Sometime in the early to mid 2000’s a new genre of metal began to develop in a way that was representative of the times. The sub-genre that would become known by the onomatopoeic term “djent,” proliferated in part due to improved technology and the rise of social media. These societal factors helped lower the barriers to entry for creating and sharing music.

Like never before, a solo guitarist could record parts in his bedroom to send to other artists all across the world. These collaborations could then be instantly shared with thousands of people on social media, circumventing the normal process in which music was released. The “internet band” was born.

Some of the first, and most important bands within the djent subgenre began creating music through this remote collaborative process.

One of the most prolific bands to come out of this time period is the D.C. native Animals as Leaders. Sumerian Records’ crown jewel, AAL was originally the solo project of guitar wizard Tosin Abasi. The instrumental band is now rounded out by secondary guitarist, Javier Reyes and drummer, Matt Garstka.

Animals as Leaders

The Animals as Leaders sound is much harder to pigeonhole than most other bands in the genre.

You’re certainly still going to get the heavy groove and chugs that have become a hallmark of djent, but many of their songs are equally influenced by experimental jazz as they are by death metal. The combination of these influences produces a unique sound with emotional depth, even without the aid of a vocalist.

Releasing their first album in 2009, the group has drawn critical praise from all corners of the metal sphere for their truly virtuosic musicianship. AAL have gained more traction with each album, helping to land them on some of metal’s biggest tours, such as Summer Slaughter.

A true mark of their longevity, the band received their first #1 Hard Rock chart position with last year’s The Madness of Many, even though the djent genre’s popularity has seen a sharp decline.

Animals as Leaders are currently wrapping up a US headline tour in support of that album before they head to Europe and South America for the rest of the summer. Fingers crossed that they have another stateside tour planned for later in the year because their musical wizardry is quite a sight to behold in a live setting.

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