Posts Tagged ‘Djent’

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Tesseract – Polaris Review

Posted: September 28, 2015 by kingcrimsonprog in Metal, Metal - Studio, Music Reviews, Prog, Prog Studio
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Tesseract – Polaris

The British Progressive Heavy Metal band Tesseract’s previous album, Altered State was my studio introduction to the band (after catching them live supporting someone else) and has since become one of my very favourite albums of the last decade and one that I would without hesitation call a genuine stone cold masterpiece. Vocalist Ashe O’Hara was an excellent frontman on record and live (both as a surprisingly great opening band I’d never heard of and then again later when I saw them again as a converted fan) and quickly became one of my favourite singers.

I’ve since gotten into Tesseract’s earlier material and also Skyharbour’s output featuring Tesseract’s excellent original singer Dan Tompkins but my real love of Ashe made me very happy to have both options, it was nice to have both Tesseract with Ashe, Skyharbour with Dan… the best of both worlds if you will, and I was a bit sceptical of Dan’s return to the band and saddened by Ashe’s exit. I know its popular to root for the original guy… (There’s always someone to point out that their favourite band’s first singer was better – Paul Diano, Paul Baloff etc) but individual personal preference, I just always liked Ashe more, and so got a bit worried when he was no-longer in the band. Since catching the band live with Dan however, all my fears were alleviated and I began to get excited for their new album. They started the promotion cycle and excitement built even more.

Now that its finally here, and I’ve had time to digest it all, I can safely say that Tesseract’s self-produced third full-length album Polaris is a damn fine record. Even coming at it from the perspective I was, this is a great record and very satisfying.

Stylistically; Its not as heavy as their debut album, One, and its not a perfectly blended singular journey like Altered State was, its got a cool unique feel to it. It’s essentially a lot of distinct, separate moods and vibes, experimental and loose in one manner yet studied and perfectly formed in other ways. It feels like the listener is exploring a lot of different sides of the band’s influences and areas of interest. Some of it is more electronic, some of it is more Djenty, some of it is a bit more traditionally prog, and best of all… all of it is good. That’s the real crux here, because with reality being what it is, some people are always going to hate or dismiss this record; Some, because it isn’t heavy enough for them, some because Ashe isn’t there, some simply because its Djent and its cool to hate on Djent at the moment… but regardless of what genre it is, who sings on it or how brutal it is or isn’t – its just good. Damn good. A fine third album by this band and most importantly a fine album in and of itself even devoid of any context.

The highlights of the album for me are the momentously enjoyable and memorable ‘Hexes,’ as well as the entertaining robotic-sounding opener ‘Dystopia’ and the lead single ‘Messenger.’ Even in such an awkward, angular, evershifting genre as Djent they manage to pack in the choruses and vocal melodies that stick in your head for days and make you hum along in your head long after the record is over. ‘Hexes’ in particular has a shot at being the best song in the band’s whole discography for my money.

In summary, Tesseract don’t sound anything like either of their previous full-length records here, but they do sound fresh, interesting and captivating. It’s a grower for sure, and I’ve found its charms revealing themselves more and more with each new listen, always something fresh and interesting to focus on, always some new thing in the background coming to your attention, always a cool bass or drum part to make you smile.

Howdy; welcome once again to yet another edition of my blog series, Get (Into) What You Paid For; a series in which I blog about the music and media I own, to distract myself from the fact that I am sworn off buying anything new for a month (or in this case, two months).

Its day 27, so that means I’ve made it 27 days without buying any cds, dvds, comic books or videogames. The man who started this blog four years ago could never have gone this long without consumerism. I’m pretty sure back when I worked my old job in 2010, I probably bought on average about two cds a week for the entire year at a minimum.

I haven’t actually posted much this time around because for the first 75% of the month, I’ve been super busy working crazy hours and having to fit in lots of academic work at home too for my final year. The other 25% of the month has been spent with loved ones and crazily poor internet signal. So, didn’t want to be rude and spend family time blogging, and didn’t have a good enough signal to do it much anyway, or at least do it easily.

