The djent five piece from Milton Keynes, UK, release their fifth studio album on Kscope on 15 September.
The record is demonstrably and explicitly a concept album, with a novel based around its storyline and themes in the works for bassist and lyricist Amos Williams, and supporting visual content as well. The sound world of the record also reflects this. The production, carried out by lead guitarist Acle Kahney, gives the tracks a consistent feel, although there is enough variation both in arrangement and song writing that the record does not feel unduly homogenous. The prominence of Jay Postones’s drums in the mix and the recurrence of an expansive, harmonised bell-like sound from Kahney’s guitar are threads which run across the tracks.
There is considerable variation as well, on top of this. Second single “The Grey” has a darker, grittier sound than the rich, demanding opener “Natural Disaster”, while “Sirens” and “Burden” take us further away still, the former being a gentler, more lyrical track, while “Burden” has a strong ‘80s groove, a clear, hard bass line, and synth drums.
The title track, at a touch over eleven minutes, is rightly the centrepiece of the album. It is all here, the sonic motif of Kahney’s echoing guitar, the heavy rhythm parts, the polyrhythms, the brooding lyrics, and the shifts in the vocal style employed by Daniel Tompkins, from growling to soaring, which is another feature of the record.
Stepping aside from the matter of genre and looking simply at the music on its own, there is much to like here. Besides the pyroclastic drumming, which stands out a little too much from the mix for my liking, the record is marked by strong ensemble playing and singing rather than marked individual brilliance. The atmospheres and textures of the songs seem to be the priority, the impact of the music not the impact of any one instrument. No more so James Monteith, whose backing guitar is thick and driving, but never overpowering, and although we get some very impressive vocal displays from Tompkins, this is in service of the music and the words. Otherwise, the instruments play their parts in the music as a whole.
On the other hand, the relentless nature of the drum patterns, their restlessness on most of pieces, can make for uncomfortable listening. And there is always the matter of episodic song writing, another feature of the majority of the tracks on the record. On the second single “Legion”, this does not work so well. Nor on the final piece, “Sacrifice”. It is a hard trick to pull off, if the impression of a series of loosely related musical ideas stitched together during recording and production is to be avoided. It is probably a matter of musical taste how well they have managed this on this record. And, of course, to give the composers their due, sometimes the relationships between passages emerge only after several trips through the album – a luxury for a reviewer.
For any fan of contemporary metal music, for fans of bands like Haken, Kingcrow, Leprous, Caligula’s Horse, or Pain of Salvation, there is a great deal on the record which should be cause for excitement. If it has weaknesses, they lie perhaps in its ambition, its scope, its reach. However, the undersigned would much rather metal bands take risks than play it safe, and in this, TesseracT are definitely in the right lane. Moreover, whatever risks it does take, the album is also a polished, accomplished record, marked by technical performances of a very high standard and gripping, energetic vocals. Not to be passed over lightly by any fan of modern metal.
4.5/6 | Alex Maines
Release date: 15 September 2023