And now for something completely different...at least for fans of Washington, D.C., metalcore also-rans Reflux, whose rather ignominious demise after just one critically acclaimed but poor-selling LP wound up freeing resident guitar virtuoso Tosin Abasi to accept an offer from Prosthetic Records to deliver his first solo album. That album, like the pseudonym adopted to mask the ostensible solo nature of Abasi's new project, was Animals as Leaders, and it proceeded to showcase the guitarist's formidable mastery of his instrument through a wholly instrumental, daringly progressive, and, perhaps most surprisingly, oftentimes mellow and ambiently new agey collection of songs. Of course, Abasi's heavy metal proving ground inevitably takes charge on more aggressive, maniacally intense workouts like "Tempting Time," "Thoroughly at Home," and "CAFO" -- all of which make reference to extreme explorers like Cynic and Meshuggah. But kinder ruminations like "Soraya," "On Impulse," and "Point to Point" take a different approach by weaving cascading melodies and fleet-fingered tapping (somewhere between Joe Satriani and two-hand-tap trailblazer Stanley Jordan) out of his customized seven- and eight-string guitars. Meanwhile, overt electronics are kept to a bare minimum aside from the programmed drums and occasional electronic hiccups ("On Impulse"), fluttering synth patterns ("Song of Solomon"), and overdriven synthetic percussion runs ("The Price of Everything and the Value of Nothing") that flare across listeners' panoramic widescreen. And on another surprising tip, the oddly named "Modern Meat" (Frank Zappa fans just perked up!) actually boasts gentle, mildly bossa nova-ish acoustic melodies. Having praised all that, the album's endless parade of circular scales and sheer barrage of flickered notes (epitomized by the dizzying "Behaving Badly") may prove just a bit tiresome to less adventurous musical tourists, but for those looking for sounds that both awe and challenge their faculties, Animals as Leaders delivers quite the cerebral workout.
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AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia