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4.10 | 48 ratings | 10 reviews
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Album · 2009


1. Tempting Time (5:23)
2. Soraya (4:27)
3. Thoroughly at Home (4:02)
4. On Impulse (6:09)
5. Tessitura (1:06)
6. Behaving Badly (4:26)
7. The Price of Everything and the Value of Nothing (5:32)
8. CAFO (6:41)
9. Inamorata (6:08)
10. Point to Point (1:44)
11. Modern Meat (2:06)
12. Song of Solomon (4:16)

Total Time: 52:00


Tosin Abasi: All Guitars and Bass
Misha Mansoor: Drum Programming, Synthesizers, Engineering

About this release

Live Band:

Tosin Abasi: Guitar
Javier Reyes: Guitar
Navene Koperweis: Drums
Chebon Littlefield: Bass

Thanks to negoba, Any Colour You Like for the updates


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Meshuggah may have been the originators of the djent sound of progressive metal, but there was a time when Animals as Leaders looked poised to become the lead band in the subgenre. Whilst the buzz has faded slightly, their debut remains a confident mingling of technically flawless progressive, metal, and jazz influences, in an all-instrumental configuration which gives them ample space to display their impressive skills.

The album is saved from descending into empty noodling by the band's distinctive and very individual sound, and to a certain extent I put the group in the same general category as Ozric Tentacles, in that both are progressively-inclined instrumental bands who are associated with a particular sound so closely that they could almost be accused of making the same album over and over again. On balance, I think Weightless was better than this one, but only a little bit.
siLLy puPPy
The brainchild of founder Tosin Abasi from Washington DC, the all instrumental jazz-fusion meets djent project ANIMALS AS LEADERS is more or less his baby although the band tours and presents itself as a full-fledged musical collaboration. This creative outlet began with Abasi’s involvement as the guitarist in the tech metal core band Reflux. After the band ceased to be, Abasi was approached by the metal record label Prosthetic Records who were majorly impressed with his chops and wanted him to record a solo album but Abasi declined feeling the idea was self-indulgent and instead he took a year off to study music in an academic setting to further his growing interest in jazz, classical guitar and composition. After he finished his homework he took Prosthetic up on their offer and then proceeded to let it all rip and roar. He chose the name ANIMALS AS LEADERS after reading the novel “Ishmael” by Daniel Quinn which dealt with the subject of anthropocentrism.

In 2009 Tosin released his first album playing his eight-string guitar and bass as well as co-producing with his partner in crime Misha Mansoor who handled engineering, drum programming and mixing. This album got a lot of praise when it came out due to its challenging virtuosic performances that add a lot of variety and spice to the often impressive but sterile compositions that many a virtuoso can dish out. A child of his time, Abasi pretty much handled all the duties formerly requiring an army of talents to accomplish and if he had been ten to twenty years older he could have easily fit in on the Shrapnel Records label that ushered in all kinds of young talented virtuoso guitarists to the world. Some of those artists like Tony MacAlpine and Greg Howe seem like antecedent influences to Abasi’s work, but i also hear some Pat Metheny in some of the lighter fluffier pieces, some mid-tempo ones bringing Allan Holdsworth and even Shawn Lane to mind and of course, the undeniable palm-muted technique of djent tech thrashers Meshuggah in the metallic edge that many of these tracks dish out.

While the influences on board are plenty, what i find refreshing about the debut album by ANIMALS AS LEADERS is how some fresh new takes on these techy fusion guitar jams play out. While the album is clearly created to show off Abasi’s technical wizardry, he was prescient enough to know that wizardry alone for wizardry’s sake had been played out and that extra oomph was needed to guarantee a pleasant listening experience. Well, pleasant this is indeed with lots of chops to excite my hunger for lightning fast guitar runs configured with insanely fast and unpredictable progressive time signatures alternating between quiet cozy numbers and rowdy rockers that unleash monster riffage and extreme bass frenetics.

