Tesseract – Altered State
Rs 220 (iTunes MP3)
One of the first things you would have heard about Tesseract’s new album, Altered State, is that there’s no growling or screaming. But when you hear 23-year-old Ashe O’Hara take over the vocal reigns for British metal band Tesseract, you realise this guy is going to stick around. He croons almost angelically on songs like ‘Of Matter: Resist’ and is his soulful best (as is the rest of the band) on the spectacular, riff-driven ‘Of Mind: Nocturne’.
As is wont with all prog metal albums – there’s a concept kept in mind, from the trippy artwork to breaking up 10 songs into four chapters of alteration – Of Matter, Of Mind, Of Reality and Of Energy. Altered State showcases why the band is a force to be reckoned with in the modern metal scene, and why they’ve never lost it despite multiple line-up chances in the last couple of years.
They’ve come through it all, clean and as determined as ever to put out a crushing yet intelligent album – which is what every progressive metal fan enjoys. True, we’re not hearing any growling from bassist Amos Williams, but they compensate by including unexpected elements – like the saxophone-led filler ‘Of Reality: Calabi-Yau’ from prog metallers Periphery’s former vocalist Chris Barretto (who knew he could be metal’s Kenny G?).
Songs like ‘Of Reality: Eclipse’ throw you off with esoteric time signatures and grooves from guitarists Acle Kahney and James Monteith and drummer Jay Postones. There’s even a very mellow jazz movement in there, sneaked in as though it was very much related to the rest of the song.
But there are set elements, guitar tones and predictable parts to Tesseract, especially if you’ve heard their previous work. If you haven’t, you’ll be wowed by the first five songs and then begin to see a pattern that is sure as hell written in a complex manner (‘Of Reality: Palingenesis’), but consists of tight bass grooves over dreamy, ambient guitar leads, with only the drum work keeping you guessing.
Tesseract ends on a strong note, though, with the diverse, headbang-worthy ‘Of Energy: Singularity’ that changes around so much during its eight-minute duration that you wonder how they even wrote it as a single song. But that’s the beauty of Tesseract, one that will soon hit Indian shores, when the band plays live at the NH7 Weekender in Bangalore on November 23 and 24.