Normally, going a month without buying anything would be quite difficult, but with the whole Christmas thing, I get to buy other people gifts and that sates the itch, so its been much easier. Also, you don’t know what you may receive as a gift and then buy nothing incase you’re gifted with it.

I’ve been really tempted a couple of times though, because, hey… I’m me. I saw Stratovarius and Accept albums in HMV this month and they never had them when I went looking for them. I saw Manowar albums on Amazon for between £1 and £3 that I’ve wanted for a while but are always more expensive. A lot of bands I like put out new albums and I’ve not gotten around to getting them (this year I’ve been so bad with buying new releases I can’t even put together an AOTY list!) even after seeing some of those bands live.

There’s also been numerous temptations within the world of comics. Just before starting this new fifth round of the GITWYPF challenge, I discovered Comixology. I mean I’d heard of it for the last two years, but Digital Comics seemed like a bad idea… I like reading physical books and laptops hurt my eyes and are the wrong shape for stories designed to be read in the shape of actual physical comics (unless you put a laptop on its side). So, for the two years I’ve been reading comics I avoided it, but the fact that so much is unavailable or only available on eBay for crazy prices, but available digitally for about £1 an issue (with no P&P because its digital) kind of won me over, and I can fill in gaps using this. Its not even poor to read due to the “guided view” feature, which zooms and readjusts the panels in order and blanks out the other panels, allowing you to watch the comic like a powerpoint or a slow cartoon. As a service, it’s a bit addictive though, and so a huge source of temptation. You the read two issues you want and then it makes you want to buy the ones before and after, or older ones of historical importance. Its too easy, too tempting, damn hard to stay away from.

Also, being in bookshops for getting others gifts makes me walk past lots of comic books and that makes you very close to just slipping one in there with the rest of the less-selfish purchases.

Videogames haven’t been a temptation at all, because I don’t have the time. It takes time to start up, time to shut them down or find savepoints, and your brain is abuzz afterwards so you can’t play them right before its time to sleep if you have to go to work in the morning. Compared to a book or comic book that you can just pick up and set down at a moments notice, its harder to fit them in. I got God Of War Ascension for my Birthday in the Summer and only managed to play it when Uni broke up about a week or so ago, and even then only for two days, and I still haven’t opened up Darksiders 2 which I got last Christmas. Theoretically I could now, but I don’t have a console with me at the moment, and by the time I get back to my term time address I’ll be hard at work again.

On the subject of God Of War Ascension, it was pretty good. I love that series, it is one of the most consistant and dependable series going. The combat is absolutely perfect, and its fun to see what vast-scale ideas they come up with next. It felt maybe like GOW 3 backed them into a corner and this prequel wasn’t just as impressive, but it was damn good regardless. I only got time to play one run-through of single player and no multiplayer, bonuses or second attempts, but on first impression it was very entertaining.

Anyway, the reason I right these things is to stop myself slipping up in the challenge. I may not have written many entries this time around, but I haven’t slipped up. I’ve stayed true, stayed the course (and whatever other “stay” phrases apply) and haven’t bought anything for myself since starting the challenge. Its been helped immensely by the Christmas presents.

I got the new Mushroomhead, Slipknot, Machine Head and Corrosion Of Conformity albums, as well as Helstar’s Nosferatu. I also got Spawn, Batman, X-Men and Spiderman comics. All delightfully nerdy gifts that stave off the “buy new stuff” urge very well. (Until I finish the comics and want the next in the series, at least).

Over the month, I’ve been really heavily listening to stuff I got for my Birthday, like the Tirivium, Judas Priest, Soundgarden, Helloween, Manowar and Savatage records I’ve already discussed on this blog ad naseum, in addition to Rishloo’s superb new album (of fucking course!) – because this year is going so ridiculously quickly that those still feel brand new despite being several months old – and in the last two days I’ve been blitzing those Christmas gift albums.

Did you know the Mushroomhead one has a cover of Adele’s “Rumour Has It” ? I had no idea until the chorus came in on my first listen through. Quite the surprise! Usually, I hate when Metal bands cover pop songs, especially if they aren’t particularly old. Covering a current pop song is a bit cheesy. But this works. Also, I’m way less snobby these days – Five Finger Death Punch covering “Moma Said Knock You Out” and nailing it will do that to ya.

