Released: Apr 28, 2009
Genre: Progressive, Instrumental, Experimental
Label: Prosthetic Records
Number Of Tracks: 12
Tosin Abasi's latest project Animals As Leaders should help the up-and-coming musician emerge as one of the most talented guitarists on the scene.
Animals As Leaders
UG Team, on april 28, 2009 5 of 5 people found this review helpful
Sound: You may not have heard of Tosin Abasi yet, but in a few years the guitarist is likely to be listed in a long line of virtuosos. While Abasi started to gain a name for himself during his time in Washington D.C.'s Reflux, that particular metalcore band quietly decided to take an indefinite hiatus and provided the guitarist with an opportunity to explore other musical outlets. His latest project is called Animals As Leaders, and although Abasi pretty much wrote all of the music and played most of the instruments, you'll find it to be a full-fledged band on the road. If you were familiar with Reflux, you're in for a bit of a shock. Animals As Leaders' self-titled record only briefly delves into metal and instead dabbles in everything from progressive rock to jazz and even a little electronica.
That description might sound a little manic, but the stylistic changes heard on the album usually become secondary to the amazing musicianship that is displayed by Abasi. Using both 7 and 8-string guitars, Abasi creates a variety of soundscapes and textures with his instruments, and you almost wish there were accompanying YouTube clips showing just exactly how he executed each song. From the opening seconds of the first track Temping Time, which features a digital, industrial-type beat, you can tell that Abasi is slightly enamored with the world of electronica. He wisely never lets that element overtake what is obviously the main showcase: his guitar wizardry (a term he proudly uses on the band's MySpace page). That opening number is as grand as it gets, with a series of amazing sweeps, chugging rhythms, and Rush-like progressive qualities. Let's just say there is never a dull moment.
There are certain jazz-like moments within the album, but Abasi loves to mish mesh the usual format with something more modern and adventurous. While the one-minute long Tessitura remains fairly traditional and sedate, The Price of Everything and the Value of Nothing takes you on a pretty wild journey with rich jazz chords, computerized beats, and cyclical scales. The latter track also features massive walls of sound in certain sections, then in the next second will strip down things to almost one or two instruments. Even in the quietest moments, you can sense that the picking technique must be insanely difficult.
Abasi certainly hasn't forgotten his metal roots, and you'll find what can only be described as downright shredding in CAFO and the opening track Tempting Time. Unusual rhythmic choices are scattered throughout the record, and those pop up more often than not thanks to manic computerized beats that are laid down against the guitar tracking. Another great listen is Behaving Badly, which features similar rhythmic patterns that are somewhat akin to Tool's material. // 9
Lyrics: Animals As Leaders' debut record is solely instrumental. // 10
Overall Impression: It's hard to not be astounded by some of the sounds that Tosin Abasi creates with his instruments, and it's probably wise that he did venture out into solo territory (or at least somewhat solo) following his work with Reflux. Animals As Leaders is extremely hard to categorize, but that's to Abasi's credit. You'll find elements of progressive, metal, jazz, and even ambient/new age on the debut album often times all in the course of one song. That may mean an exhausting listen for some, but for all of the guitar enthusiasts out there, you'll be picking your jaw off of the ground. // 10
Animals As Leaders
EyesWideOpen, on september 03, 2012 0 of 0 people found this review helpful
Sound: The most accurate phrase that would describe my reaction upon hearing Animals As Leaders' music for the first time would be "awestruck". I'd never heard anything so complex, so powerful, so unique and so enjoyable. The effect this album has on me has barely diminished from the first time I listened to it to the last with every song having much to offer. From what I understand, the guitarist, Tosin Abasi wrote all the material on the album himself with Periphery guitarist Misha Mansoor contributing with some amazing sounding programmed drums (A drummer friend of mine and fellow fan wasn't even aware that the drums on this album were programmed until I told his ass).
The guitar work on this album is full on, in your face technical, utilizing many techniques from sweeping to slapping to two hand tapping. Every song is instrumental of course so the guitar has the spotlight. The rhythm guitar mainly consists of 8 stringed guitar chugs and chords, often keeping in time with the complex polyrhythms and polymeters of the drums which complement the constantly dazzling leads and then some. This album is not short on solo's with my favourite appearing on the song "Cafo". To say that this guy can shred is an understatement.
The lead work is often fast and furious but never descends into generic scale runs, instead opting for unconventional sweeping and string skipping patterns. I'd say that Tosin Abasi's guitar work is truly unique. Another thing that stands out on every single song is the time signature changes. They change furiously and unrelentingly but always work, never feeling forced, from the 13/16 breakdown near the end of Inamorata to the 9/4 sweeptastic intro on "Cafo". Polyrhythms are also a huge factor in the music which in my book is a big plus.
As mentioned before, the drumming here sounds very authentic. Mansoor did an amazing job. There are many intricacies to be found and the complex and often somewhat groovy patterns and beats are a joy to listen to and tap ones foot to. Oh god how one does tap ones foot to these rhythms. // 9
Lyrics: There are no lyrics to be found in. This. Album. Good day sir. // 10
Overall Impression: I have since heard other bands and artists that sound similar to AAL but none have made much of a mark on me. The album is such a force. Every song has something to offer from furiously technical metal songs to free time acoustic jazz pieces. I want to have something negative to say so that I'm not accused of being a fanboy but there is nothing about this album that I do not like. It changed the way I listen to and write music which is quite something. A few of my favourite songs are "Soraya", "The Price Of Everything And The Value Of Nothing" and "Cafo". That concludes the review. Thanks you for reading. // 9