In our review of the last Animals as Leaders album, The Joy of Motion we lamented that too many contributors possibly made the record feel like a collection of songs rather than a cohesive whole. Thus, we were rather glad to hear that for their new album The Madness of Many they decided to do (almost) everything in-house. The band wrote and recorded everything, put guitarist Javier Reyes on mixing duties, with the only two things outsourced being some synths/electronics on the single ‘Inner Assassins’ by Machinedrum and the album’s mastering by Ermin Hamidovic. Since the writing on Weightless was done as a trio without outside influence, there were likely some who were hoping that this album would see a return to that caliber of songwriting, though it’s not certain how far this desire stretches given the fact that it definitely has its ardent detractors.
In some ways, we did get Weightless Pt.2, but the similarities are not necessarily present in the composition so much as in the way that these compositions are not readily digestible upon first, second or even third full play-throughs. The Madness of Many is three people trying to accurately represent their musical ideas equally and it’s bound to cause a few parts here and there to buckle under that weight. However, the record overall holds up rather well and reveals itself to be laden with impressive passages well worth remembering, despite them not being as immediately gratifying as songs off their first and third albums.
The album admittedly doesn’t get off on the best foot with the opening song ‘Arithmophobia’ (the fear of numbers) seeming somewhat directionless as it unfolds. Though the opening shows promise with a sitar melody to kick it off followed by rapid thumping from band-leader Tosin Abasi and rhythm guitarist Javier Reyes, the sitar ends up becoming an underutilized element of the song that could have played a bigger role besides just showing up as a drone at the front and back of this track. The song acquires direction once it hits its stride nearly two minutes and thirty seconds in, but after another two minutes and thirty seconds the song drifts back to what it was doing and returns to being without direction.
Luckily, our spirits are lifted as the album stays consistent for the next five tracks. This group includes the formidable ‘Cognitive Contortions’, which is undoubtedly one of the album’s highlights. It separates itself with the use of heavy guitar thumping canopied by ethereal clean chords that are held up by Matt Garstka‘s jaw-droppingly impressive drumming as a rock solid foundation, its expressive guitar solos and the overall rhythmic ferocity it presents readily. This song is followed by the second best single to be released thus far, ‘Inner Assassins’. The track is one that constantly drives itself forward thanks to its heavy percussive elements yet ultimately fades, only to bring the listener into a solo guitar outro that feels slightly-tacked on, though still enjoyable to listen to.
The next song to feel rather bland is ‘Transcentience’. Though there is nothing ostensibly wrong with the track, it just doesn’t have anything that stood out after repeated listens. However, what that song lacks the next two make up for in spades. ‘The Glass Bridge’ is fast becoming a favorite, with its upbeat nature and deft guitar work in the intro followed by a section that feels like it could have been on Weightless with little to no changing or rearranging. At the tail end, it comes back around to the start and feels as though we really as listeners have crossed a great chasm only to fall to our knees, filled to the brim with the sweet relief of being on stable ground again.
After this highlight comes the album’s magnum opus and first single, ‘The Brain Dance’. This song is the album’s last truly great track and is meant to be a ballet going on inside your mind. The emotive and evocative acoustic guitar ends up melding with electric to create a song that operates in movements, switching between the two sonic worlds and then bridging them for maximum effect. This song would have made an excellent closer, but alas, it was not meant to be. The track that does close this album is the acoustic guitar outro ‘Apeirophobia’ (the fear of eternity) which doesn’t have any drums and is seemingly meant to be a contemplative exit for this work of art. It’s not as effective a closer as ‘David’ from Weightless, but it does get the point across and puts a neat bow on the whole project.
One thing is for certain: this album is not the easiest Animals As Leaders album to lock into. It is, however, especially revealing upon repeat listens. Admittedly, initial impressions were that this record was scattered and had no real place to call home, but sometimes you have to really give an album your undivided attention and contemplate its intentions before you see it for what it really is. The Madness of Many is three technically gifted and uniquely voiced musicians trying to let themselves be heard and as previously stated, sometimes the songs buckle under the pressure, but there are plenty of moments on this record where magic is found and incredible chemistry is displayed. Give this record some time and attention and you will likely be rewarded with a well-earned appreciation for something that shows promise and potential for a group that keeps finding new ways to keep themselves interesting.
The Madness of Many will be released November 11th, through Sumerian Records. You can pre-order it here.