The new Slipknot and Machine Head albums are good, by the way. Really good. The Machine Head one in particualt seems like a bit of a min-masterpiece in fact. If I heard enough new albums to do an AOTY list, it’d be damn tough choosing the top spot between it and Accept’s Blind Rage. Slipknot’s new album is interesting, beforehand I could not have been more cynical about or suspicious of. I was convinced it would be rubbish. It really isn’t though. Its strong. Damn strong. Stronger than the last one for sure. It seems to be a grower. Even all the lyrics about Paul’s death aren’t as cheap and cheesy as I imagined. I’d streamed “Skeptic” a few times because I’d heard that it was about Paul and I really cringed at the lyric “the world will never see another crazy muthafucker like you” – it just felt so dishonest and cheap, as if it was purely written to get sang along with and to make headlines, but the more I listen to it, in context, with the rest of the lyrics… I think its actually honest. Especially given how Corey and Shaun actually talk in real life.

The rest of that album is really good too. Its heavy, there aren’t any real ballads, the songs with poppier choruses never have as poppy verses as anything like “Dead Memories” or “Before I Forget.”

Not that heaviness in itself is good enough on its own. The thing is that the songs themselves are actually good. Memorable, catchy, the solos that feel more natural and less “look, I’m soloing.” There are some real fun, satisfying riffs on there and the new drummer actually keeps up Joey’s unique flappy, skittery style of drumming so it doesn’t sound like a huge departure.

I’ve also been listening to Machine Head’s older albums too. Inspired by the recent concert, and the new album, its always good to break out the ones I already own. Through The Ashes Of Empires has some of my absolute favourite Machine Head songs on it. “Vim,” “All Halls Down” and “Wipe Away The Tears” are the perennial favourites, and the concert made me reevaluate “Descend The Shades Of Night” and “Bite The Bullet” which I’ve overlooked in the past.

Then there’s Blind Guardian’s Nightfall In Middle Earth. Its like a mixture between Testament, Gamma Ray and oddly, Gentle Giant. I highly recommend checking that one out.

Being back with my family for the holidays I’ve also been exposed to my brother’s music. I’ve gotten to check out the new Animals As Leaders and Skyharbour albums. That is some seriously good stuff right there!

Check out the Animals As Leaders song “Physical Education” – such a fun tune!

I’ve also got access to my CDs again, because in my own place – half a country away – I don’t have the space to keep my CDs. My iTunes copies of a few Porcupine Tree and W.A.S.P. albums had glitches and faults in them, so being back here I was able to re-rip them. Its great listening to the songs properly without it skipping and cutting off short.

The rest of the time has been spent on romantic trips with my beautiful girlfriend, huge amounts of scrabble with the family, and watching all three seasons of That Mitchel And Webb Look and a series of Peep Show. I can’t go anywhere now without hearing Sir Digby Chicken Ceaser’s singing in the back of my head.

Its been an excellent break. The final one of this life as I’ll be qualified by the next one and go from someone who works to someone with a career – I forsee this will be my last Chirstmas day off for a while. I’ve been lucky in that my current job and my last job didn’t have me work on Christmas day (although I’ve done it before in previous jobs to that). Its been nice getting homework done and weights lifted in the same building as family instead of hundreds of miles away, its been nice having the time off work and its been nice having the free time to read so much. The crushingly slow internet was a tiny bit inconvenient but there’s only so many blogs about heavy music or Batman that a person can read in a month anyway.

Plus all this time in the middle of nowhere with no shops and too poor internet to access iTunes Store or Comixology well enough is pretty darn good for sticking to the challenge.

You can look forward to new album reviews and Amature Batfan articles too, as a result of all these lovely gifts. Merry Christmas, blogosphere!

I went to go and see Tesseract last night (Wed 5th November 2014) at Sound Control, Manchester, with Animals As Leaders and Navene K as support acts. This is the third time I’ve seen Tesseract live… I saw them live without knowing their music last year and that caused me to get into them, I saw them again after getting into them, and now I’ve went to see them a third time with my Brother. My brother loves Tesseract like yo fat momma loves Big Macs.

