#2: TOSIN ABASI (ANIMALS AS LEADERS)
MetalSucks recently polled its staff to determine who are The Top 25 Modern Metal Guitarists, and after an incredible amount of arguing, name calling, and physical violence, we have finalized that list! The only requirements to be eligible for the list were that the musician in question had to a) play metal (duh), b) play guitar (double-duh), and c) have recorded something in the past five years. Today we continue our countdown with Animals as Leaders’ Tosin Abasi…
It’s only been two years since Abasi released his debut solo effort under the Animals as Leaders moniker, but, oh, how times have since changed. When Prosthetic Records took a risk by releasing an ambient, shreddy metal album with no vocals by a relatively obscure, young guitarist, there’s no way they could’ve known the sea change it would inspire, and that there’d be dozens, if not hundreds, of imitators the world over. To say that Abasi has been a total game-changer for metal would be an understatement, and to say that he’s an immensely talented player deserving of every single accolade he receives doesn’t even really come close to capturing just how good he really is.
True, Abasi wasn’t a total unknown, but the ambient soundscapes and proggy wizardry of his Animals as Leaders material is a far cry from the core-inflected technicality of Reflux. The signs that Abasi had something special and unique were certainly there in his work with Reflux, though, which is no doubt why Prosthetic head honcho E.J. Johantgen twisted Abasi’s arm into recording a solo record.
It’d be easy to write off Tosin Abasi as a mindless shred artist, as many detractors do. But as the saying goes, it’s the motion of the ocean, not the size of the wave. It’s not the fact that Tosin plays lots of notes really fast and stuff brah! that makes him so impressive, but the way he uses myriad guitar techniques to create stunning compositions with peaks and valleys and loads of dynamic. Ya know, songs, just without any words. Yes, to be sure, Abasi’s speed and guile, and the fact that he does it all on an 8-string guitar, are really impressive on their own: the guy is really something to watch and marvel at. But if that’s all it took to receive praise, he’d be just another Michael Angelo Batio lost in a sea of Steve Vais.
Animals as Leaders’ universal appeal speaks volumes about the quality of the music beyond just the “shred” factor; that the band can share the stage with such disparate acts as Decapitated, Veil of Maya, Dredg, Circa Survive and Thursday, all with resounding success, surely says that people are connecting with more than just the fact that dude can move his fingers really fast. The difference is in the compositions, and Abasi is a talented writer in addition to an unparalleled player. And again, all of this with no vocals whatsoever; 99 times out of 100, anything without vocals will instantly fly over the head of your garden variety music fan. Animals as Leaders’ appeal beyond the metalsphere also speaks to the makeup of the music itself; jazz, rock, electronic and all sorts of other genres crop up more than occasionally on Animals as Leaders.
Credit where credit’s due: Periphery guitarist Misha Mansoor (#20 on our list) played a large role in the recording and production of Animals as Leaders, particularly with the drums and ambient sounds. And, again, credit where credit’s due: Tosin’s live compliments of Javier Reyes and Navene Koperweis are two insanely talented musicians who have helped bring this act to life. Of course, such high caliber musicians wouldn’t want to work with Tosin if it weren’t for his master vision.
Lastly but not leastly, it’s certainly worth mentioning that in a genre that prides itself on accepting all kinds of people and thinking outside the box, metalheads too often prove the naysayers right by being a close-minded circle of insiders remarkably resistant to change. As an African American with a unique sense of fashion that’s attracted plenty of critics (including a somewhat regretful Axl), for once metalheads are proving they are what they say they are by recognizing Abasi for his unmatched talent and accepting him as he is.
THE LIST SO FAR