Tosin Abasi by no means needed to be a subsequent technology guitar hero when he began as a child. “I liked Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden,” says Animals As Leaders’ squid-fingered guitar virtuoso. “I’ve seen Guns N’ Roses or Van Halen, but I was just trying to play my favorite Nirvana songs.”

That all modified when he began hanging out with six-string dons like Joe Satriani and Steve Vai, finally main him into an entire completely different world of guitar genius. “It’s like, ‘Oh, there’s this whole different class of guitar players that you don’t hear on the radio. I became obsessed with learning these advanced guitar techniques.”

His obsession paid off. Today, Tosin is pushing the boundaries of prog metal with Animals As Leaders, whose new album Parrhesia has just been released. We’ve held his nine-string guitar out of his hands long enough for him to walk us through the 11 non-metal guitarists that will melt any metal fan’s mind.

Metal hammer line break

Alan Holdsworth

“Allan Holdsworth was a fusion guitarist, and as far as that school goes, he’s one of the critical players credited with defining the sound in so many ways. He used legato essentially exclusively and was known for his phrasing, which more closely resembled that of a bugle player than what you normally get from a guitar.

He was known to be somewhat jealous of horn players, so his style isn’t always guitar-esque, but the result is always something really unique and beautiful. He had insane, awesome chops.”

Jonathan Kriesburg

“Jonathan Kriesburg is a jazz guitarist who I’m pretty sure has some traces of his past – he just transitioned into a straight forward jazz player. He’s cool because he has all the skills guys like, but his use of harmony and phrasing, his polyphonic work and his ability to compose interesting melodies is incredible. He’s even done a solo release that’s literally all guitar, which is one of the hardest things to do.”

Yamandu Costa

“Yamandu Costa is a Brazilian nylon-string guitarist who plays a seven-string classical guitar. He has chops of this rival [virtuoso flamenco guitarist] Paco De Lucía when it comes to picking speed and clarity. It’s amazing.

In metal, shredding is all about guitar solos or guitar-centric moments, but with guys like Yamandu Costa he basically creates a mini-symphony on guitar. He’s responsible for both the chord playing and the bass lines, and there are these bursts of speed all done on a single instrument without the help of a band. It is reminiscent of the classic era of virtuoso instrumental playing.”

Andre Nieri

“Andre Nieri is perhaps a little closer to metal than a lot of the people on this list. He’s a rock guy and amazing. I’ve seen him play solos and just sat there and thought, “That’s perfect guitar playing.”

The amount of passion, use of vibrato and bending – everything about him strikes me as one of the most evolved electric guitar players. He comes from a rich background – he can play bossa nova and has that chordal harmony that’s part of his repertoire, but on electric guitar it would be hard to find anything more impressive.”

Ben Eunson

“Ben Eunson is another fusion player who sounds like they transcribed a ton from John Coltrane and Michael Brecker because his lines don’t sound like the traditional note selection on the guitar – he kind of missed a lot of that. He’s inflated sound-wide.

In the last few years I’ve noticed more and more guitarists like Ben Eunson through Instagram. He has released two albums so far and is very active on social media. The social media platform allows a window into a player that may be a minute long but exposes you to millions of people. If you’re very tech-savvy, this stat is perfect for bite-sized chunks.”

Antoine Boyer

“What Antoine Boyer can do as a single player on guitar is really fantastic. His contrapuntal two-part thing is really difficult and he’s really great at that.”

Kurt Rosenwinkel

“I’m a giant Kurt Rosenwinkel fan. I would not precisely say that he is the grasp of jazz fusion, however with jazz, as a result of it is such a robust custom, there is a degree of imitation as a result of it is a part of the language. If you need to play jazz, you do not want wah and distortion pedals, you need not faucet with two fingers.

Instead, you are going to be taught bebop, you are going to be taught Charlie Parker, and you are going to be taught bebop vocabulary. That creates a technology of gamers who honor custom. Then there are gamers who sort of counteract it and have a extra particular person sound – Kurt Rosenwinkel’s The Next Step is a kind of. I like the harmonies, the compositions and he has a really distinct musical voice.”

Gilad Hekselmann

“Gilad Hekselman plays with a maturity and consideration that is so difficult to match. He’s so mature and he can play these delicate compositions, but he’s also really great at counterpoint, using two voices at once. So he can even improvise.

It’s not the kind of play where you’re like, “Holy shit, that was so fast,” but the thing is, he can do that if he wants to. The value lies in the thoughtful and sensitive use of harmony and polyphony.”

AJ Gent

“AJ Gent is a slide player. He started playing in church, playing gospel. His use of slide is heavily influenced by female R&B singers like Mariah Carey. He can actually mimic a lot of that vocal intonation with the slide. The moment he starts playing you just stop.”

Lionel Loueke

“Lionel Loueke is a guitarist from Benin, he is a West African guitarist. He plays with Herbie Hancock but also has his own releases. This guy is one of the most unique guitar players out there; He imitates talking drums with a whammy pedal. He beatboxes, but not like a hip-hop beat. He’s doing this metric modulation where he’s beatboxing at a tempo and then swaying his guitar playing in this elastic way that makes it seem like it’s speeding up and slowing down.

He also does those things where he strings his guitar, treats it like a treated guitar like a pianist would on a treated piano with strings or feel on the keys. He puts paper under the bridge strings to modify the sound and can make some really cool non-guitar sounds out of it. Also, he’s in Herbie Hancock’s band, so right off the bat he’s great at playing bebop, but he has that whole cultural level on top of his playing.”

Adam Rogers

“Adam Rogers is a jazz guitarist who also has a classical guitar background. I think he actually studied classical guitar at university, but writes modern jazz. His use of harmony and symmetrical scales influenced me very, very much.”

It’s a extremely colourful use of concord – heaps to do with rigidity. He may be very masterful and has a definite, particular person voice and is one in all my favorites.”

Animals As Leaders’ new album Parrhesia is out now

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