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ANIMALS AS LEADERS

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal • United States


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Animals As Leaders biography
Founded in Washington DC, USA in 2007

ANIMALS AS LEADERS is a progressive metal band from Washington, U.S. The band consists only of members Tosin Abasin (guitar, programming) and Javier Reyes (guitar) and Chebon Littlefield (bass, synth) who only play live. They released their self-titled album through Prosthetic Records in April 2009.

- Sebastian Maldonado (burrtitounit) -

See also: Reflux

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ANIMALS AS LEADERS discography


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ANIMALS AS LEADERS top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.02 | 292 ratings
Animals as Leaders
2009
3.93 | 224 ratings
Weightless
2011
3.82 | 115 ratings
The Joy of Motion
2014
3.44 | 57 ratings
The Madness of Many
2016
3.96 | 24 ratings
Parrhesia
2022

ANIMALS AS LEADERS Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

5.00 | 1 ratings
Live 2017
2018

ANIMALS AS LEADERS Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

ANIMALS AS LEADERS Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

ANIMALS AS LEADERS Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

3.63 | 32 ratings
Wave of Babies
2010
3.67 | 3 ratings
Monomyth
2021

ANIMALS AS LEADERS Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Parrhesia by ANIMALS AS LEADERS album cover Studio Album, 2022
3.96 | 24 ratings

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Parrhesia
Animals As Leaders Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by DangHeck

4 stars As has been a trend and almost a custom, released by Sumerian and produced by Periphery's own Misha Monsoor, this, Animals' fifth--it's honestly amazing I've been following them for at least three of their releases now--is finally here! Finally arrived onto the stage (I actually literally saw them the other month and it was incredible) and into our earholes after a wait of 6 years since The Madness of Many (2016). This is Parrhesia, from the Ancient Greek which can roughly mean "free speech" and more specifically defined as the seeking of forgiveness for the way in which one said something: we have such timely and pertinent titles toward the end to this effect, such as "Thoughts and Prayers" and "Micro-Aggressions". [Forgive my infantile (in my infancy) leftism/progressivism, if you will, but I can only imagine what sort of things Tosin has experienced as a black man (and likely Javier, as Latino) in Metal at large. He's not the first. He won't be the last. But there will likely always be something in that that I, as a white guy, will never quite understand.] Back to the album: I think my friend who saw them with me was right that it's best to have gotten that live experience first. Tosin and Co. had mentioned, too, that this was the first more or less collaborative album, that the excellent Matt Garstka had written material here specifically. Needless to say, especially after all that, I've been very excited.

"Conflict Cartography" opens with layers and layers from this trio, featuring at times soaring and soft soloing. Very familiar, really. Pretty good opener, but I feel like much of it we've seen from them before. I feel as though 2014-2016 was such a turning point for Progressive Metal (and also a point of reference even still), of course with the proliferation and popularization of "Djent" specifically (out of Progressive Metalcore, I think it's important to recognize). Albums therein that came out at this time include A Dream In Static (Earthside), The Congregation (Leprous), Language (The Contortionist), The Violent Sleep of Reason (Meshuggah), Periphery III: Select Difficulty (Periphery), [the 2013 exception] The Migration (Scale The Summit), and Animals As Leaders' most melodic album, The Joy of Motion. Can you blame anyone for taking this as a point of creative pivot?

What feels new is the brutal assault of "Monomyth" to follow. Always awesome hearing what sort of melodies Tosin and Javier can pull out and place within wild, rhythmically complex and unbelievably heavy songs such as this one; it's just insane. And compositionally complex over just 3 minutes. "Red Miso" is of a different, more feeling tone. More melodic and more rhythmically "natural" (until around 1:30, and even still haha). This song is sooooo pleasing. It becomes more and more brutal, even in its weird effect-laden quirk. Another to start though in a more ambient beauty is "Gestaltzerfall". I'm not sure how to explain the phenomenon of Gestaltzerfall, so definitely look it up and it will hopefully be clearer. What I can say is that it's interesting to have this sort of focus in mind for a musical composition. Could it be that we have, hidden within otherwise simple, straightforward movements, slight variations that can be picked up on when we mentally focus on them? I'm sure that's true of AAL many times over, if any band can accomplish this--and all this to say that I'm assuming I'm understanding the term and the phenomenon itself correctly (again, just look it up haha). Beautiful song though, nonetheless. I love when they're in a more melodic mode (I didn't mention above that Joy of Motion has been my forever favorite from them for this reason).

