REVIEW: Periphery + Animals As Leaders “Converge” in NYC

DC-based metallers Periphery and instrumental djent group Animals As Leaders brought their Convergence Tour to NYC’s Playstation Theater on Thursday night as they continue their North American co-headline trek. It was my first time seeing both bands, which is a very different experience as the vast majority of tours that have come around this year featured at least one band I’ve seen before, some multiple times. I think I saw Car Bomb once as an opener, but I typically don’t get to stroll in until after the opener these days unless it’s someone I’m dying to see. No disrespect meant to Car Bomb whatsoever, I just don’t have the free time necessary to arrive early for a 630 or 7pm show. I guess that’s a good thing, it means I’m busy, but it also means I don’t get to see too many openers anymore.

But I digress and should get to the substance of this review, and where better to begin than with Animals As Leaders? They’ve been very hyped and talked about quite a bit in the metal scene lately, so I was pretty anxious to finally see them. Let’s preface this by saying Animals As Leaders is basically the djent Umphreys McGee in that they’re a prog instrumental group that is known just as much for their light show as they are their music. And, also like UmphreysAAL is absolutely incredible live. It’s rare for me to say that about a band with no vocals, whose members you cannot see on stage save for the 5 or 10 seconds they have lights on them, but AAL floored me with their performance.

With a dozen songs in total, including Ka$cade, Arithmophobia, Tooth and Claw, Inner Assassins and CAFOAnimals As Leaders showed exactly why I’ve been hearing so much about them and why people in the NYC music scene have been begging me to see them. There’s rally nothing quite like a great instrumental show. Lots of things can go wrong when you’ve got somebody singing over your music, and I’ve seen pretty much all of it happen, but if you can go out and just jam for an hour or more and impress the hell out of me, that speaks volumes to your talent. Tosin Abasi, Javier Reyes and Matt Garstka are talented as hell, and Animals As Leaders succeeded in making me believe they’re the real deal.

For Periphery’s effort, they’ve been playing a steady 10-song setlist for this run which, while “short” in number is actually pretty long in time because all but one of the numbers selected for this tour are over four minutes, with many at or over five minutes. The real prize here is that Periphery plays the 12-minute epic Omega, which is worth the price of admission on its own, and follows that up with the nearly 8-minute Lune to close the show. Both songs are fantastic and there’s no need for an encore when your last two songs run for a combined total of 20 minutes.

Add to that Icarus Lives!, Motormouth, Remain Indoors, Prayer Position, Graveless, The Way the News Goes, Marigold and Mile Zero and you have an epic setlist that can only be rivaled by very few. Let’s be real, there aren’t many headline acts that can play a measly ten songs and leave you feeling like you got your money’s worth. Periphery can do exactly that, and even though they “only” play ten songs, they might as well be playing twenty with their selection of long songs. It’s easy to want more, but hard to complain when a band picks ten great songs and uses them to fill close to 90 minutes.

And, of course, with any good show you’ll always want more. Periphery isn’t just a “good” show, it’s a mind blowing show that needs to be seen and, more importantly, heard, to truly appreciate. I like to hear new albums live first, and Periphery III: Select Difficulty was featured front and center with six of the band’s ten tunes on display, and Lune was the highlight of the new album for me. I can’t really say anything more that would do this show justice. The Convergence tour is one that can only be appreciated in person, and not even the photos below will truly explain how great this one is.