Animals As Leaders

More strings, more style. 

Written by Mark Glotzbach, Follow him on his blog site @markglotzbachblog

I’ve been in love with the guitar since I was a little kid, but recently i started playing on an 8-string guitar made by Schecter, which has completely changed the way I play. I wasn’t even sure how to tune the thing at first, let alone properly utilize the two extra strings, so I did what anyone my age would do and hopped on YouTube for some quick tutorials and to see what it was all about.

I kept seeing these tutorials from a guitarist named Tosin Abasi, and I was simply amazed by the way he could play these extended range guitars, I needed to hear more of his stuff, which lead me to discover his band Animals As Leaders. Along with Abasi, the band is comprised of fellow Guitarist, Javier Reyes and Drummer, Matt Gartska.

Animals As Leaders is part of a progressive metal style known as Djent (pronounced Jent) which is famous for its use of very heavy and low guitar riffs using guitars with 7, 8 or even 9 strings (and some have added even more). I enjoy Animals As Leaders because they are a strictly instrumental band, so they can have the heavy and ominous sound of a metal band but none of the screaming, which I can only handle so much of.

What sets the band apart from the rest is their simplistically satisfying set up, just two guitars and a drummer; no vocalist, bass player or keyboardist. Javier Reyes has a classical Spanish background, adding more beautiful melodic tones along side the heavier riffs. Abasi also adds jazzier chord voicing’s and solos to the music. Abasi implements several atypical playing techniques to create a style that is uniquely his own; he will often play with all of his fingers instead of a pick, and use his thumb to create percussive elements on the heavier strings.

The two guitarists work well together and provide a unique blend of styles that give their albums a very wide and diverse range of sound. One track can be as heavy as bands like Meshuggah, the next can be soothing and gentle, allowing them to cover the full spectrum of emotion without uttering a word. Tosin Abasi admitted in an interview that the band has also used electronic elements in their music, as they are all fans of electronic music and felt that it added a nice dimension to their music, allowing them to achieve sounds outside of the range of their instruments.

I have been enjoying their 2016 album, The Madness of Many, for several weeks now, and it has not ceased to entertain me. This band has brought me back to my interest in technical and progressive metal, and has changed the way I play guitar and the way I listen to music. Whether you enjoy metal, jazz, classical or simply want something different, Animals As Leaders is definitely worth a listen. You can find their entire discography on Spotify.

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