My only complaint is that this album may be a tad too long for its intensity and contains a couple tracks that seem a little redundant but overall i find this to be a beautifully constructed modern day jazz-fusion guitar and bass extravaganza with beautiful atmosphere, crystal clear production and a musical passion that keeps the quality sizzling. OK, one more complaint. I wish there would have been a real drummer. While the programmed drumming is far from unpleasant or bad in any way, it really is no proper substitute for a talented jazz-fusion drummer who can really bring out the best in a band like classic Bill Bruford did in Yes. Excellent album but not quite a classic.
Animals as Leaders is one of those bands that completely took me by surprise. I've heard a lot of extraordinary music, and plenty of mediocre music, but no matter who told me these guys were amazing, I wouldn't have been prepared for what was to come. They are completely unique - I'd describe their style as "Progressive Jazz/Metal/Techno Fusion". Or something like that. Perhaps the most amazing thing about this band is that there are only 3 members, and no bassist. They are strictly instrumental. The lead guitarist of the band, Tosin Abasi, has developed a unique style of guitar playing where he combines guitar playing techniques with bass playing techniques, and employes the use of an 8 stringed guitar that has a bass string or two. I highly recommend looking up Tosin Abasi on youtube sometime ? it will be one of the most amazing musical feats you've ever witnessed, I promise. When I listen to Animals as Leaders, I find it hard to go back to listening to anyone else - this music is so beautifully complex that after hearing it everything else seems less amazing, and often I must listen to something simplistic and soothing to sort of cleanse the palette, if you will. In this, their first album, Animals as Leaders has this amazing method of building up an agressive soundscape filled with dirty heavy riffs and dissonance that builds and crescendos until you almost can't take it, and then all of a sudden they abbruptly pull back, shocking the listener with the beautiful contrast. The technicality of the riffage is simply astounding, and Tosin Abasi pulls off feats of musicality that I never thought possible. Behind all of this, drummer Navene Koperweis astounds with his layering, thunderous rhythm section. This album is one of those albums where I found that on first listen, certain songs stood out to me while others I didn't like so much, but after subsequent listens my perspective would change and I would have new favorites after each listen. This album is a perspective changing masterpiece.
Shredding for a new society.

Initially I thought of trying to do this review without mentioning the dj...-word. Dj.... being an entirely inadequate onomatopoeia intended to describe what the rhythm-guitars are supposed to sound like. Inadequate to a non-English speakers at least as the English spelling simply doesn't have the consistency to give me a clue on how I'm supposed to pronounce 'djent', like 'gentleman'? Then no, this is definitely not what the guitars sound like. Clinical, over-processed and too distorted, that's what they sound like.

Anyway, if you can do without the tagging, this is simply a modern instrumental Prog Metal album with some jazz influences, indebted to Meshuggah but with the extreme parts left out. The influences from modern day King Crimson in the guitar arpeggio's add a nice touch that definitely distinguishes this band from other bands in the field. Something that is really welcome as there are lots of projects in this style. AAL is one of the best loved examples and the praise is certainly understandable from a technical perspective: this involves all the virtuosity and compositional standards that fans expect from this sort of music.

But despite the interesting ideas the album is too much a "play safe", hardly stretching outside the previously set standards for instrumental jazz-metal fusion, and indulging way too much in pointless shredding. Worst of all is how emotionless and sterile this music is, as if it was made by an - admittedly very fast - computer program. It sounds as if it involved more hours spent on a laptop then actually playing instruments. No, excuse me while I want more spontaneity, interaction, dynamics and tension in instrumental music.

All objections aside, if you're a Prog Metal fan you can't go wrong with this. If you aren't a Prog Metal but still want to check out modern instrumental metal, I'd rather recommend other bands such as Octopus (Chile), Excivious, Chimp Spanner or Cloudkicker. I'd say AAL is music for musicians rather then for listeners. Anyway, the ideas are there, cut out a few solos and I'd still give it 4 stars.
The Most Important Metal Album Since....A Very Long Time

Music has taken on a very new look in the internet age. File sharing and mp3 have taken the lion's share of attention during this time, but other factors are making a dramatic impact on how music is created in the new millenium. The first and most obvious development is the evolution of high level home recording platforms. The second is youtube and internet video, which has given young musicians access both to an enormous variety of lessons right in their bedroom, and to each other. Animals as Leaders is, to my ear, the first group to produce a truly revolutionary sound as a result of the evolutionary new territory created by this computer age of music.

