Animals As Leaders - Animals As Leaders
Instrumental metal; it almost implies that you're guaranteed to get the best the genre (or a specific subgenre) has to offer when you strip back the vocals and get to the heart of what makes metal metal. For Animals as Leaders and their self-titled debut, this is exactly what you get, make no mistake. But don't expect any straight-forward definitions to appear in their sound; Tosin Abasi (apparently the most talented and creative guitarist many of us have yet to discover, from what I'm hearing here) aptly combines elements of prog, thrash, death and hardcore metal into something that is equally awe-inspiring as it is, dare I say...overbearing.
Not to knock the virtuosity and technical brilliance of Tosin, but listening to Animals as Leaders can be grueling at times. 12 tracks at 51 total minutes doesn't seem like a lifetime, but the music, while rarely repetitive, is sometimes hard to nail down from track to track. You'll need to bring your attention span with you on this journey, and it will definitely take repeated listens to flesh out the finer moments. What immeditately caught my attention was the track "CAFO", which we posted a link to here on ME awhile back. The video is extremely well done, but the song itself is a veritable how-to in terms of riffology 101. Blazing leads, thick, pummelling rhythms...the works. Tosin's ability to make 12-string guitars and 8-string basses sing is something to truly behold. Other standouts include "Thouroughly at Home", "Behaving Badly", and "Song of Solomon", but there is something to love throughout every track of the album.
It's important to note that fans of your more structured, straight-forward metal will most likely struggle through a listen to Animals as Leaders. I dare not use the term "thinking man's metal" because it feels awfully niche and, frankly, I think most metal fans can enjoy Tosin's work here. Just in varying doses. As an album, there is a lack of cohesiveness, but that can be forgiven because I do believe the goal of the album itself was to showcase the songwriting and technical abilities of one of the more talented individuals in metal today. This album caught me off-guard, grabbed my attention quickly with "CAFO" and has me something close to salivating over what the future may hold for the project known as Animals as Leaders.
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