SAN ANTONIO – Progressive instrumental metal band Animals as Leaders stopped into the Alamo City for their debut album 10-year-anniversary tour.
Joining AAL for the night at The Aztec Theater was Buke and Gase, and The Contortionist.
I have a pre-Aztec show ritual where I walk over to The Esquire Tavern and have a Lonestar Beer and also their famous Frito-Pie. It’s a two-fold pairing of fine cuisine that just makes perfect sense before a night of metal.
Hear me out. Pork and bean chili, Fritos, gouda, onion dip, and scallions. Try that next time before the Aztec show of your choosing and an ice-cold Lonestar Beer. I call it the “Cumbia Especial.”
There’s a very special ambiance right before you walk into the venue. Fortunately enough for me, I had a special guest with me who had never experienced a show quite like the one we attended.
Tejano Rapper Carlton Zeus stumbled into the metal detectors clumsily and we made our way to the stage as The Contortionist was playing. The far-right side of the stage was as closest to the barricade as we could get. It was all we needed.
The blaring synths began to blanket the crowd as their song, ‘Integration’ began its course. You could feel the synths coupled deep with the rhythmic drum patterns and guitars run through you.
“Jai guru deva om, the sum of everything.” Contortionist lead singer Michael Lessnard sang into the crowd and we roared back. The profound intricacy of his vocal style works incredibly well with the technicality of rest of the band.
You get caught up in the ethereal synth sounds for a nice trip that encapsulates you and sends you through a journey. These feelings are some of the best experiences that make up a good live show. This was just the appetizer for the evening. (I need to stop talking about food.)
Animals as Leaders is comprised of guitarists Tosin Abasi, Javier Reyes, and drummer Matt Garstka. Together, the trio form one of the most talented metal bands to produce progressive metal and I’ll go as far to say they are the leaders of that realm. No pun intended.
Released in 2009, their self-titled debut album sparked an uproar in the genre for its polished and well-produced technical sound.
Abasi is a master-magician with a guitar and so is Javier Reyes and together, they create a harmonious balance of shred and expert musicianship.
You could feel their passion emanating as they played every single hit off that record. Tempting Time is one of my favorites and I just remember looking to my left and right and seeing some of the much younger fans of the band.
This album released while I was in college and instantly I was sent back in time to when I was studying and listening to music. My passion for music has not changed. I listen to it every day and that has not changed either.
Tempting Time, Cafo, The Price of Everything and the Value of Nothing, are just some of the songs from the record that forever stand out to me.
Sometimes musicians miss the mark when recreating their record sound and translating it to a live performance correctly.
Animals as Leaders not only perform incredibly technical guitar rhythms and patterns, they do it with precision and accuracy all while being entertaining on stage.
You don’t have to be a particular fan of metal to enjoy the sounds they produce.
Garstka finalizes the tapestry that Reyes and Abasi weave, and it’s a sound that not only keeps you focused on what you are hearing but also has you begging for more. Luckily the songs are usually longer than four minutes so all is well in that realm.
I must say, seeing this album live and their performance not only took me back to a time where a young naive version of myself lived but also brought me back to the present and had me realizing that I was meant for this. These words were meant to be read by you.
Go see Animals as Leaders live. You will not be disappointed.
This story was originally published for News 4 San Antonio.