The original wizards of technical metal are back and they’ve brought on an old friend with them – fellow-Washington djent pioneer Misha Mansoor, from Periphery, who helped Animals As Leaders on their first self-titled album in 2009. The Joy Of Motion, Animals As Leaders’ third album, is a heavy-duty onslaught of genre-defying, mind-bending tunes.

Straight from the spacey, prog metal-tinged opener “Ka$cade” guitarist Tosin Abasi, rhythm guitarist Javier Reyes and drummer Matt Garstka boggle minds with solos, crunchy riffs and drumming you need a few repeat listens to keep track of. Animals As Leaders, who brought their brand of technical, jazz-influenced progressive metal to India at Bangalore Open Air in July last year, tread a slightly different path compared to their 2011 album Weightless.

While there are cleaner songs, Latin jazz-influenced songs and even slap-bass solos, they don’t sound like they’re just showing off, which was evident on Weightless. ‘Lippincott’ has way more keyboard parts than expected, but just sounds like a bunch of guitar ideas stuck together, nothing too cohesive.

But for more the most part, Animals As Leaders are proof that prog metal doesn’t have to be dark and heavy all the time. ‘Another Year’ and ‘Physical Education’ are filled with delightful guitar doodles that stick in your head better than any pop chorus.

But when it comes to bringing the heavy, they kill the old way on ‘Tooth and Claw’ which surprisingly scratches the itch of throwing in a massive metalcore breakdown.

Unless you’re a out and out guitar technique geek, a few songs such as ‘Crescent’ and ‘The Future That Awaited Me’ might bore you, but there’s something special about how Abasi swaps his eight-string for a nylon guitar on ‘Para Mexer’, proving he could carry off a Latin jazz track if he wanted to. And when Animals As Leaders have got a track named ‘Mind = Spun’, you know their exact intentions. The Joy Of Motion scales a ridiculous point of complexity on ‘Mind = Spun’, which proves that Animals As Leaders are still light-years ahead of most prog metal bands when it comes to blowing minds.

Animals As Leaders – The Joy Of Motion

Sumerian Records, Rs 500 (Amazon, CD)