Leave your 4/4 at the door. The Madness of Many is another technically-bewildering slab of djent from Animals As Leaders. As such, if you weren’t swayed by their eight-string mathematics in the past this latest effort is unlikely to convert, despite the muscular fretwork acrobatics of Tosin Abasi and co.
The first thing to note about The Madness of Many is the increased sense of scale. AAL have always built their structures dense, but the new material feels more spacious, leaving room for their ideas to breathe. This is where classic rock influences infiltrate, such as the screaming cascades on ‘Private Visions of the World’ and the extended solo of album spectacle track ‘The Brain Dance’. There are unexpected parallels, too. ‘Ectogenesis’ hints at the chiptune OSTs of classic arcade beat em’ ups like Streets of Rage and Double Dragon, while ‘Backpfeifengesicht’ (which translates loosely from German as ‘a face asking for a slap’) strips back the technical elements to emphasise an optimistic tone closer to Chon than Meshuggah.
These subtleties make AAL feel more explorative than they have done on previous releases. The Madness Of Many chooses the brain, the nervous system and the mind as its conceptual focus, entangling itself in those intricacies, with the twisting polyrhythms feeding that sense of discovery. ‘The Glass Bridge’ in particular feels like a self-contained narrative, with a dynamic that waxes and wanes in unexpected ways. It’s a ride that defies its meticulous design to still feel organic and unpredictable. This shift from brute heft to forays into emergent storytelling is The Madness Of Many’s step forward for AAL.
Progressive metal is characterised by obsessiveness, by maddening detail, but the rush of narrative warmth between The Madness Of Many’s polyrhythmic tapestries is a refreshing tilt. It can’t avoid the pitfalls of djent – to the uninitiated this will sound like an awful lot ofpalm muting – but the experimentation with space and tone is indicative of a more imaginative approach from AAL, and is more engaging than their usual displays of dexterity.