Animals As Leaders - Parrhesia (Sumerian Records)
For those who have followed Animals As Leaders long enough, one might have noticed a pattern in their musical direction for several albums now. While the band's self-titled debut and sophomore album, Weightless, are uniquely their own, the tone of the last two albums seem to form a story arch, even if no words are ever spoken.
2014's The Joy of Motion introduced us to a curious, nameless Narrator; their positive vibes steadily darkening towards the end of the album. In 2016, we found our Narrator wandering in a strange realm of anxiety and confusion on The Madness of Many.
Now, after a six year gap, a new chapter unfolds in Parrhesia (Sumerian Records). What wonders or horrors have come to pass in the time since the story left off?
Like the first scene of a long anticipated movie, or the first lines of any classic novel, the opening notes of "Conflict Cartography" ring out steadily. With the first guitar lead, we find our Narrator is still with us. The softer atmosphere seems to indicate good news is on the way, until a lurching breakdown kicks in: a sure sign that not all is what it seems.
As the first single off the album, "Monomyth" is an ankle snapping trip through a misty valley of uncertainty. Since their inception, Animals As Leaders has long been compared to Meshuggah for their heavy use of polyrhythms. However, it could be argued that this song is the closest AAL has ever come to matching the Swedish metal masters as far as tension akin to albums such as Chaosphere and Nothing.
"Gestaltzerfall" brings back some of textures from The Joy of Motion; perhaps the Narrator has not given up hope to return to the light yet. An interesting play on both the title and album art of The Madness of Many, "The Problem of Other Minds" brings back the synth leads and introspective feeling of several songs from the previous album.
At last, we see the colliding of worlds in "Micro-Aggressions" and closer "Gordian Naught". The journey through these tracks is full of excitement and danger as washing keyboards, pounding drums, and unbelievable guitar work come together. It is a feeling of being surrounded by a deafening roar and absolute silence at the same time.
What are these twisted corridors of audio assault? Is this place, where Joy and Madness come together to leave one feeling Weightless and, yet...Thoroughly At Home...what the Narrator brought us to see? Surely this story is not over yet: the closing notes of "Gordian Naught" reveal a door in the room that is slowly opening. Let us consider this tale 'to be continued'.
The Metal Mayan rating: 5/5
As a fan of Animals As Leaders since the beginning, it has been incredible to watch the band grow as individual musicians and as a collective unit. I definitely needed a minute after getting through Parrhesia, which I find contains the lingering souls of the previous two albums while adding new elements to the mix
What Tosin Abasi, Javier Reyes, and Matt Gartska have given us is an experience, a trip deep into a place of abstract thoughts and art. As mentioned earlier, they were compared to Meshuggah for their music at first, but I find that they are closer to them nowadays with respect to the worlds and emotions they build with each album.
Visit your local record store and pick up a copy of Parrhesia, if you dare, out now on Sumerian Records. Also, be sure to catch Animals As Leaders on tour in the U.S. this April. You won't want to miss these songs performed live.