Drawing on djent, itself an internet phenomena populated by mainly home recording artists with a liking for math metal pioneers Meshuggah, Animals as Leaders is the solo project of the king of the eight string guitar, engineered by the close runner up. Tosin Obasi is simply an unworldly talent, with mastery of virtually every shred technique under his belt. Using exclusively 7 and 8 string guitars, he has expanded his pallette further by using two handed techniques similar to those of Tony Levin and other Chapman Stick players. Both he and engineer Bulb (Misha Monsoor) have an enormous knowledge base and have devoured and assimilated previous heroes such as Allan Holdsworth, Malmsteen, Vai, and Frank Gambale.

But talent and technique don't make music. It simply deepens and broadens the tools available. What Obasi does on ANIMALS AS LEADERS (unlike Bulb on his project PERIPHERY) is to take the djent platform and then launch to completely new realms. In fact, the album doesn't sound like godfather Meshuggah at all. Instead, it is a kind of heavy math jazz. It is consciously modern, with some sounds seemingly programmed, but actually produced by the guitar technique itself. Like Meshuggah, the music is cut up into a myriad of odd time morsels, making the music seem to flow freely over a bed of continuous eighths or sixteenths. (Not unlike the piano intro to FIRTH OF FIFTH).

The two things that make this music something beyond a technical showcase are energy and beauty. Without a doubt, this music is invigorating. I use it for workouts, I use it to pep me up. In fact, I think anyone with a tolerance for heavy music could enjoy this album without any care for the technical aspects. What's more the jazz elements weave in an out seamlessly, and here is where the beauty enters. There is a true sense of melody and mood. The tapping extravaganza in the opener "Tempting Time" is more of a spacey trip than a showcase, though in that respect it is mindboggling.

The only downside is that Tosin's sound, while overwhelming, can start to lack variety by the end of the album. While one could start on any song and be overwhelmed with the album's power, by the 8th song the listener knows the main ideas of what's going on. There is a nice acoustic break on track 11, "Modern Meat," but there is a bit of samey-ness on the other tracks. But the sound is so rich and powerful, that while this may not be a perfect album, it is without a doubt in my mind a masterpiece.

If you like complex music, get it. If you like metal, get it. If you like guitar, get it. If you like prog, get it. Get it?

Conor Fynes
'Animals As Leaders' - Animals As Leaders (8/10)

Having already inspired a legion of new 'djentlemen' with his debut album, Animals As Leaders guitarist and composer Tosin Abasi has already made quite an impression on the world of metal and instrumental rock with his first official foray with his solo project. Receiving accolades from such artists as Steve Vai (calling Abasi 'the future of instrumental rock') it is well-evident that this cool-headed guitarist has gotten off on a very good foot for a career. With his debut, the album shares a handful of flaws that rob it of otherwise being a perfect instrumental album, but there's no denying Tosin Abasi's exorbitant wealth of talent and skill.

Although session musicians may be employed for live performances, it should be known that the fifty-two odd minutes of music on this self-titled debut are by and large, the work of one man. The album follows a pattern that's been seen arising in modern music; a sort of DIY approach where a single artist can now have complete control over virtually every aspect of the production, should he choose to do so. With that in mind, the only things you will hear are a range of guitars, and various array of electronics Tosin has programmed for the album, be it atmospheric ambiance or the use of a drum machine. While the synthesized textures add quite a bit to the more beauty-oriented moments of the album, the focus is always on Tosin's sweeping, viciously technical yet equally soulful guitar playing.

Having been identified with the relatively new 'djent' scene in metal (a style of math metal that makes ample use of a palm-muted guitar tone made famous by Meshuggah) I was surprised to find the album surprisingly mellow for a metal record, although a few songs such as 'CAFO' really take the heaviness to heart. The majority of the tracks, such as one of my favourites 'Soraya' are no more metal-oriented than something Joe Satriani might do, although Tosin Abasi makes his music stand out by using plenty of jazz chords and tones, and a distinctive melodic tapping that is yet unparalleled.

