The thought of reviewing an Animals As Leaders album fills me with a sense of great joy and trepidation, a mere mortal placing judgement on Gods of Instrumental Prog-Math Rock? Surely it must be a dream Or a nightmare? How do you translate what happens inside the mind of a musician such as Tosin Abasi,Javier Reyesand Matt Garstka. The level of complexity within each and every song is mind-blowing, and whilst when you sit back admire, even take in video footage of their work on some level it looks effortless whilst sounding mystical. The beauty of their work is the unimposing balance between their clean overdriven sounds and harder, heavier qualities that are there, but never feel overwhelming.
The modern vibe with players of a similar flair tends to use transparent overdriven sound with layered overdrives or distortions to boost, hipster kids that look like they dress out of a charity shop yet playing a £2000 Ibanez AZ player through their Neural DSP plugin, Not here though, Animals As Leaders are a classier outfit, sharp-dressed dudes, too cool for school, even the constraints of the conventional 6 string guitar were not enough to hold Abasi and Reyes back, slamming 8 strings and using the lower registers to create otherworldly rhythmic backbones on which they layer more and more intricate, delicate nuance pieces until your mind can take no more!
The double pick attacks on their overriding melodies thicken the overall sound and interchanging roles between Abasi and Reyes throughout the album creates a soundscape so vast you are constantly kept on your toes and chasing your tail trying to keep up. The blistering ability to launch into a frenzied fretboard attack at will feels like an assault on the senses and then you remember you’re not at war here, the guys aren’t here to hurt you, they just want to make you feel musically inferior and want to hang up your guitar for good.
I jest of course, you can’t help but be inspired and awestruck at the beauty within the four walls on Parrhesia. The modern age has delivered some breathtaking musicians, the development of technology has allowed young aspiring musicians to delve deeper into their instruments, soak up all they can and push the boundaries way beyond what was expected. I remember as a young guitarist thinking “Who will be the next Satriani or Vai?” Would there even been one, an innovator rather than a replica, Animals As Leaders are genre-bending, genre moulding musicians that transcend what we thought were capable not just on the guitar but within the field of Rock!
Parrhesia is not just an album, it’s a religious experience.