Label: Century Media
Release Date: May 27, 2013
TesseracT is a British progressive metal band that formed in 2007, known for pioneering the “djent” movement that has been gaining popularity at an exhilarating rate for the past few years. Although the “genre” has been overflowing with new bands on a regular basis, TesseracT have been able to remain unique and a contending name among the crowd.
However, it hasn’t always been simple and merry for the band either. Vocalist changes have plagued the band over the years. They are now on their fifth vocalist, Ashe O’Hara, who has to fill the shoes of previous vocalists. Fans of the band have found this to be quite difficult to digest, because many seem to dwell on the past contributions from Daniel Tompkins and Elliot Coleman. As with other genres and styles, fans will always give new members a hard time, usually never accepting the fact that changes happen.
Having listened to some previous work from the band, I was definitely excited when I got the chance to listen to this release. Not only was I stoked to hear the new vocalist, but I also wanted to see if this album was definitely the “gamechanger” that many folks in the reviewing community were stating this album to be. Let me just say, this album has definitely changed my perspective in one way or another.
Altered State can be summed up in a few words: Beautiful. Majestic. Emotional. Although many folks wouldn’t consider it to be metal, I see it as the opposite side of the spectrum that metal has been placed, but still contained within it. This album is all about atmosphere, progression, and a different kind of heaviness you don’t find in many other albums. This album is composed of four sections, that traverse all these characteristics stated above, and more.
Of Matter is the first section to start off the album, beginning with “Proxy”. “Proxy” starts off very quiet and gentle, introducing Ashe and his serene yet fragile vocal style. You will be confronted with electronic ambience combined with “djent” insertions which come and go as the album progresses, but not annoyingly so. Ashe demonstrates a strong vocal performance, probably one of the best that I have heard in the style. “Proxy” is continued into “Retrospect” where the aforementioned frail emotions continue. Heavy grooves enter and do a great job keeping the pace fresh and interesting. This is one of my favorite tracks, as Ashe demonstrates his influences with the music which creates a mesmerizing experience. There is a vocal passage that really caught my ears and it combines with the amazing atmosphere from the rest of the band, you can’t help but be amazed at the work put into it. “Resist” rounds out the Of Matter section of the album, acting as a sort of closing although there is the continuation of the sound from before that comes in later on.
Of Mind contains a single that was released pretty recently, “Nocturne”, which wields a fantastic fusion of the electronic atmosphere and driving rhythms once more. Ashe somehow is able to increase his range which may be the result of the addition of more emotion and energy. This shows that the album was turned into four sections for a reason. “Exile” is another instant favorite, being one of the more heavier tracks and longest track of the album. Although very consistent, the band is able to keep it interesting especially at the end with the “djent” riffs layered with some enlightening lead guitar.
Half of the way through this album, you can’t help but commend the work of Acle Kahney. The mixing/mastering on this album just astounds me, as I love to hear albums that “show off” every sound they can. This can be a drawback in certain situations, but TesseracT is able to put in the right amount of everything to make an amazingly sound album. Also notable is the bass work from Amos Williams, which can be overshadowed at certain points when the guitarists enter with their riffs, but you should be able to pick him out pretty quickly. The drummer, Postones, does a hell of a job as well, and accents Amos in certain tracks and vice versa. Overall, the band plays at their best in this album.
Of Reality starts the last half of the album, with “Eclipse” which does somewhat of a 180, creating a track that differentiates itself with a darker tone. I’m not sure if there are electronic layers put on top of the guitar work in this track or if it could possibly be a guitar with a similar tone to what has been used before in the background. Either way, it sounds amazing. “Palingenesis” comes off as very interesting, even for a short track, as it has layered, contrasting vocals (which may be heard earlier in the album, it is just more apparent here) and provides that feeling of “elevation” or “enlightenment”. “Calabi-Yau” is another track that feeds off of the previous and provides the listener with an amazing saxophone solo. Chris Barretto will surprise pretty much anybody with this piece. Being a saxophone player, I can definitely commend him.
To round off the album, Of Energy shows off two tracks that end it all perfectly. “Singularity” was another track that was recently released (a radio edit, so four minutes were chopped off). Spanning eight minutes, you’ll come across a song that loves to change pace and add in all the ingredients that have already transpired from previous tunes. This isn’t bad, as I look at it as a summary, the sort you’d find at the end of a lot of works. “Embers” ends everything on a good note, providing another saxophone appearance that isn’t too intruding. Actually, it helps in instilling a calm, beautiful ending. It helps keep everything whole, in a sense.
Overall, this album provides a whole new view, whether it is about music genres, composition, etc. or comparable to the events of life and other philosophically related subjects. Altered State is a journey and is set in redefining progressive metal. Forget about time signatures or different sounds, TesseracT is going for something much more with this album. Altered State is an ethereal experience, uplifting and saddening.
Album Of The Year contender, hands down.