Despite it's obvious strengths, 'Animals As Leaders' suffers from some faults that could have been improved upon. While the compositions are very good and the guitar playing is nothing short of incredible, the heavier sections generally come across as being alot less effective than the lighter, jazz-leaning work. There are certainly exceptions to this rule (the albums highlight 'Tempting Time' has some incredibly moving heavy sections) but I prefer to hear Abasi when he's in his element, which seems to be while he's doing the less abrasive work and getting in touch with his more mellow side. The acoustic track 'Modern Meat' proves he is well-rooted in jazz and groove. The biggest issue here however, is the drumming. While Tosin has used the SuperiorDrummer program fairly well, the drum machine does feel incredibly hollow compared to the rest of the mix, which is made worse by the fact it's turned up so high in the mix. While 'Animals As Leaders' is undoubtedly a guitar album, it's a shame that the percussive work would hurt the music more than it should, even regardless of the fact it is a drum machine at work.

The nitpicking aside though, 'Animals As Leaders' does seem to be a hint at the future of metal; something relatively fresh and new to showcase the talents of one incredibly gifted musician. While parts of the album can feel less effective than others, there's no doubt in my mind that Tosin Abasi is one of the most well-rounded guitarists around.
Guy wearing a tie and hat plays 8-string guitar... sounds great!

When I've heard ANIMALS AS LEADERS I immediately associated some aspects of it with Steve Vai (And Meshuggah but more about it later). Incredibly technical, this music has something of his style and ambience, something I don't really like, but there, in this album, with all other more progressive elements, it sounded great. So if you don't like the guy check it nevertheless. This is a very good album which deserves strong 7/10. As a whole it is a bit tiresome and not all of the songs are equally good so I can't rate it higher.

Style and composition:

- Instrumental!

- At times extremely heavy.

- Mixture of djent elements (Meshuggah-like polyrhythmic, 8-string guitar riffs; odd time signatures) with some jazz and Vai-like style. Generally melodic with some avant twists.

- A lot of virtuosity. The music is well-flowing and dynamic - very dense, sometimes even excessively - in some parts sounds merge in one.

- Many clean guitar parts with fantastic evolutionary way composition and jazz feel about them.

- Good use of atmospheric pads but I'd skip some of the synths there.

- Funk elements in one song!

Moods: Diverse atmosphere, maverick, otherworldly, slightly disturbing and ominous at times, dreamy.

Highlight: Tempting Time

PS.: There's nice CAFO video clip on YouTube.
Electrocution by djent.

Animals as Leaders is the new project by celebrated classically trained and dedicated metal guitarist Tosin Abasi. From acoustic to 8-string, the man can whip out riffs like no one else. Pulling out tapping arpeggios at over 200 bpm or noodling with a nylon guitar, the album contains a fantastic dose of heavy, melodic, and just overall intensity. Each track has something a little special, even if some lack what some others possess. Although synthesizer openings and programmed drums may sound a bit cheesy at times, the album is able to pull together some fantastic chops and superb musicianship for an outstanding album.

Tempting Time is the amazing opener. When I say "amazing opener," I really can't stress how amazing it truly is. It opens with a somewhat "trippy" synth and guitar intro, before breaking into pure beauty at the hand of Abasi's 8-string guitar. The song contains within it the absolute perfect combination of djent, melodic riffing and soloing, and those sublime polyrhythms. If I were asked to take out any part of this song, I wouldn't, because every savory second is so perfect. The songwriting, musicianship put into it, production quality and just about every other aspect of the song is what I would call "perfect." I've tried to find something bad about this track, and I cannot find one single thing.

In the wake of Tempting Time, Soraya seems meager at best. The song, consisting of considerably slower riffs and melodies, has a certain dissonance to it that doesn't sit well with me. Although the "chorus" and main riff is a very nice tapping bit, the solos and rhythms seem a little weak, even set aside from Tempting Time. Overall, the song is nice, but leaves a small aftertaste that doesn't sit perfectly well with me. It's alright, but nothing spectacular.

Thoroughly at Home is a another considerable slower track consisting of more deliberate traditional heavy metal riffs and some steady attack of metal. Some interesting experimentation is heard, with some more creative djent riffs. At some points some extremely inventive soling is heard, with some infectious polyrhythms and tapping. Overall another strong song, but again nothing outstanding.

