Sep 15, 2013
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Animals as Leaders: A Music Review

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A master of his own caliber, Tosin Abasi reveals to the world such rhapsodic playing that amends the very way in which musicians approach music. He started playing in heavy/thrash metal bands that didn’t quite make the cut. Touring with the bands PSI and Reflux, Abasi swiftly caught the eye Prosthetic Records. It didn’t take long before he was collaborating with Misha Mansoor (prolific guitarist of the band Periphery). The project came to be known as Animals as Leaders, and recruited were the refined guitarist Javier Reyes and the explosive drummer Navene Koperweis. A three-piece band — how good can that be?

From one tier to the next of fortune, fame, and musical mastery, Animals as Leaders grows and evolves. The self-titled debut instrumental album Animals as Leaders exuded absolutely brilliant musical technicality, but remained very much metal in its nature — this indicating the influence of Mr. Mansoor. Songs like “Tempting Time” and “CAFO” are prime examples, where Abasi forges a new frontier for music but hoists on his back the musical creations of musicians preceding. He shreds through the music, lashing and lacerating away at all the rules. Remark on a full listen of the album the expressed omen of what Animals as Leaders is trying to deliver — the beast of a different life on the other side of the door!

In November of 2011, Animals as Leaders releases the album Weightless — a collection of music born of professional refinement and carefully crafted melody. It demonstrated complex time signatures interwoven. It demonstrated melodic savvy. It demonstrated class. It confessed the symphony thriving in each musician. “An Infinite Regression” is the closest an entire song encroached on being metal on the entire album. It spoke with an aggressive tongue, but a careful listener could see this was just a crook of composure. “Weightless” easily outclassing the musicianship of most — the creativity alone motivating appreciation or envy (depending on the listener) — begins to call the genre of Animals as Leaders. It resembles fusion, yet it it does not appear to do so with the profound exhibition of utter skill the likes of which is seldom, seldom seen! Roam deeper into the album the listener and come across the rousing of “Cylindrical Sea.” This composition emanates jazz almost purely. The style, the cadence, the keys — it all reeks of jazz! In fact, dare I say it quite sounds like something of Guthrie Govan — a bold notion but arguable! “Earth Departure” shares much of its nature with “Cylindrical Sea,” heavy though it is. It’s more than likely Koperweis merely wanted to throw some of that explosion for which he’s known into the blend. A careful listen to his style of drumming can give an accurate intuition of what sound he goes for. The collection of these beautiful sounds come together to show you what Animals as Leaders truly is. They are the successful culmination of all the genres combined to comprise. It is the sound of reaching the pinnacle of jazz and rock and imbuing them into a perfect synthesis. The album charmingly ends with the song “David.” This is the renouncement of all genres. “David” takes the listener through a dazing meditation to the closing of the album, and all the way to the very end the song appears to be gradually shedding life. She appears to be dying in her sleep, and just as she passes, one may find oneself in a paradigm of meditation pondering one’s own passage.

What an interesting coincidence.


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