Live Review : Animals As Leaders + Car Bomb + Cryptodira @ Club Academy, Manchester on August 5th 2019

The gig tonight has been moved from Academy 2 to Club Academy, which actually allows for a more intense and intimate event usually, tonight is no different. The support bands are both greeted by a decent size crowd as well, which is good to see especially on a Monday night. It’s interesting to see such a diverse demographic represented in the crowd as well, and that speaks to the unique offering of bands tonight.

Long Island (NY) natives Cryptodira kick off proceedings with energetic vitality. I sometimes talk about multi-inspired progressive bands in my reviews but these guys really do dart all over the place with their influences and styles. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it can make for a schizophrenic performance at times. Deathcore and clean vocals are layered across a variety of progressive and jazz-infused guitar riffs. There’s the occasional catchy and groovy segment…but just as you’re nodding along with pint in hand they will switch-up either to a hypnotic Pelican inspired guitar refrain or a spasmodic The Locust assault. Scott Acquavella has some great range and melodic intent in his voice, but it’s Mike Monaco who visually steals the show - coming across like a Tasmanian devil with spitting and dribbling to supplement his demonic screaming. It’s not necessarily easy listening, but it’s definitely interesting listening.

The main support are also from Long Island, and it’s a real treat to have Car Bomb on our shores again. There’s no escaping that Car Bomb are mathcore, but there is so much unrelenting brutality to their music and performances as well that it does sit in a slightly different place to Rolo Tomassi for example. The juxtaposed and chaotic nature of their songs is undoubtedly from the same school of Metal though. They set their stall out right from the off with opener ‘Finish It’, but it’s not until new track ‘Scattered Sprites that we see the full range of their sound. Michael Dafferner’s vocals are vicious and unrelenting, calling to mind Jens Kidman of Meshuggah, but then all of a sudden smooth and entrancing clean vocals pop up. At times, the high-octane chaotic math-thrash gives way to melodic and dreamy Deftones reminiscent passages. It’s unquestionably a disorientating but invigorating experience watching Car Bomb, and the crowd are left exhausted but satisfied by frenetic closer ‘Secrets Within’.

Finally it’s time for the headliners - Washington, D.C.’s Animals As Leaders. These guys continue to prove that all you really need live is two eight-string guitars and a drum-kit to make some of the most intricately layered instrumental progressive tech-metal you can find. Of course, you need a tonne of skill and ability too and in Tosin Abasi, Javier Reyes and Matt Garstka you have a trio of musicians that meet that remit. It’s funky, it’s groovy and it’s all as technically impressive as you could ever want to see. The drumming from Garstka is unbelievably precise and faultless, which in turn allows the free-flowing mastery of Abasi and Reyes to flourish. The songs never become boring, with sometimes only fleeting dallies into heavy riffs or intricate segments that would have you believe their entire performance was improvised. That would belie the impressive song-writing and structuring that goes into their pieces though, best demonstrated by the almost bare track ‘The Brain Dance. They’re also talented stage performers and showmen, especially in the case of Abasi (complete with golden guitar) who frequently flashes knowing looks to the crowd. They keep everyone waiting for favourites ‘Cafo’ and ‘Physical Education and then send everyone off into the rest of their week with a grin.

Words by Matt Fraser
Photography by Johann Wierzbicki