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TesseracT - Polaris CD (album) cover




Progressive Metal

3.68 | 80 ratings

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3 stars If there's one thing Tesseract proved with their new album Polaris, it's that the lineup which gave us Altered State was something special. It's inevitable that Polaris would be compared to Altered State, the band's breakthrough album that was nominated for Prog magazine's 2013 Album of the Year. That record made the UK-based progressive metal band a group to watch in the genre, with vocalist Ashe O'Hara giving us soaring melodies and poetic lyrics that had me analyzing the liner notes. But O'Hara has since departed the band and been replaced by their former singer Daniel Tompkins. And, unfortunately for Tompkins, my biggest takeaway from Polaris is that I will miss O'Hara's vocals over Tesseract's tunes.

Sadly, O'Hara left Tesseract due to creative differences with the group, which he revealed on social media in June 2014. Shortly thereafter, Tesseract announced the return of Tompkins, who is a very talented musician in his own right. He appeared on the band's debut album, One, in 2011 and has been involved in several other projects -- including Skyharbor's 2014 album, Guiding Lights. But Polaris was his biggest test yet. This record was Tesseract's chance to cement a spot among progressive metal's heavyweights. Great bands follow up their breakthrough records with a record of an equal (or even greater) quality. For example, Queensr˙che made the impressive Empire in 1990 following Operation: Mindcrime in 1988, while Dream Theater released the breathtaking Awake in 1994 after releasing the legendary Images and Words in 1992. Yes, Tesseract had a tough task in replicating the brilliance of Altered State, but they have the talent for the challenge. Acle Kahney and James Monteith are killer axemen and bassist Amos Williams and drummer Jay Postone are technical gods. Despite falling flat, Polaris does have its stellar moments. The disc begins with the catchy headbanger "Dystopia" and then flows into the ethereal "Hexes," which might be my favorite of the nine tunes. Next, "Survival" is pretty much a flawless song that's worthy of radio play, while "Seven Names" climaxes with such intensity that it's hard to resist singing along with Tompkins. Oh, and let's not forget the incredible "Cages," which has a slow build that gave me instant chills. But still, as much as I wanted to like Polaris, it misses the mark. That's not to say it isn't a good record (it is), or that new/old frontman Tompkins isn't a good singer (he is). There's just a certain magic missing. And since Tompkins is the sole change from Altered State, it's only natural to wonder how O'Hara would've vocally approached Polaris.

The fan reaction to Tompkins is mixed -- with some revering his technical chops and others, like me, preferring the vocal choices of O'Hara. For example, a fan from the Dream Theater Forums said he thinks Tompkins is a terrific singer, but the vocals on Altered State are just "so good" that he will always have a "what if" feeling with the band in regards to the singing. Another fan said that Tompkins' voice just doesn't have the kind of texture that O'Hara's has. "He is a decent singer, but there's not a lot of character there," she said of his performance. If you're a fan of Tesseract or progressive metal in general, I'd definitely recommend Polaris. It's a solid disc, but it pales in comparison to their prior release. Of course, I'll give another chance to Tesseract and Tompkins. I just hope their next effort shines brighter than Polaris.

- Michael R. Ebert (

Mebert78 | 3/5 |


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