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TesseracT - Altered State CD (album) cover



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kev rowland
Honorary Reviewer
4 stars When Tesseract signed to Century Media they lost their singer Abisola Obasanya and replaced him with Daniel Tompkins with whom they recorded their debut album. The album gained them a great deal of kudos and they toured hard, but soon they again needed a new singer so brought in Eliot Coleman with whom they recorded an EP, but it wasn't long before they yet again needed a new vocalist, but let's just hope that they chain Ashe O'Hara to the bus and just feed him and throw him the occasional bottle of beer as he is a real keeper. Much has been made of Tesseract's musical style, and they are often referred to as Djent, but to my ears they are a prog metal band that are using loads of influences from lots of different musical areas and who cares what they are labelled as anyway?

This is an album that is all about strange time signatures and percussive guitars, combined with loads of reverb and atmosphere. Ashe's vocals are incredible as he morphs between different styles and types, but always at the front, and always very much in control. Although there are hints of Animals as Leaders and Protest The Hero, I found that the two bands I kept being reminded of for some reasons were Evanescence and New Order. There is no doubt at all in my mind that Amos Williams has been hugely influenced by the bass playing of Peter Hook, and this combined with staccato riffing makes for some very powerful music indeed. Williams says that "mood, atmosphere, melody, and experiment are the main focus" of the album and I have to agree with him wholeheartedly.

This is an album that is not always easy to listen to, with many angular edges and plenty of riffing combined with the atmosphere and emotion, but it is always interesting and pushing forward. They have been together in one form or another for ten years, and now is their time as this is a heck of an album on so many levels.

Report this review (#975418)
Posted Monday, June 10, 2013 | Review Permalink
2 stars I am sorry but I really do not understand all the hype surrounding this band (see latest issue of Prog magazine). No doubt they are good in doing what they do and their mix of distorted percussive riffing and soaring melodic vocals is surely rock-solid. However, I do not find their musical direction as ground-breaking or exhilarating as some of the press would portray it. In fact, I find it worrying how easily and quickly I lose interest in their music as I play it.

I think that my problem with Altered State boils down to two issues. First, all the songs sound rather samey to me as the sonic wall of palm-muted guitars quickly wears me out. Second, I really cannot stand the voice of new singer Ahse O'hara, his winey and often inexpressive way of singing also contributing to the general sense of sameness and monotony.

Overall, two-stars: it may be good but I regard this as a release that only fan of the band (and sub-genre) may appreciate - and I am definitely not one.

Report this review (#975799)
Posted Tuesday, June 11, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars Tesseract are a band I've had a slight interest in over the past few years. And when I say that, I mean I have heard bits and pieces of them and have enjoyed them. For my sins, I do have their first album "One", but I haven't gotten around to listening to it. So while trying to get some newer albums a good listening too, my brother suggested that this album was very different to what they've been doing before. Intrigue is struck now, so I decided to bite the bullet and buy this album.

And my brother was right. This album is very different to what I've heard from this band before. Now, these guys have been getting a lot of attention recently, and in all fairness they do deserve it. But, there is something that will always be a stigma that I hold against the band.

The problem I have with these guys usually falls within their songwriting style. Being a musician myself, when I listen to this band I always think "wow I could never be in a band like this." This isn't be being bad musician (I'm alright at it, I guess), it's just that with these guys, and especially this album, the focus is usually on the technicality of the rhythms, beats and riffs rather than the real highlight for the band, and that is the vocals.

One of the biggest changes the band have decided to make is the dismissal of harsh vocals. A rather bold statement the band has decided to make, but they haven't made it impact their sound too much. Although, this album is a lot softer than their previous material, and Ashe's softer vocals do add to the atmosphere very well.

For this album, the band have recruited new vocalist Ashe O'Hara, after 2 vocalists walked out on the band in such a short amount of time. Now, his vocals are a lot softer than the previous vocals, but because of the bands change in style, they work very well with the music. As a vocalist, he really does have a brilliant range, with some very beautiful falsettos, that are almost feminine at times.

My favourite moment on the album has to be the opening suite "Of Matter." "Proxy" starts the song off in a very beautiful fashion and as it progresses throughout, it recapitulates some of themes in brilliant and exciting ways. Ashe's vocals really do work incredibly well and really add character to the complexity of the compositions.

One of my least favourite suites on the album would be "Of Mind." A slight return to form, reminiscing their more heavier material. It still has some brilliant moments, but the 8 minute epic "Exiled" does drag on slightly.

"Of Reality" is one of the better suites on the album as well, especially with the instrumental "Calabi-Yau" with some beautiful saxophone work. "Palingenesis" also has some very interesting jazzy beats throughout, that really add tone to the suite.

The final suite "Of Energy" has brilliant build up throughout. It does drag on a bit slightly with opener "Singularity", but the ending track "Embers", with its closing saxophone lines is absolutely beautiful and ends the album in a really beautiful manner.

