For Fans Of
The beginnings of the ‘djent’ movement were almost entirely internet driven, with bedroom shredders exchanging snippets of demos online, trying to see who else was out there that actually practised their instrument and tone of choice. What was often lacking, however, was a sense of unity; a ‘sound’ and some pioneers that DIY wizards could rally around and emulate to begin striving toward their own standards. In terms of bringing such a sound into the greater limelight, TesseracT were indeed instrumental in the style’s rise to popularity. The tight riffs, big melodies, impressive musicality, and complex polyrhythmic grooves of this British quintet are still held by many as a solid milestone to aspire to in the progressive technical metal world. But not without the admission that much of their music contains a certain ‘sameness’ that can sometimes be difficult to digest.
Thankfully, on the group’s upcoming fourth outing, ‘Sonder‘ – the second record since the return of original vocalist Daniel Tompkins and the first time the group has released successive records with the same vocalist – the Milton Keynes group have offered up a truly ‘progressive’ collections of tracks that combine musically challenging arrangements with beautifully sensitive melodies.
By far, the real standout track is ‘King‘, a seven-minute epic that weaves through four seasons of emotions, building to a crushing climax before departing with a somberness that nods towards the cinematic work of your Atticus Ross’s and Trent Reznor’s. A potentially career-defining cut, it easily becomes the key song that tints the lens through which the rest of the record is viewed. Thankfully, although only eight songs long – six minus the two interludes – the rest of ‘Sonder’ provides plenty of ample satisfaction.
Juno’ provides one of the English band’s most accessible choruses to date, delivered with Tompkins delivering powerful lines with a triumphant sense of vocal confidence that was just not present on 2015’s ‘Polaris’. Meanwhile, ‘Mirror Image’ offers up a more contemplative and thoughtful side of the band, one that was perhaps always present in their ambience, gliding fans through the celestial intricacies offered up by guitarists Alec Kahney and James Monteith, before opening up into a powerful roar.
The dynamics on show throughout ‘Sonder’ are more varied than ever before for TesseracT’s overall output, with every moment of every song feeling well constructed and carefully planned out. Even the punishing tones of opener ‘Luminary’, or the edge-of-your-seat urgency of the new and improved version of ‘Smile’ are highlighted by the sudden changes of dynamic textures throughout, allowing each song to truly transport the listener into the band’s larger than life sonic world.
Opting to close proceedings with the two-minute quick and easy cut of ‘The Arrow’ might seem anticlimactic at first, but given the intensity offered across these eight tracks, it’s a welcome relief from the roller-coaster epics that make up the body of their catalogue. While the record has a slight sense of feeling ‘rushed’ – as potentially evidenced by this closer, in addition to ‘Orbital’ also clocking in as a two-minute interlude – it’s undeniable that ‘Sonder’ creates a far greater sense of atmosphere than any of TesseracT’s earlier outings; successfully avoiding reverting to technical passages of wankery to fill up their time quotas.
‘Sonder’ furthers the forays that TesseracT made on ‘Polaris’ into a more packaged and more accessible (well, to a greater alternative audience at least) sound that doesn’t descend into instrumental mayhem for the sole purpose of racking up prog-music street cred. In addition to delivering some incredible instrumental and vocal performances, the songs themselves are lush and wonderfully composed too, with vocalist Daniel Tompkins delivering the most flawless takes of his recording career so far. It might feel a little rushed at times, but even without as much time in the pre-pro as they might have liked, TesseracT has once again reinvented themselves whilst also keeping all of the guitar and drum nerds out there satiated.
5. Beneath My Skin
6. Mirror Image
8. The Arrow
‘Sonder’ is out Friday, April 20th.