As for "Asahi", I must say, I'm more familiar with Sapporo. Is that alright with y'all? haha. "Asahi" is a short 2- minute ambient tune, with swelling strings-like padding and clean, reverberating guitar soloing. What a lovely breather. It flows right into the second shortest track, a more electronic number to start, the gorgeous and hypnotic "The Problem of Other Minds", one I certainly remember from their live performance. And it is great when your mind gets stuck into these intricate rhythms that they place in what seemed before a straightforward track. A lot to focus on and I'll definitely have to listen to this one in particular soon (hopefully the whole album, too, of course). There is a familiarity in this, that it is in fact Animals here, but they have found different ways over the years, especially starting with Joy to freshen and mix things up. Up next is the aforementioned "Thoughts and Prayers", which starts off with a very intriguing sort of intensity. Beautiful, now less uncommon soloing here, too. The rhythm is straight-ahead. The melodies are ominous and the tension continues on throughout. A lot more to take in than how it appears on the surface. But even still, I'm not as drawn as to some of the tracks from before. Maybe too familiar? Is that unfair?

We get the second track mentioned above next, "Micro-Aggressions", here in all of its wild and untamed brutality. From the start, this is one of the most impressive things, technically, that I've ever heard from any one of them. Incessant. Complex. Just plain incredible. And then we get a very, dare I say, traditional guitar solo in the middle. And then it's right on back into the crazed battle from the get-go. They have outdone themselves on this one. Finally, we have "Gordian Naught" (aha! haha), which has a very classic AAL intensity, yet somehow a level above, say, what you'd expect from the material off of Weightless or their self-titled debut. I didn't know they could gel any better as a band from before...

True Rate: 4.25/5.00

 Parrhesia by ANIMALS AS LEADERS album cover Studio Album, 2022
3.96 | 24 ratings

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Parrhesia
Animals As Leaders Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

4 stars ANIMALS AS LEADERS, initially the solo project of guitarist / bassist Tosin Abasi sprouted a new life-force when it became a bonafide band soon thereafter and this trio of virtuoso musicians has been at it for 15 years now albeit with a change of cast members. PARRHESIA (which means boldness or frankness of speech) is Abasi's fifth album after a lengthy absence since 2016's "The Madness of Many." Tosin returns accompanied by fellow guitarist / bassist Javier Reyes and drumming powerhouse Matt Garstka. This lineup has remained stable for three albums now and PARRHESIA showcases a fine-tuned jazz-fusion based djent trio in fine form.

As expected PARRHESIA is an all instrumental affair with nine tracks that almost reach 37 minutes of playing time. Steeped in the jazz-fusion ethos of great guitarists such as Allan Holdsworth, Jeff Beck, Pat Metheny and countless others accompanied by the progressive metal twists and turns of bands like Exivious, Shawn Lane and even Cynic, ANIMALS AS LEADERS also has mastered the technical wizardry of legends like Steve Vai as well as the more majestic djent fueled heft of Meshuggah and even the tech death majesty of Death's Chuck Schuldiner but there's really no mistaking the unique sound of ANIMALS AS LEADERS with its classy display of all the aforementioned influencers in a jazz-metal smoothie.

