Released: 2013, Century Media Records
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
England’s TesseracT are perhaps the gentlest – or genteelest - of the new wave of djent progenitors. The thundering, jagged rigging, pounding poly-rhythms and raging vocals typical of the genre are done with marked moderation by the quintet, who favor ambiance and atmosphere over volume and audacity.
After issuing 2012's acoustic EP Perspective – which should tell you something right there about their modus operandi – and dealing with a revolving door behind the mic – Daniel Tompkins and his replacement Elliot Coleman both left within a year of one another - TesseracT deliver an ambitious, though still somewhat sonically understated, second album in Altered State. There's certainly nothing understated about the scope of the album. With its 10 tracks played out over four movements – “Of Matter,” “Of Mind,” “Of Reality” and “Of Energy” - the album is, in essence, one long-ass song, roughly 51 minutes worth.
So it makes for a rather challenging introduction for new singer, Ashe O'Hara. But he fits in just fine here, his clear, breathy vocals making the perfect complement to the band's expansive, expressive music. Echoing Fates Warning and Adrian Belew-era King Crimson in equal measure, and buoyed by just enough djent oomph, TesseracT make melody, complexity and grandiosity work together instead against one another. Rarely do the band resort to sheer bombast for emphasis, and when they do it's in relatively brief fits and starts.
Instead, O'Hara's eloquent vocals weave themselves around the thrust-and-parry guitaring of Acle Kahney and James Monteith, which themselves ebb and flow with the meandering rhythms of Amos Williams and Jay Postones. There aren't showy, drawn out instrumental passages, unnecessary tangents or superfluous connective tissue here. Everything fits and everything has its place.
With Altered State, TesseracT have made a 51-minute piece of music that is not only compelling, but worth following through its entire journey. Yes, the various movements can be enjoyed on their own, and do come to logical conclusions – like the mournful sax fadeout on “Of Reality – Calabi-Yau,” but if you have the time, Altered State is best taken as a whole.