On the night of March 5th, 2014, Animals As Leaders, accompanied by After the Burial, Navene K, and Zac Tiessen took over The Opera House in Toronto.

First was a young man by the name of Zac Tiessen, a solo guitar act with a lot of guts. Only seventeen years old, he put on a blistering three song set. Using pre programmed instrumentals to play over, he won over the small crowd with his guitar work, reminiscent of Tosin Abasi himself. He was very grateful to play such a huge show with headliners such as Animals As Leaders and After the Burial. He put his heart out there, and left everyone with a smile on their face.

Up next was none other than Navene K, from California. Being the former drummer for Animals As Leaders, he left in March 2012, and has been working on his solo dubstep/electronica project since. This was his first solo tour as Navene K, gracing the stage with nothing but his drum kit. Now, playing only drums live faces one crippling problem for most people; it can get boring. I don’t think Navene K understands the meaning of boring. By fusing his own electronica productions such as the single “Tear It Up” and his uncanny talent to rock the kit, the pure energy emanating from his performance demanded attention. Along with an intricate light show, programmed to follow the drum/electronica beat, this solo act was a force to be reckoned with. He loved being in Toronto, and truly appreciated getting a chance to play here. We were all left intrigued, and very entertained.

By this time, the venue was getting packed. With a packed venue, comes some rowdiness. Who better to handle an over-excited crowd than Twin Cities finest, After the Burial. While they are a five-piece band, the fans immediately noticed the lack of one tall, bearded fellow in particular. Lee Foral, the bassist, was unable to cross the border, because of “one cranky old dude,” as Anthony Notarmaso, the lead vocalist, informed us. Over the past years they faced no challenge of getting across the border, however luck was not on their side for this leg of the tour. They performed as a four piece instead. Although lacking a member, with rhythm guitarist Justin Lowe on bass, they managed to put on a seriously breathtaking show. Immediately electrocuting the room with the opening song “A Wolf Amongst Ravens”, ATB showed that nothing will stop them from giving the audience a night to remember.  Anthony was working the crowd and getting everyone involved. The mosh pits, crowd surfing, and walls of death ensued. Although they had to cut their set short, due to the fact that many songs require both lead and rhythm guitars, they still put on a nearly flawless and exciting set. No doubt about it, After the Burial has a certain flare of genuine sincerity with their fans, giving thanks to all and shaking hands. Having that type of connection with the fan base really means something, and it’s something we all recognize. For that, we thank you.

Last, but in no possible way least, Animals As Leaders of Washington D.C. dawned the stage and conquered The Opera House. Now touring with drummer Matt Garstka, they are set to release a new album March 25th. This progressive instrumental powerhouse knows how to make jaws drop.  From the first note to the last, they tore the room apart. AAL played tons of material, ranging from their self titled album, to a few tracks off their newest, The Joy of Motion. With very few breaks in between songs, they put on an astoundingly flawless and smooth set. Playing some of the most complex music in the genre today, Tobin Abasi (lead guitar) and Javier Reyes (rhythm guitar) shredded away, while Matt pounded furiously on the drums. You can feel the synchronization between the band members, as they didn’t miss a beat over the course of their set.

The stage was set up with two digital backdrops, featuring constant visualizers complimenting the music. The imagery was reminiscent of their album artwork and music videos (be sure to check out the lovely Stephanie Tran’s photos of the event to see what I mean.)  For a moment, let’s go back to what I said about the rowdy crowd. You would think After the Burial tamed them, yes? Wrong. The moshing was consistent to the very end of AAL’s set, which piqued my interest. This band features many melodic and harmonic songs; ones I can’t picture people moshing to. Nevertheless, the moshing and stage diving never stopped. One young man even ended up bowing down to guitar legend Tobin Abasi on stage! As Tobin said later in the set, “there must have been something in the water.” Ending with an old fan favourite, “CAFO”, for the encore, everyone left completely satisfied.

Whether there was something in the water or not, the venue was absolutely electric by the end. If we learned anything this event, it’s that you don’t need every instrument to put on a fantastic show! Be it drumming solo, playing with a missing member (although we all wish Lee was there), or a band that features no bass guitar, all the artists owned the stage and left a fantastic impression on the crowd. All extraordinary bands, this is a tour you can’t miss out on. Be sure to check when they’ll be stopping in your town! I know Toronto was more than happy to have them, and I hope they had just as great of a time.





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