Stylistically ANIMALS AS LEADERS delivers the goods exactly as expected. Chunky jazzified guitar riffs accompanied by precision percussive prowess and hyper stimulating electronica with all those knotty time signature changes and moody atmospheric turbulence. The formula hasn't really deviated from its trajectory ever since the project's eponymously tilted 2009 debut which is a boon for those who are utterly addicted to this style of instrumental jazz-fusion magic with metallic outbursts but a little sleepy for those who would expect the band to put the "progressive" in its prog metal and embark on a more adventurous journey that offers more surprises and unthinkable deviations from the norm.

Well, that's not ANIMALS AS LEADERS is about and while not throwing any curveballs from its regularly scheduled program, does deliver in the technical jazz-metal chops department without missing a beat. Laced with nerdy time signature progressions and whizzing guitar solos fortified with independent drum rolls and bass grooves, PARRHESIA is the epitome of a trio whose three members are comfortable forging their own independent instrumental parts that somehow come together to create a larger sum of the parts. Perhaps ANIMALS AS LEADERS' greatest attribute is a keen sense of dynamics and how to gently nature any given musical tidbit until it climaxes with an explosive crescendo.

Perhaps too metal for the jazz-fusion crowd and not metal enough for the headbangers of the world, ANIMALS AS LEADERS does precariously sit perched in that in-between zone but where the metal is tamped down the beautiful guitar tones teased out into knotty jazz chord progressions is quite serene. Likewise the Meshuggah fueled djent stomps on speed also offer an intricate display of pyroclastic explosiveness that find the two guitarists of the band becoming more adept at blitzkrieg displays of guitar wizardry. Add the interesting keyboard contributions that deliver the perfect counterpoint and orchestrated atmospheric constructs and it's easy to get sucked into ANIMALS AS LEADERS beautiful tapestry of atmospheric jazz metal. Overall there are no surprises on PARRHESIA but if a competent dose of the band's classic style is what you were expecting then you won't be disappointed in the least.

 The Madness of Many by ANIMALS AS LEADERS album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.44 | 57 ratings

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The Madness of Many
Animals As Leaders Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by lemarquisat

3 stars There is no doubt that Tosin Abasi is one hell of a guitarist. Their 4th studio album is no exception in terms of great command of instruments of both Abasi, Reyes and Garstka.

On the other hand this album lacks something the first two albums didn't. It's somehow difficult to explain but maybe it's the lack of a variation and experimentation between songs. I tried to find something new, however quite sadly, the songs sounded like repeating each other (with an exception of 'The Brain Dance'). I did manage to finish listening the whole album on my 3rd attempt.

In terms of songs, I enjoyed 'The Brain Dance' only.

The Madness of Many was quite disappointing for me but of course within the standart for a musician like Tosin Abasi. It's always a joy listening songs from such competant artists. That's way my rating is 3 out of 5.

 The Madness of Many by ANIMALS AS LEADERS album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.44 | 57 ratings

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The Madness of Many
Animals As Leaders Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Zoltanxvamos

3 stars As some may know, I have a love for instrumental prog rock. This album is totally instrumental, immaculately played, and unbelievably well produced. Tosin Abasi is an absolute beast when it comes down to playing guitar, he is a living legend, and a innovative guitarist as well. Matthew Garstka is also a total beast, his technical abilities behind the drum kit are mindboggling. Travis Stewart isn't an exactly important person on this album even though his atmospheres and sound effects are through the roof. Unfortunately, as well played and well crafted this album is, there is no emotion behind it all. That's my biggest complaint, Tosin Abasi a living guitar legend, he can play impossible riffs, and impossible solos, but he doesn't have soul in his music. His writes totally technical pieces, but nothing that grabs the listeners ear, it's all technique and no emotion. Music is a way to get out emotions, by pouring feelings and soul into your craft, you are able to make beautiful music. This has one of two important factors in prog, ability to play, but no feeling.

This album is impressive to listen to, but I will not be putting on to fit the mood I'm in, unless that mood is me wanting to be impressed by immaculate playing.

