As the story goes, when Prosthetic Records asked D.C. – based guitar virtuoso Tosin Abasi to record a solo album based on his performances with his former band Reflux, the artist demurred as such a project would be ‘egotistical’. Here then, is his solo project under the band name, Animals as Leaders, on which Abasi plays all the guitar and bass tracks with engineer Misha Mansoor filling in the blanks, programming drums and synth. What results is an interesting progression on the work of Cynic and it’s off-shoots, a wholly instrumental album that takes fusion metal a small step further, with a focused balance of melodicism and technicality. Mansoor’s drum programming is a key aspect, where it could be mistaken as natural at times, he incorporates just enough quick break-beats and loopy trip-hop rhythms to add an extra dimension to the swirling psychadelic nature of Abasi’s top-notch performance.
Taken as a whole, this self-titled debut begins with an easy flow in spite of it’s experimental attitude and unorthodox production. As the momentum consistently builds towards the album’s heavier moments, such as the excellent “The Price of Everything and The Value of Nothing” or “CAFO”; even the most metallic moments of the album are frequently tempered by, or interspersed with, layers of acoustic or clean guitar tracking and synths. If anything the atmosphere throughout the first half of the album reminds me more of a slightly more hyped up and electronica-infused version of Marty Friedman’s or Sean Malone’s new-agey solo works before progressing to more angular and abrupt fare reminiscent of the music of Don Caballero, Canvas Solaris, Behold…the Arctopus or Meshuggah’s Fredrik Thordendal. The dividing line in this dynamic progression could thus be measured by the point where one’s girlfriend goes “now this is nice” to when she asks you to turn down that racket.
Having not been all that familiar with Reflux, I have to say that whether one considers this a solo project or a band, Tosin Abasi is a very impressive musician and the structure of the record lends itself to sneakily influencing the listener to come in chin-strokingly impressed and leave cock-strokingly orgasmic over this man’s talent in both his performance on bass and guitar, as well as his compositional skill. And if you think that sounds gay, well let me just tell you, where I once described Dragonforce as ‘all wank and no jizz’, this debut album by Animals as Leaders is truly an orgasmic experience for fans of brilliant instrumental metal.[Visit the band's website]