Backstory: Tosin Abasi was the virtuosic guitarist for Washington, D.C.-based metalcore band Reflux. His skills on the eight-string guitar were so impressive that following the band’s breakup, its label asked Abasi to record a solo album. He declined. Fast-forward to 2011, and Animals as Leaders is Abasi and Javier Reyes (both on eight-string guitar), as well as drummer Navene Koperweis from Animosity and Fleshwrought. Since the instrumental progressive metal trio is configured almost exactly like The F*cking Champs, it’s not surprising that “An Infinite Regression” opens sounding a bit like that group's 2007 album VI until Koperweis makes bass runs on his low strings while Abasi taps out rhythmic harmonics high on the fretboard. “Odessa” simultaneously blends dual fret-tapping with studied shredding under a foundation of meaty riffs. Unlike on the group's 2009 eponymous debut, the drumming here is very real—even on “Earth Departure,” where Koperweis’ airtight time signatures and metronomic flawlessness sometimes sound mechanical. “Weightless” closes with Abasi and Reyes playing like they were born with three extra fingers on their left hands.

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