ANIMALS AS LEADERS. Face Bar, Reading. 25.08.11

Almost 200 bands will play just across the road from the Face Bar this weekend. But the best band for 200 miles is right here. Ok, so most ticket holders for this year’s Reading Festival might not know the name Animals As Leaders but the Washington DC trio (or one-man mastermind Tobin Abasi and his friends if you prefer) are no secret- this is the band’s first UK headlining show and it sold out a week ago. Sure, questions remain about the scene the band has pretty much pioneered. Is djent an inside joke or serious proposition? Is this the first swell of a wave or the best it’s going to get? Does this even count as a scene at all? But it turns out none of that really matters. Regardless of cliques, cool factor or cult status, the headliners are incredible.

But then you get the feeling they are every night. Because this is no cold, clean or dry recreation of the electric eponymous debut, it’s a rich and textured and alive adaptation, a transformation of it. Actually, with the ridiculously wide smiles on the band’s faces and the crowd’s cheers for every perfectly placed build-up, breakdown and drop of ear candy it becomes a celebration of it. And there’s so much going on, so much to cheer about, that you never notice the lack of a vocalist to guide you. These songs are capable of taking you places all on their own.

‘Tempting Time’ sounds massive, bigger than this tiny back room, bigger than this town, a new song from the forthcoming album ‘Weightless’ is scarily perhaps the best of the night, tight with technical intricacies and eastern vibes, and a closing ‘CAFO’ inspires more smiles when those chanting for it apparently pronounce it wrong (it’s cay-foe dontcha know) and more cheering and hands-in-air excitement from mosh dudes, beard-strokers and everybody in between. Beautiful, breathtaking, modern, progressive metal at its very best, and nobody had to set themselves on fire or get naked in mud to enjoy it.

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