On Impulse is much more melodic and mellow, showing Abasi's more compassionate and "musical" side of song writing. Played on his 8 string in a beautiful fashion, Abasi obviously has some intense guitar skills as he rocks along with a steady rhythm. Again this song isn't outstanding, but does have a bit of a higher grade of songwriting than the precious two tracks.

Tessitura is a short little semi-acoustic piece. Abasi is all alone on this one, quietly playing his guitar with his insanely unique style. The song transitions beautifully into the next track.

Behaving Badly is the next impressive track on the album. Fusing all the elements found on the album into a concise four minute track. Abasi utilizes his insane skills to make a great fusion between his melodic playing and his metal playing- an infectious duo, it makes. Some of the chops heard on the track are truly sublime, showing off Abasi skill even more with insanely fast and melodically dense riffing all throughout.

The Price of Everything and the Value of Nothing is the next track to feature that signature "fusion" that Animals as Leaders will easily develop into a very unique sound. The song has some great riffing from Abasi with some fantastic polyrhythms and interesting synth parts. Overall, the song presents another very strong track with a great fusion between guitar melodies and heavy metal riffs.

CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) is easily one of my favorite tracks on the album. The song kicks off with a sweeping tapping part before breaking into an intense djent riff with infectious tapping backgrounds. After this bombardment, the song breaks down into a simply vivacious tapping section where Abasi goes all out on his poor guitar neck. Smacking away at arpeggio after arpeggio, the song keeps a constant sweep of guitar notes. The whole song presents a ride of pure bliss in the form of djent.

Inamorta keeps this trend, blowing the listener away with some more great riffs and tapping solos. At this point, the trend is beginning to run a little dry, but the constant bombardment of sound seems to give at least some vigor before the intermediate tracks come back in. Overall, this track is good, but runs another common trend on the albumL having very strong single tracks that can't really stand up to the greater tracks of the album.

Point to Point is a short little guitar solo consisting of a short guitar noodle. The song is nothing spectacular, but does have some interesting riffing and other instrumental gems. Overall, the song just acts mainly as a transition into the next transition...

...Modern Meat. This track is the first truly acoustic track on the album. The 2 minute long song features Abasi on a nylon guitar, pouring his heart out over the strings (or maybe not). In reality, though, the song is a really great little classical guitar piece, showing Abasi's classical training in the form of pure composition.

Song of Solomon is a fantastic closer. Holding up to it's counterpart opener Tempting Time, it balances TT with a considerably lesser degree of insanity and fury with a great degree of melodic beauty and grace. Again featuring some great soloing and tapping by Abasi, the track has a perfect blend of everything found on the album, acting as a spectacular summary of everything the listener has exposed himself to on the album. Overall, the track is one of the greats of the album and will become a definite pro to the band's discography.

ALBUM OVERALL: Amazing. Overall, the album is amazing. Pure excellency. As a masterpiece? I wouldn't go that far, but as a debut, this album is as near to perfect as your gonna get. The album has virtually everything you could possible want in a metal album: intense, heavy riffs, moments of brief and poignant melody, and an overall heaviness that can categorize it as metal. Overall, this album is killer, and is highly recommended to any djent fan. Although some songs do seem to lack a little bit in comparison to others, track by track the album does have a great sense of charm. 4+ stars.
There are a lot of ostentatious solo albums out there. Sometimes there is too much shred for the listener to handle. Other times the songs are poorly written or repetitive. This album is neither. Strangely enough, Tosin Abasi did not want to do this album under this name because he felt it was too self-indulgent. Contrary to his expectations he created one of the most unique and groundbreaking albums in the past decade, under the name "Animals as Leaders"

There is not a very good way to describe the album entirely. Because of the production all the tracks are spacey, but that is not to say they sound anything like Pink Floyd since there are quick sweeps and shreds all over the place. It is a very light metal album, but there are quite a few rapid dissonant riffs. Not only are there just metal riffs, but electronic drum machines and synths are present throughout the album, as well as clean or acoustic guitars playing light jazz chords. Overall, this album owns a sound that hasn't been released before.

