A Djent-ler Metal
I got into djent (pronounced jent, as in "gentle") about 10 years ago. I was reading through a Guitar World magazine and came across an article about a new band out of Maryland. They were from a town called Wheaton which was very close to where I had just moved from (Silver Spring). We were almost neighbors so I felt obligated to check them out. Especially because of how the band was described - heavy music with two guitarists, a drummer, and no bass player (what?!). I was not sure how they could be so heavy without any bass so I really needed to hear (and, as I would find out, see) what this was all about.
It was a time before Spotify so there was no instant gratification of immediately streaming a band's entire album. I had to go online and search for videos instead. I tracked down the video for "CAFO" and immediately saw why there was no bass in this band. It wasn't needed because both guitarists were playing 8-string guitars! An ordinary guitar is 6-strings. With an 8-string, the guitar had two extra low strings to play in the lower sound registers regularly reserved for the bass.
I also heard why this band was such a big deal. The guitar technique was technically-outstanding. The song opens with guitarist, Tosin Abasi, playing a melodic and rhythmic arpeggio pattern that is aurally pleasing to listen to and visually amazing to watch. Underneath that melody is a syncopated rhythm played by guitarist, Javier Reyes, that both clashes with the melody's rhythm but also manages to drive the song. The music was both overwhelming in its complexity but magnificent in its sound. I learned that this type of metal was called djent. I had heard the name before but never explored it. Now I was a fan.
That is why it was such a thrill for me to meet both guitarists at the NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) show in Anaheim, CA in both 2013 and 2015. At those shows, I was present when each unveiled their signature guitars - Tosin with Ibanez and Javier with ESP (Tosin has since gone on to start his own guitar company). Even more thrilling was when I had the chance to speak with them. I told them about how I had lived in Maryland. When they realized how close we had lived to each other, we stared talking about a former club in Wheaton called Phantasmagoria. Javier immediately stopped, looked at me, and said that we had met before. We could have. It could have been at a show or it could have been at the local guitar store where I had worked for a time. I was not sure. Luckily, Tosin chimed in that Javier was thinking of someone else. I was relieved. To have met these metal legends before they hit it big and completely not remembered would have been unforgivable and embarassing!
Through the years, I have gotten into other djent bands like Tesseract and Erra that had heavy vocals and progressive sounds but I remain a loyal fan of Animals as Leaders. In my eyes and ears, they are the kings of the genre.
Animals as Leaders on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/65C6Unk7nhg2aCnVuAPMo8?si=t-2-1v-pQBq1Nn31EnUXVQ
(My top five are: "On Impulse," "The Brain Dance," "Do Not Go Gently," "Physical Education," and "Tempting Time"