Sound — 9
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.
Lyrics — 10
Animals As Leaders' debut record is solely instrumental.
Overall Impression — 10
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.