Animals As Leaders
Animals As Leaders


3.0
good

Review

by Brent Stephenson USER (67 Reviews)
May 2nd, 2009 | 421 replies


Release Date: 2009 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A "shred" album that had the potential to be groundbreaking...

With the popularity of overly technical bands on the rise, not to mention the sudden resurgence in the popularity of so called "shred" guitar, metal guitarists almost seem to be becoming parodies of themselves, much like the guitarists of "heavy metal" bands in the late 80's did. Thankfully, guitarists have yet to resort to acts of such overblown ridiculousness as the quadruple neck guitar (yes Michael Angel Batio that verbal missile was directed at you), but with all the mindless guitar shredding being crammed into otherwise decent albums nowadays, I can't help but think that such things are right around the proverbial corner. Thanks to overly technical wankery making a comeback, it seems like any band with a guitarist that can throw together some stale "metal" riffs with standard minor key arpeggios has a shot at landing a record deal, which is (surprisingly) only serving to over-saturate an already stagnating genre. However, as ridiculous and inane as shred has (once again) become, I sometimes find myself perusing the annals of YouTube at 2 in the morning, watching videos of people playing the same regurgitated riff ideas and samey solos, hoping to find at least one person attempting to do something slightly different than the hordes of mindless drones equipped with Ibanez guitars and Line 6 combo amps.

It was in these searches that I eventually came across Tosin Abasi. Sure 7 and 8 string guitars are really nothing special, he's definitely not the first person to attempt to use multiple fingered tapping techniques, and he's definitely not the first to combine metal with jazz sensibilities, but there was just something about his quirky melodicisms and interesting sense of textures and layering that drew me into his playing. So when I got wind that he was releasing a full length album through his new project, Animals as Leaders, I was fairly excited. Maybe, just maybe, this album would be the start of a turnaround for the genre, or at the very least maybe it would provide a glimmer of hope for the future, but sadly, the album continuously falls prey to nearly every cliched element of the instrumental shred album. Many of the genuinely interesting melodic ideas that are presented are ruined when they morph into overly long, overly indulgent, and rather boring speed fests, and most of the attempts at combining jazzy structures with heavy riffs end up becoming nothing more than awkward juxtapositions rather than a true blending of the two. To make matters worse, most of the speedier solos that end up being legitimately interesting get cut of way before any sort of ending point, let alone a climax, is reached.

However, that's not to say that the album is without it's high points. The first track, Tempting Time, actually contains a pretty good balance of interesting chord progressions, quirky melodies, and impossibly fast solo sections, which end just before they run themselves into the ground instead of dragging on with the same ideas for an extra two or three minutes. Also, even though this is, at it's heart, a progressive metal album, there are really very few moments of true heaviness, so when the heavy moments do pop up in the mix, it makes for an excellent contrast with the usual melodic motifs. For example, the middle section of the album goes for three entire songs without any true heavy moments to speak of, so when the Meshuggah-esque chugs found in the intro of CAFO invade the soundscape, it's almost impossible to not get drawn back into what's happening. Thankfully, CAFO is one of the few songs in the album that doesn't drive itself into the ground by endlessly repeating it's few interesting ideas, which is especially surprising since it's the album's longest song, coming in at just under 7 minutes. Finally, Song of Solomon is really the only song that succeeds at blending together the jaunty structures and interesting melodicisms of modern jazz with the heavier elements of progressive metal. The melodic ideas presented constantly shift from attention grabbing jazz scales to frantic metallic riffing, making it one of the few truly worthwhile songs on offer here.

The real problem with Animals as Leaders is simply how safe the album is. A quick glance at any of the albums more experimental moments shows that Tosin Abasi is easily capable of coming up some fantastically creative ideas, but for the bulk of the album he seems perfectly content to throw around the same overused ideas found on nearly every single shred album released to date. The only difference here is that these ideas are hidden behind a veil of layered keyboards, superfluous guitar harmonies, and, at times, glitchy drum sounds. Basically, the album has the ability to fool you into thinking that what you're hearing is new and refreshing, at least for a little while. Hopefully, Abasi will approach his next album without the "look what I can do" mentality, and really focus on making something truly unique, which is something that he's shown he's more than capable of.



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user ratings (1558)
Chart.
4.1
excellent
other reviews of this album
Sean (5)
An awe inspiring first release for a band that has the potential to go a long way....

Zettel (4.5)
The unexpected masterpiece, in a year full of great music....