Most of the songs are highlights. The opener "Tempting Time" opens with spastic insanity and shredding madness and rapidly shifts into several sections, not letting up. "On Impulse" opens with mystical clean playing and builds electronic percussion until it closes with a climactic emotional prog guitar solo. "Behaving Badly" is dark and atmospheric that feature video game reminiscent guitar sound that speeds through a dark atmosphere. The short "Point to Point" develops great for a prog metal piece under two minutes, and "Modern Meat" is a low key acoustic jazz piece that like the previous track is well placed and written. The closer "Song of Solomon" is an energetic joyous piece with soaring guitar and impressive quick tapping in the middle. All the tracks in between are much like these: fast, melodic, energetic, and innovative.

There really aren't any downsides to this album. Abasi's techniques such as his tapping and shred styles are elements that haven't been found in music before. His work with Misha Mansoor in producing the album shows unique results: the atmosphere is phenomenal and unlike most other sounds. Not only that, but the guitar tone is perfect and complements the unique melodies and quirky noises the pair wanted to present.

Overall, this is simply a solid masterful album. Animals as Leaders, Tosin Abasi's solo project has produced a self titled album that can be called progressive in the creative sense, something very few bands can claim in the past decade. Although it is clearly a prog metal album, it has a ton of new elements that separate it far from Pain of Salvation and Dream Theater clones. Not only that but the pieces are well composed, and the lack of vocals does not hurt it in the least. This album belongs in every prog and metal lover's collection, period.

Members reviews

Instrumental metal done right.

Animals as Leaders' debut self-titled album is a jaw-dropping piece of technicality and instrumental perfection that never once gets pretentious or loses sight of an ultimate musical goal. Basically a solo project by American 8-string guitarist Tosin Abasi, Animals as Leaders was formed out of the ashes of Abasi's short-lived progressive metalcore band Reflux. What we have on this album is far removed from just about any other kind of progressive metal ever seen before, though.

The centerpiece of the album is obviously Tosin's incredible guitar playing. With this album he really sets himself at the very forefront of technical guitar virtuosity, channeling the likes of a newer-age Satch or Vai with mind-blowing solos, yet still creating an incredibly distinctive sound for himself that mixes this soloing with fancy riffs and experimental playing styles (more on this later). His use of the 8-string guitar also maximizes his ability to create some incredibly unique sounds on this album.

Musically, the album could be described as technical progressive metal, though that doesn't really do justice to the wide range of guitar styles explored in the album. While it's incredibly technical, it doesn't really fit in the "extreme" category, as the lack of harsh vocals and the sparsity of very heavy material doesn't evoke the same level of extremity found in other technical metal artists. Much of the style is taken from the underground "djent" metal genre, a style known for it's signature detuned guitar tone, in addition to the heavy use of polyrhythms and time signature changes; "math metal", if you will. However, while the djenty tone may be used pretty frequently in the album for rhythm parts, it doesn't take the predominant style, moreso using it as a flavoring here and there. Another dominant element to the album is the heavy electronica influence, with strong synths, background ambience, glitch percussion, and even occasional 8-bit lines. Additonally a large number of different guitar styles are explored as well, ranging from classical, neoclassical and jazz-style to traditional heavy metal, djent, and even mute and slap-style sections. Yet the music has this ultimate ability to never lose sight of melody. The melody is by far the strongest part of the album over all parts of the songwriting, and it really provides for some fantastic and memorable moments throughout the album. This is what in my opinion elevates it above all other tech albums.

The album starts off incredibly strong with the piece "Tempting Time", which opens with a melodic electronic opening and leads into some excellent heavy djent lines. The first solo is absolutely jaw-dropping and does an incredible job leaving the listener wanting for more. What follows is a cool synth line followed along on guitar with some complex math metal rhythm. A brief section of sweeps leads into a melodic breakdown and a somewhat ambient passage that all culminates in another strong solo and some furious techno-metal riffage before closing in an incredible fashion with an absolutely sublime riff. This piece really does a tremendous job putting many of Animals as Leaders' best qualities into one song and really starts the ball rolling.

