Animals As Leaders | Texas Review | Ralph Arvesen
Animals As Leaders performing during the Dreamsonic 2023 at the HEB Center in Cedar Park, Texas on June 16, 2023, with Tosin Abasi, Javier Reyes, and Matt Garstka. (Photo: Ralph Arvesen)

Armed with palette-expanding eight-string guitars, rich synths, and pummeling percussive grooves, the trio is beloved by metalheads, aspiring virtuosos, jazz fanatics, and casual listeners alike. As Pitchfork observed, “Animals As Leaders have walked the tightrope between sheer technical virtuosity and actual emotional resonance.” Even without vocals, this is intimate, mythmaking music.

The band’s diverse catalog plays like multiple seasons of a superb television series, the shows with consistent themes and characters throughout their runs which evolve without sacrificing their most essential elements. Animals As Leaders began as a solo outlet for guitarist Tosin Abasi, whose creative partnership with classically trained guitarist / audio engineer Javier Reyes and Berklee-educated drummer Matt Garstka is built on a shared love of everything from fusion to technical death metal.

The Chicago Tribune called Abasi “the closest thing prog-metal has to an Eddie Van Halen.” MetalSucks is similarly enthusiastic. “Tosin Abasi is probably, on some ‘objective’ level, one of the top ten guitarists of all time,” they wrote. “His musical ideas are so creative, so colorful, and so unique relative to everything else going on in their general sphere of guitar-based music, that he just puts everyone to shame.” In one of his many appearances on their cover, Guitar World named him among the Guitarists of the Decade. Rolling Stone featured him in their “Young Guns” series. Modern Drummer put Garstka on the cover, a year before he sat in with NBC’s Late Night with Seth Meyers.
Fan reviews:

You broke up with me, said we were never really together, you don't respect me, and did not answer my question about what would change when I divorce.
I'm still in love with you, I still love you as much as I ever have, I still want to be with you, I miss you ever day, I hurt every day.

It was insaneeeee. One of my favorite concert experiences ever and I would be thrilled to see them come back one day.

Go see them if you have the chance. I have wanted to see these guys live ever since I first heard them, just to see if they were real. They are. Phenomenal performance from three people (extra-terrestrial life forms?) who sound like they were meant to be in a band together. The audience was very into the band; lots of crowd swimming and such. A wonderful way to get back out into the concert life.

Greatest concert I've ever been to. The concert was absolutely amazing, These guys are amazing musicians.
Animals As Leaders shared the stage with Dream Theater and Devin Townsend at the HEB Center. They continue across the United States, Canada, and Europe with the last stop at the Doornroosje in Nijmegen, Netherlands on November 16, 2023.

Animals As Leaders
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Photos by Ralph Arvesen
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