 The Joy of Motion by ANIMALS AS LEADERS album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.82 | 115 ratings

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The Joy of Motion
Animals As Leaders Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by ssmarcus

4 stars The trio of musicians that is Animals as Leaders is arguably the most technically gifted group of musicians working in progressive metal music today - quite an impressive feat when you consider that technical proficiency is essentially a requirement for achieving prog metal greatness. Tosin Abasi, the band's founding member and primary song writer, emerged from the 2000's metalcore scene with an 8-string guitar ready to djent. Of course, Tosin's inhuman playing abilities and impressive musical imagination ultimately made it impossible for him to limit his musical expression to any one sub-genre. He thus turned to jazz and avant-guard metal to breathe a new kind of life into his compositions.

On 'The Joy of Motion,' Animals have crafted an album that is simultaneously brainy and sophisticated but still capable of supplying some more down to earth fun to its listeners. While it is very unlikely this highly experimental and technical form of music would ever find much success in the mainstream, 'The Joy of Motion' still managed to capture an outsized audience for the group.

 Animals as Leaders by ANIMALS AS LEADERS album cover Studio Album, 2009
4.02 | 292 ratings

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Animals as Leaders
Animals As Leaders Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by ssmarcus

5 stars Animals as Leaders eponymous debut album should be viewed as ground zero for modern progressive metal. Having nearly all the innovations and stylistic variations characteristic of new sounding prog metal released throughout the 2010's, Animals as Leaders set the benchmark for progressive metal greatness in the decade that followed.

For starters, the record incorporated a level of technical complexity in the riffs and song writing previously unheard of outside of the dark underworld of technical death metal. The previous generation of prog metal guitar gods, guitarists like Michael Romeo and John Petrucci, tended to showcase the extent of their technical abilities only in dedicated solos or instrumental passages within the songs or albums while keeping the intros, verses, and choruses relatively simplistic. Tosin not only threw this convention out the window, he demonstrated that making good rhythmic and melodic hooks can be achieved through highly technical playing.

The record also makes extensive use of electronic backing tracks to create more full harmony sections, jazz guitar methods and chord progressions, and djenty-Meshuggah-like riffage. There's a lot more to be said on technical level about what to expect from this music but I believe the items mentioned thus far give the listener enough of a sense of how this record inspired so much of what followed.

 The Madness of Many by ANIMALS AS LEADERS album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.44 | 57 ratings

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The Madness of Many
Animals As Leaders Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by ssmarcus

3 stars When thinking about The Madness of Many, and even Animals as Leaders' legacy more generally, I find it helpful/interesting to compare them with another exciting but "out there" supergroup of an earlier generation: Emerson, Lake, & Palmer.

Like ELP, Animals are a group comprised of three wildly skilled musicians yet one of the members is clearly the driving artistic force behind the whole project. Both groups embraced non-conventional rock band makeups with ELP forgoing a regular guitarist and Animals forgoing a regular bassist. Instead, the leaders of both groups, Tosin Abasi and Keith Emerson of Animals and ELP respectively, embraced evolving electronic music technology and have decided to attack the rock format differently. And even when it comes to the music, I can't help but visualize Tosin tapping away on the lower registers of his 8-string while listening the opening Hammond Organ riff kicks off on ELP's "Tarkus."

But the most important comparison for the sake of this specific review is just how much both groups are capable of simultaneously delivering smooth sounding "hit worthy" material with head scratching experimentation. There are many moments on this record, as with ELP records, where the sentiment of the listener can't help but be, "That was pretty cool? but do I like it?" And although the answer is usually ends of being yes, its still not something I care to ask every time a pop on a record.

 Weightless by ANIMALS AS LEADERS album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.93 | 224 ratings

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Weightless
Animals As Leaders Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by progtime1234567

4 stars I have listened to this album countless times and It gets better with every listen. The first time I listened to this album I expected It to sound exactly like MESHUGGAH but without the vocals. The truth is it sounds way different from MESHUGGAH. The guitar work performed by Tosin Abasi and Javier Reyes is excellent and makes the album sound unique from other Djent bands. Matt Gartska's drumming is also excellent and he is always in time with the two guitarists, he is a human drum machine.

