any time soon.

Favorite Tracks: Marigold, Catch Fire, Lune, Flatline

Least Favorite Tracks: Motormouth, Habitual Line-Stepper

Rating: 78 / 100

Textures - Phenotype

Progressive metal is all about the atmosphere (and weird timings and all the other minutia). By building layers of huge guitars and crashing percussion, Textures’ fifth album, Phenotype is a giant album. Each song is a barrage of heavy and unrelenting riffs that make this album a huge jam all around.

The album begins very abruptly with ‘Oceans Collide’, the most metal the album gets. Despite distorted guitars being the focal point of the track, it also builds a big atmosphere by the end of the song, where clean vocals replace the thick screaming. The album’s latest single ‘Shaping A Single Grain Of Sand’ is similarly unrelenting, very big and in-your-face. ‘Illuminate The Trail’ also has a huge presence that makes it a highlight of the record. The album also contains some gentler moments hidden within the walls of distortion. ‘Meander’ is a percussion instrumental that builds urgency into the fantastic ‘Erosion’. ‘Zman’ is another interlude, but it features a beautiful piano instrumental, in which the instrument reprises itself at the conclusion of the album, at the end of ‘Timeless’. ‘Erosion’ is perhaps the most electrifying song on the record, excelling in every aspect. It’s heavy, disjointed, upfront, and fantastic melodically. The guitar solo in it will absolutely melt your face off, too. The ending is a haunting choir, on top of a clean guitar. Vocally impressive moments on the album are ‘The Fourth Prime’ and the triumphant intro of ‘New Horizons’, both of which showcase Daniël de Jongh’s clean and screaming registers.

Phenotype is an all-around progressive metal record, filled to the brim with djenty riffs and blast beats. Textures showcase their musical prowess while still creating a lot of atmosphere and nothing too complex that would turn the listener off. A great record to sit back and jam out too, though nothing too spectacular.

Favorite Tracks: Erosion, New Horizons

Least Favorite Tracks: Shaping A Single Grain Of Sand

Rating: 7.5/10