It was a very cold Friday night in Philadelphia. I took a short walk from the parking garage through Chinatown to the Trocadero Theatre. Running late from a traffic jam, I made it in JUST as AFTER THE BURIAL’S techs were setting up the stage. I quickly took a seat in the upper level, as close as I could get to stage left. Since Wolves Within (Sumerian Records) was released on December 17, I have listened to it quite regularly. I have followed AFTER THE BURIAL since their debut record, Forging a Future Self, and have seen them go through their share of lineup changes. I have to say, I think their current lineup is my favorite, featuring the insane 8 string guitar shredding duo of Justin Lowe and Trent Hafdahl, bassist Lee Foral, drummer Dan Carle, and vocalist Anthony Notarmaso.
They kicked off their high energy set with the last track off of Wolves Within, “A Wolf Amongst Ravens.” It got the entire crowd moving and pumped up. When this ended, they quickly burst into one of my all-time favorite AFTER THE BURIAL tracks, “My Frailty.” During the harmonized, blazingly fast solo in this song, Lowe and Hafdahl stepped up onto risers, the lights focused on them, and the crowd stood in awe at the clinic in shred we were receiving. Then, they burst into the grooving beast that is “Berzerker,” followed by another new track called “Pennyweight.”
One of my favorite things about this night was that AFTER THE BURIAL’S set was nearly non-stop. Sure there were short stoppages so guitars could be swapped and that Anthony Notarmaso could address the crowd, but their performance rolled on high octane for all eight songs performed. Their set featured songs spanning their entire catalog, with the next song being “A Steady Decline” from their debut record. The people in the crowd were throwing down hard in the pit, which at times nearly took up the entire standing room at the Troc. “Anti-Pattern,” the lead track from their new album was next, followed by Rareform’s “Aspiration,” and the closer from In Dreams, “Your Troubles Will Cease and Fortune Will Smile Upon You.”
Their set turbocharged my Friday night and had me wishing they were given more time to perform. If you enjoy low tuned, hard hitting, groove filled riffs with shred sections that will leave your jaw on the floor you will absolutely want to witness this great band in person. They show deep appreciation for their fans and their tour mates and are certain to give it all every night on each stage in any given city.
After a roaring ovation for AFTER THE BURIAL and a short intermission for setup, ANIMALS AS LEADERS took the stage with an explosion of color and designs from their dual LED screens as the first note of their newest track, “Tooth and Claw,” was struck. The internet has been buzzing with hype about this song and ANIMALS AS LEADERS’ forthcoming album, The Joy of Motion (Out March 25 via Sumerian Records). Being a fan of this instrumental trio, it was a struggle to not cave in and let myself have a listen of this track when it premiered. Knowing I would attend this concert, I chose to not hear any of their new material until this night.
It was certainly worth the wait!
At the end of my first listen to their unbelievable show opener, they ripped into Weightless’ “Do Not Go Gently,” then into their self-titled release’s opening song, “Tempting Time.” Track after track, this band was absolutely dazzling. I wasn’t sure which of these three incredible musicians to focus on. Sometimes I got lost just looking at the different visuals playing on the LED screens that served as their backdrop. Not only was I seeing a great display of musicianship, but it felt like I simultaneously got a light show out of this. Another unexpected experience I had was seeing a mosh pit open up during the heavier sections of their songs! It was great to see so many people embrace this music in ways other than standing in awe. The energy was fantastic.
During the course of their set, the progressive metal group took mere seconds to swap guitars. Tosin Abasi greeted the crowd a couple of times, but they meant business for the entire set; ripping one mind-blowing song after the next. Through their monstrous 14 song set, I heard a total of four songs from The Joy of Motion (“Tooth and Claw,” “Kascade,” “Lippincott,” and “Physical Education”). I absolutely cannot wait to listen to what the rest of their new album has to offer. These four songs were terrific; featuring some of the most intriguing and innovative guitar playing techniques and arrangements I’ve ever seen or heard. Javier Reyes, Tosin Abasi, and Matt Garstka all performed with great precision. Each of them had their individual moments to shine onstage through solos or focused sections.
At the end of their twelfth song of the night, the title track from Weightless, the three men gave a wave goodbye and smiles and walked off stage. The crowd started chanting for their return. The chant crescendoed until Tosin and company returned to the stage. He then smiled and addressed the crowd with the question; “You guys want some more music?” To which the crowd emphatically expressed “YES!” As a joke, Tosin began strumming along
the intro riff to “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by NIRVANA. Laughs were had and
the band then kicked into “To Lead You to an Overwhelming Question.”
The night’s final song was their most popular track, “CAFO.”
The set was extensive, full of great material and every single person in the Trocadero on that cold night wandered out into the city streets with a feeling of fulfillment and amazement. We had all just witnessed three musicians that have perfected their crafts. We were in the presence of a modern guitar god in Tosin Abasi. It was a truly memorable night and I certainly hope to witness them many more times in the future. An ANIMALS AS LEADERS live show is worth every single penny. I guarantee that you will not find a disappointed concert goer that has seen them before. I am HOOKED.
Do not miss them or this great, progressive tour package when it hits your town!
WRITTEN BY ERIC THE BULL
LIVE PHOTOS BY MIKE SIEVILA PHOTOGRAPHY