In conclusion, this new direction for the band on this album is pretty mind blowing at times. I do prefer a lot of tracks to others, and it's the tracks that are more different are actually my favourites. Which makes me believe that whatever this band decided to do next will be the real triumph. I predict that this is only the beginning of something which could be something huge for the metal community in years to come.


Report this review (#1018776)
Posted Wednesday, August 14, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars After scrolling through the long list of bands in attendance at Sonisphere, I came upon the band TesseracT. Before Sonisphere, I had never heard of them. After some basic research, I found out how renowned the band was in other countries, how they have been together for many years, and have released two albums.

This five-piece from Britain has recently released their newest album titled "Altered State," their only album featuring vocalist Ashe O'Hara. Spanning close to an hour, this album features 10 songs broken down into 4 total movements. I can describe this album as progressive metal, but the sound that envelopes this entire album could help expand the genre into ambient or space rock. The vibe throughout the album is very interesting, and goes almost unnoticed between songs if one pays little attention to it. Over top this ambiance is the brilliant musicianship of the band as they perform one of my favorite albums I've listened to recently.

The guitar work is phenomenal, using djenty guitar work for both bass and electric guitars. Acie Kahney and James Monteith on guitar, and Amos Williams on bass guitar do a brilliant job, mixing different styles of progressive metal throughout the entire album. The range of sound shifts dramatically, from deeper, palm-muted riffs in the song "Of Matter" to a much softer, delicate, and more ambient tone in the song "Of Energy." Although featuring less solos than a typical progressive metal album, these guitarists more than make up for it in the beautiful sound they create, ranging from sounds like Animals as Leaders to Pink Floyd. Using effects like reverb and delay, the guitars are key components to the overall production, and become the driving force of the entire album, like violins to a symphony.

Jay Postones does a magnificent job on the drum set. A change in sound from their last album "One," Postones relies less on the double bass pedal and focuses more on crisp, clear hits on the upper half of his drum set. The song "Of Reality" shows the drums at its finest, as the drums display perfect timing and precision amongst the other instruments. The change in time signatures that so often accompanies progressive metal is present throughout the album, but the drum work helps to make the transition flow more smoothly, creating an easier listening experience to the audience.

Having only sung on this album, Ashe O'Hara adds "Altered States" as a highlight to his musical resume. O'Hara can truly belt out the lyrics with his talented voice, and easily proves his strength early in the album. His voice is best represented in the song "Of Mind ? Nocturne," as his range dives from lows to soaring highs. Unlike their last album, there is no scream or growl vocals, proving that metal can be just as great without it. Vocals would be pointless without meaningful lyrics, which TesseracT is able to surprise me with their complexity and significance.

The one thing that stood out most to me in this album is its composition. When I listen to "Altered States," I feel like I'm listening to two different albums at once. The first album is a progressive metal vibe, one with deep guitar rhythm, complex drumbeats, and vocals that set the overall mood and tone of the song. The other album I can hear is more of a musical score, featuring guest musician Chris Barretto on saxophone, and is full of ambient tones and spacey sound effects that layer below the instruments. As stated earlier, it is almost unnoticeable if you aren't paying full attention to the album, meaning you lose an entire layer of what makes this album so great. Unlike their first album "One," "Altered States" shows the band expanding into new territory, providing a much more ambitious and intricate album.

I love this album! Definitely a 10/10 in my book.

Report this review (#1226427)
Posted Tuesday, July 29, 2014 | Review Permalink
3 stars Well, in the world of prog there had to come a moment when a band called Tesseract would write a song about Palingenesis. Anyway, this young British band's songs typically alternate between sections that are more atmospheric and dreamy and those with a wall of sound and odd stop-start rhythms, with a radio-friendly high-register vocal wailing over and a very prominent bass, and then when those counterpoints are combined. . Not your regular approach, I guess. Britain confirms its reputation as a place for forward-thinking prog metal nowdays. But this all songs built on the same techniques, it does get tedious. More surprises would be appreciated, but only in one song closer to the end was I pleasantly surprised when I heard some sax thrown in.
Report this review (#1473563)
Posted Wednesday, October 7, 2015 | Review Permalink
4 stars The most important movement in modern progressive metal has been the proliferation of the so-called "djent" style; "djent" being an onomatopoeia for the sound that emerges when playing highly syncopated, often polyrhythmic, palm muted guitar riffs on down tuned or extended range guitars. While the excesses of the style/genre have been the fertilizer for a thriving internet meme movement, the movement did succeed in bringing desperately needed innovation to metal riffing across many of its sub-genres. 'Altered State', Tesseract's 2013 release, is one of the best examples of the djent style and the level of innovation it was capable of releasing on the metal world. Impossibly complex yet still infectious grooves are coupled with elated synth and clean electric guitar generated ambience in order to move listeners into an 'altered state' of consciousness. While it may take a few listens, this album is sure to expand your appreciation for just how much can be accomplished when "djent" and rhythmic experimentation are utilized tastefully.
Report this review (#2248653)
Posted Thursday, September 5, 2019 | Review Permalink

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