Take the guitar wizardry of virtuosos like DEVIN TOWNSEND, mix it with the rhythmic crunch of MESHUGGAH, and sprinkle in a little bit of the moodiness of TOOL, and you’ve got the technical trio known as ANIMALS AS LEADERS. The instrumental progressive metallers are back in the UK for the first time in some years and in Birmingham, the Californian troupe are met with a sold-out crowd hungry for riffs and rhythms.
ALLT are given the task of warming up the gig-goers and it must be said, that despite being rather different from the headliners in terms of genre, they do an excellent job of winning over the audience. The Swedish metalcore troupe bring the heavy with breakdown-filled djent bangers like Paralyzed and Emanate certainly sets the mood for this sold-out crowd.
Originally planned for January, fans of technical metallers ANIMALS AS LEADERS have had to wait the better part of a year for the postponed headline tour, and the anticipation can be felt in the O2 Institute’s basement room for this Saturday night show. The trio don’t keep the crowd waiting long, taking to the stage early in the evening and kicking straight into the dizzying riffery of Tooth And Claw, from their breakout 2014 album The Joy Of Motion.
This opening song puts the stunning ability of the three musicians on full display, as frontman Tosin Abasi and fellow guitarist Javier Reyes trade delightfully unpredictable licks. The precision of their playing is all the more impressive given they are playing to pre-recorded bass and synth tracks. Not a note is out of place and the audience is in awe from the very start and throughout the 14-song set. As the tour is in support of their fourth studio album, Parrhesia, there are plenty of new tracks for fans to enjoy, starting with Conflict Cartography. This rhythmic odyssey laced with confounding melodies is stunning to watch unfold in a live setting, with the accompanying light show helping to sell the science fiction vibes given off by the trio’s impeccable playing.
Not to be outdone by the band’s fret masters, Matt Garstka is a beast on the drum set, delivering the blistering beats of Monomyth while barely breaking a sweat. The jaw-dropping precision of the performance is nothing short of a spectacle to behold. As the set nears its end, ANIMALS AS LEADERS’ flair for towering melodies comes to the fore with two throwbacks from The Joy Of Motion. Physical Education is as energising as its title suggests, eliciting the first sing-along of the night to its infectious main riff. This standout moment is followed up by the transcendental melodies of The Woven Web. Our only complaint is that some of the more melodic entries in AAL’s catalogue, such as The Problem of Other Minds and Another Year, are left of the setlist, but there is something to be set for the momentum that the trio keep up with the onslaught of crushing bangers.
The trio close their set with CAFO, one last display of speedy soloing and blistering polyrhythms from their self-titled debut. The six-minute epic is the perfect closer, inciting the mosh pit into one last hurrah before the gig-goers spill out onto the streets of Birmingham.
Check out our photo gallery of the night’s action in Birmingham from Max Adams here:
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