The next piece "Soraya" is driven by some interesting tapstyle guitar, a mode that will be used somewhat frequently over the span of the album, and is pretty interesting to hear. Lots of time signature changes and another impressive solo towards the end, along with some interesting clean/distorted guitar contrast, make for a very enjoyable, less heavy piece. This is followed in somewhat stark contrast by "Thoroughly at Home", which starts of pretty heavily and doesn't relent. Cool riffing passages are abundant and followed by some interesting breaks involving a very twangy sounding guitar. The piece eventually turns into somewhat of a mathcore song and closes as the twangy guitars fade away.

The next song "On Impulse" starts off with a rather beautiful clean guitar section that incorporates some classical and contemporary jazz styles, including some impressive hybrid picking, that really makes for a beautifully melodic solo part. The percussion and rhythm eventually join in as the intro is repeated with distortion, and adding some cool electronic percussion and another crazy solo makes for an instantly memorable piece and one of the album's strongest songs.

"Tessitura" is a solo piece that uses tapstyle heavily and makes for a short, pleasant interlude into the next piece. "Behaving Badly" starts out with a very cool, earthy ambient section that is gradually built upon by some rocking layered guitars before breaking into a very unique main riff that uses some very unusual-sounding fast picking technique, making for a very fun and memorable chorus line. This riff section is repeated twice more but is partitioned out between some cool, spacey sounding sections. The percussion and rhythm are particularly strong on this piece.

The next song "The Price of Everything and the Value of Nothing" starts out incredibly space/trance-like before gradually building up to a cool melodic main riff that does a good job mixing a clean lead with a strong, heavy rhythm. The overall tone is, interestingly, very pleasant, even with fully distorted guitars blazing. Also here we are treated to another cool solo, though it's not one of the stronger ones on the album. This is in heavy contrast to the next song, "CAFO", which is arguably the most technical song on the album, if the mind- numbing sweeps that open the song aren't a good indication. And these sweeps are used as just the rhythm! This song works heavily with polymetered guitars and math metal- esque riffs. The sweeping section creates an awesome hectic backdrop as the song builds up momentum and eventually breaks into a very groovy tapping section. The percussion here again is very strong and some cool synth compliments a very epic composition. The solos that come later are very impressive: one before the main riff is repeated, and an incredible one that follows after a quiet stop, before the song closes in some excellent djenty headbanger riffs.

The next song "Inamorata" has some very strong chugging rhythm in the opening minutes and is very catchy despite the difficult-to-follow breaks that occur every so often. Another killer solo leads way to an awesome techno metal passage with the very strong synth lines, furious distorted guitars, and machine-gun bass pedals. The song then after a grand section turns into a heavy session of riff experimentation with some cool sporadic solos and even an 8-bit breakdown. Dueling guitars fade the track out into another interlude piece, "Point to Point", which starts out almost like a ballad. This short song has some more pleasant guitar leads before the rhythm and percussion join at the very end to escort it out. Following this is the last solo piece "Modern Meat", which is done in a mute guitar style, incorporating some guitar percussion and creating a somewhat Spanish sounding piece that is highly entertaining.

The closing track "Song of Solomon", while overshadowed by so much incredible music preceding it, actually turns out to be my personal favorite song on the album. It starts with a fast, excellent riff that quickly builds distortion and turns into probably the coolest riff on the album. What follows is a really cool solo done in a classical style that breaks to another awesome start-and-stop riff before returning to the first amazing section. The song is complemented by another outstanding solo before the sections repeat and go out on one big note.

Ultimately an album of such technicality would come down to how well it was executed, and luckily Animals as Leaders' debut strikes an excellent balance between technicality and substance. It's never overly pretentious and there are so many unique and memorable sections that this is truly one of the most unique and engaging progressive metal albums to come out in recent times, and Tosin's incredible musical capabilities have me captivated for future releases.

I had originally given this album four and a half stars, but I honestly can feel comfortable giving this album a perfect 5/5, I honestly feel that people are going to look back on this album years from now and it will be considered one of the most important landmarks in progressive music and the history of guitar virtuosity. Seriously, buy this album. Even after 600+ listens for me it never ceases to astound me.

Standout tracks: "Tempting Time", "Soraya", "On Impulse", "Behaving Badly", "The Price of Everything and the Value of Nothing", "CAFO", "Inamorata", "Song of Solomon"

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