Comments:Add a Comment 
Athom
Staff Reviewer
May 2nd 2009


17225 Comments


good review. I've only heard this and his stuff with Reflux, does he have any other projects?

marksellsuswallets
May 2nd 2009


4848 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Not that I'm aware of. The first draft of this was notably longer, not to mention waaay more technical. Hopefully I avoided talking about theory too much. This album had the potential to be so good This Message Edited On 05.02.09

bloc
May 2nd 2009


35010 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

seriously, this nigg is a great guitarist

Digging: The Birthday Massacre - Superstition

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
May 3rd 2009


20857 Comments


Very good review Brent. I liked the balance of it and found it an all-around interesting read. Worth a pos.

marksellsuswallets
May 3rd 2009


4848 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

The guy is definitely talented, he just doesn't really do anything with it, just like every other shred guitarist.

Oh and thanks Davey, as always, you're ever so pleasant. Haha.

botb
May 3rd 2009


9760 Comments


respectfully disagree =p. he isn't really that shreddy tbh its more based on theory stuff and intricate lines than shred shred shreddy mcshred shred like satriani, malmsteen shit.

Digging: Solstafir - Ótta

marksellsuswallets
May 3rd 2009


4848 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I do agree with you to an extent, but to be perfectly honest his intricate lines never get all that intricate. Pretty much all shred guitarists have a vast knowledge of theory, even if people like Malmsteen choose to completely ignore their own knowledge and do the same thing over and over, and really that's what Abasi did on this. He pretty much just stayed within his comfort zone, an admittedly odd comfort zone at that, but even though what he plays normally sounds fairly abnormal, he just kind of wears it out.

kitsch
May 3rd 2009


5107 Comments


as soon as i read the word shred i didnt even bother with the rest of it

Si1v3RfaNg
May 3rd 2009


817 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Very good review Brent, pos'd. Also do you think I would like it? I've been in this indie, rock, prog rock, and punk mood lately.

marksellsuswallets
May 3rd 2009


4848 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I would say just listen to Tempting Time, CAFO, and Song of Solomon first, and if you really dig those tracks go ahead and check out the rest of the album. Tempting Time and Song of Solomon are on the band's myspace (myspace.com/animalsasleaders) so that would do well as your first stop. As I said, it's not an inherently bad record, it's just all but ruined by a bunch of bad choices and repetitiveness.

Si1v3RfaNg
May 3rd 2009


817 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I'm really digging Tempting Time a lot, really interesting, downloading the album now. Thanks man.

Edit: Oh and this is completely instrumental correct?This Message Edited On 05.03.09

Wizard
May 3rd 2009


19616 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Animals as Leaders............hilarious thoughts running through my head hahahaha. Great review. Glad to see you're still into metal these days hahahaha.

Sounds like pure suckage to these ears.

Digging: Hans Zimmer - Interstellar

marksellsuswallets
May 3rd 2009


4848 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Yeah this is a completely instrumetal (lolz) album.

Yeah when I first saw the name I thought it was some new vegan/straight edge hardcore band and it made me chuckle quite a bit.

hismajestythepope
May 3rd 2009


30 Comments


dude is skilled, terrible songwriter though

Wizard
May 3rd 2009


19616 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Yeah when I first saw the name I thought it was some new vegan/straight edge hardcore band and it made me chuckle quite a bit.


I actually took this thought a little further and imagined our prime minister as a baffoon running parliament...........oh wait hahahahaha.

So this is instrumental eh? Maybe I should look into this.This Message Edited On 05.03.09

Ire
May 3rd 2009


41822 Comments


"hoping to find at least one person attempting to do something slightly different than the hordes of mindless drones equipped with Ibanez guitars and Line 6 combo amps."

Nice review.

marksellsuswallets
May 3rd 2009


4848 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Yeah Wiz you should at least give a few songs a listen. I mean...it's kind of metal...haha.

That line 6 amp/Ibanez guitar bit was actually the way I used to be sadly...I've reformed since then thankfully...digital amps sound so terrible...This Message Edited On 05.03.09

kintups
May 3rd 2009


491 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Purple flying penguins! This is a great review! (And album)

marksellsuswallets
May 4th 2009


4848 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Dunno where the purple flying penguins thing came from but thanks. I find that I'm liking the few decent songs on here more and more, but I'm getting more and more annoyed with the 9 mediocre/bad ones.

Zeromus Dark
May 4th 2009


45 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This might drop to a 3.5 or 3. I respect the review. He is most definately skilled. The songs that are good, are shrouding me from the bad.



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