Overall the album is different from other Djent bands that play the same old same old that they always play. If you want some unique instrumental prog rock then try is album out. It is worth it in my opinion.

4.5 stars

 The Joy of Motion by ANIMALS AS LEADERS album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.82 | 115 ratings

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The Joy of Motion
Animals As Leaders Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Negoba
Prog Reviewer

5 stars Heavy, Detailed, Complex, Beautiful

Like many, I was completely blown away by Animals as Leaders debut album. It was music unlike anything I'd ever heard. Not quite a decade later and there are more imitators than you can throw a headless 8 string at. Instrumental djent has become almost synonymous with modern prog metal. Scanning through Spotify, the sound has been so diluted that it's hard to surprise. While AaL certainly didn't sophomore slump with WEIGHTLESS, they didn't achieve that "holy shiz, what did I just hear" of the debut. It was probably impossible.

Enter JOY OF MOTION. In it, AaL may have musically eclipsed the debut. The fact that I almost universally turn to this album rather than any of the other 3 even after 3 years when I want to hear their sound point to that fact. The special sauce that for me takes AaL above the imitators is the musicality. There is a sense of melody, of composition, of ethereal beauty that makes this music meaningful (to these ears) to people beyond metal heads, guitar nerds, and prog junkies. Songs like "The Woven Web" and "Kaskade" are soundscapes that I can dive into, headphones taking me away from the rest of the world. Yet the overall sound is perhaps heavier than ever. Guitarist Tosin Abasi had by this point full integrated his thumb-thumping, slap-bass derived technique which adds a new layer to the mix.

While the music here is unflinchingly complex, I get less of a sense that the band is trying to simply blow their chops as they did during the first two albums. Everything has a purpose, and the melodic lines are more emotionally articulated. To be sure, there are still passages that would frighten young guitarists back to their mothers, but that aspect is less in your face. The rhythm guitar is front and center, and the programming elements continue to be essential glue that accents the music.

Bottom line: Not only my favorite Animals as Leaders album, my favorite modern prog/instrumental djent album

 The Joy of Motion by ANIMALS AS LEADERS album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.82 | 115 ratings

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The Joy of Motion
Animals As Leaders Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Luqueasaur

2 stars Same old same old: 5/10

The technical proficiency of the musicians from ANIMALS AS LEADERS is admirable pretty admirable, something observable since their unpretentious yet successful debut. THE JOY OF MOTION is their third release, a djenty act with huge influences from jazz. It tries to couple prog metal's mathematically intricacy with jazz's delicacy, something honestly pretty difficult to pull off satisfactorily, however not impossible, assuming LYE BY MYSTAKE's FEA JUR did it perfectly. The fact another band managed to do it successfully left me with an even more bitter impression of AAL. Exactly the characteristic that should be their pinnacling quality, their technicality, ends up scheming the album's demise as it sounds extremely insincere and robotic. The melodies, the arrangements, everything, it all sounds meticulously crafted so the album can come off as djenty, "but, like, definitely NOT only djenty, like, not at all man" . If the complex tracks were toned down, the album could be summarized as an average jazz fusion act, but they aren't. They're technical and they try to attain objectives much further beyond the grasp. THE JOY OF MOTION didn't need to be just tasteless djent with mediocre melodies that we all heard before on many other different "modern metal" bands, maybe it could be something transcendental. Something far more creative, innovative, inventive. But it isn't. It's just djent. There's nothing progressive about doing the same old thing again, not even if all you do is modify the progression a little bit here, a little bit there, and add a spicy, different solo in an unexpected moment. Sorry, AAL, but I didn't buy this.

Thanks to burritounit for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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