It isn’t possible to overstate the quality of Animals As Leaders, their technique is impeccable and they really go some way towards proving that vocals are not essential in modern metal music. Instead Animals as Leaders show pure passion for music embodied by meticulous attention to detail, timing and effort, to produce both ruthlessly efficient and original percussive riffs, and sonic melodies that stay cycling around in your head long after the albums have finished playing.
The virtuoistic eight string guitarist Tosin Abasi is primarily responsible for the debut self titled album Animals as Leaders, which he wrote after attending music college, having previously been offered the chance to have a solo instrumental album released on Prosthetic Records. Recorded in 2008, Tosin then collaborated with Misha Mansoor to produce the final album, Misha contributing most of the electronic and drum work to the record.
It is unsurprising that the Animals as Leaders album received the acclaim that it did, its a masterpiece of modern progressive metal with percussive riffs and sounds that previously hadn’t been found in the genre. Many of the songs are fused with elements of Jazz and electronic music to create beautiful ambient sections, littered with exceptional lead guitar work by Tosin Abasi. This record creates real atmosphere throughout and plays almost like a journey each track existing symbiotically with the last, making it hard to imagine how anyone would not enjoy this music. The musicians and especially the guitarists among us will experience more than one moment of jaw dropping awe while spinning this album.
This form is continued during the bands second release Weightless, Abasi having now fully formed the touring band by adding Javier Reyes and drummer Navene Koperweis to the lineup. In An Infinite Regression, Weightless opens with the sort of complex slap/pick percussive, arpeggiated motif’s that make up part of Tosin’s signature style. The are parts of Weightless that are slightly darker, with more straight shredding, and Dream Theater style riffing than the first album, generally the overall mood of the music is new. Grainy synthesizers wash through many of the tracks creating saturated sorts of soundscapes, with strange but good percussive elements that seem to explode directly in your auditory cortex, the close of Espera springs to mind. Somnarium marks the first track on the record that really harks back to the self-titled debut album, and from here on in its a more brutal Animals as Leaders with some really dark technical progressive metal riffing and gorgeously haunting melodies.
With The Joy Of Motion, AAL really caps off a trio of truly exceptional work. With the return to a lighter tone for the album, possibly influenced by the return of Mish Mansoor to the writing and production team and the introduction of Matt Garstka on drums, the record illustrates how the band has moved forwards over the last five years. It is astounding that a band could put out three albums of such quality and complexity in such a relatively short space of time and really leaves you on the edge of your seat for what the next record will bring.