I've been charged with going through the review
"closet" and reviewing some releases from last year. I've picked the ones that I
believe deserve to be reviewed on this site. Hopefully it helps to get these
releases another look from listeners who might have missed them the first
go-round. The first release I've selected is the most recent TesseracT album,
You can't mention TesseracT without addressing
their issue with lead vocalists. They can never seem to hold onto one! This is
their third release (second full-length to date) and they have had a different
singer on each release! Since the release of this album, they've actually
changed singers AGAIN, bringing back Dan Tompkins, who sang on their debut
album, "One." But what about "Altered State"? It stands to be the only
performance with the band for Ashe O'Hara. Ashe was relieved of duties because
of the usual "musical differences." On this album, however, the whole band seems
to be on the same page throughout.
"Altered State" is split into 4 sections, "Of
Matter," "Of Mind," "Of Reality" and "Of Energy." Within each section the songs
flow effortlessly into each other, with the possible exception of "Of Mind," in
which the two songs "Nocturne" and "Exile" both stand alone. Perhaps this is
because "Nocturne" was released as a free single back in October 2012.
Regardless, that section is just as epic and impressive as the other 3.
"Nocturne," in particular, has one of the best choruses TesseracT has ever
written (and probably ever will). The closing two-part epic, "Of Energy," is a
favorite of mine. It includes sax from current Monuments vocalist Chris Barretto
(as does the song "Calabi-Yau"). Any band that can convincingly incorporate a
sax solo into a metal format is amazing in my book.
The change of vocalists to Ashe O'Hara also
meant (at the time) the complete avoidance of harsh vocals. Dan Tompkins is well
versed at both, while Ashe has an impressive higher voice and does not do any
harsh vocals on the album. This fits the music perfectly. The band is known for
their grooves courtesy of drummer Jay Postones and bassist Amos Williams, who
are as tight as ever. Add in the atmosphere and the angular riffs of guitarists
James Monteith and Acle Kahney. The vocals on "Altered State" focus solely on melody,
adds to the emotion and power of each track. There is not a wasted riff or
melody on this album.
On "Altered State," the band made a HUGE jump
from their debut album by expanding their sonic palette and the overall scope of
their music. "One" had a six-part epic called "Concealing Fate," while "Altered
State" is a four-part epic as a whole. It starts with "Proxy," which is calm and
gentle to begin with, before the angular riffs take over. The third track,
"Resist," which is also part three in the "Of Matter" trilogy, serves as the climax of
the three parts. It builds and builds so majestically, proving that TesseracT has
indeed evolved into a truly progressive band and not just another djent band.
Another track of note is "Eclipse," which sounds like a tribal jazz fusion track.
Sure, their style of progressive metal is based in djent, but on tracks like
"Eclipse," the band shows that the percussion can be funky and the guitars can
still provide the ethereal melody on top of that frenetic rhythm.
"Altered State" shows a young band maturing at
the speed of light. TesseracT has grown and matured from all the changes they
have endured. The album is focused yet still challenging. It was easily in my
top 10 releases for 2013. The only concern now is where does the band go from
here? Ashe is gone, Dan is back. Does the band abort the progress they made with
"Altered State"? I hope not!