The previous times I’d seen Tesseract they had Ashe O Hara on vocals, but this time, they’d lost Ashe and been reunited with original singer Dan Tompkins (no relation to fictional doctor Leslie Tompkins). I am a huge, huge fan of Ashe, so I was a little skeptical going in, but on this evening, I learned that Dan is an awesome front man, punching the air to all the Djenty rhythms and getting everyone psyched up. His voice was incredible, very talented dude. It was pretty much like Killwitch Engage getting Jesse Leech back and still being awesome even though I preferred Howard Jones. I prefer Ashe, but that in no way takes away from what an amazing singer Dan is (amazing being appropriate seeing as how he says the word “amazing” a heck of a lot in his stage banter.)

The setlist was more focused on Dan era material, and the heavier end of that, but still with all the great stuff from the Ashe era too. The band were as awesome as ever, with the band’s clear leader and genius Amos Williams rocking the house and keeping the ship afloat with sheer power and enthusiasm. Everyone else, as usual were superb musicians with great flair and kept up to their usual high standards. Great band. Really seem to love playing too.

It was a pretty great gig. Nice venue with good sound (I’d never been to Sound Control before, but I’d happily go back!). Some selfish-jerk crowd surfers started pissing people off but I never got hit by one so I didn’t get too annoyed personally, I just saw a lot of people being upset by them.

Oh yeah… the support bands. The opening act was one guy, called Navene K, on his own, with a mounted guitar and a drumkit, and he’d play one, then the other, switching between the two, playing a mixture of Djent and Dance music. It was really good and the guy was an astounding drummer. Very entertaining.

Animals As Leaders were incredible. I was skeptical of an instrumental band live. Can’t sing along. No focal point? But… nope, it was really good. And people went nuts for it. Circle pits and everything. They cheered for parts of songs. Parts. And multiple parts per song. Some of the music was so complex people cheered when they pulled it off without messing-up. Once they even sang along with the music. Literally sang ‘doodle—ooh, ooh, — dooodleoodleoodllle –ooh.’ It was charming.
They really won me over, and I’m very glad to have seen them.

Anyway, in summary, the support bands were good and the headliners were excellent too. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Tesseract concerts are an excellent way to spend your time. Get yourself on down to one… and P.S. Altered State is a masterpiece.

I went to the Manchester Academy 3 tonight (Sat 25th Oct 2014) to see Soil and American Headcharge. You can probably tell from the reviews section of this blog that I like Soil and American Headcharge a lot and think they’re really underrated and unfairly overlooked. I mean, I’m not a huge uberfan with demos and a tattoo and all that stuff, but I have and enjoy most of their records.

I remember my first ever gig was the Irish Ozzfest in Punchastown Racecourse, where I saw American Headcharge (and also, a fucking brilliant Mushroomhead concert that was hand to God one of the best live experiences I’ve ever seen) back when I was around 13-15 (Its too late for maths).

I remember getting my name printed on the Soil Halo vinyl single and winning a Soil demo with a cover of Ramjam’s Black Betty on it. I remember always seeing both bands unfairly written off. I remember even being embarrassed to still like them when each of their second albums came out and everyone seemed to think less of you for still liking that sort of music.

Head PE I don’t much remember. I remember seeing the video for ‘Blackout’ a few times, but not getting their album or anything. My friend John told me they were awesome last year but I didn’t investigate further. Turns out I maybe should have…

But lets not get ahead of ourselves. The first band of the night were called 8 Foot Sativa according to my ticket, but according to all the bands, were called Wolf Born. Wolf Born (not to be confused with Wolfmother, Wolfsbane, Wolf or Power Wolf) sounds like quite a Power Metal name, sounds like it might be a Hammerfall type band.

They weren’t. They were a sort of similar style to Soil. Somewhere between the three worlds of Puddle Of Mud, Soil and Black Label Society (they had a song that sounded a lot like ‘Mass Murder Machine.’) They were a decent band, perfectly suited to this bill. If you like Soil, check them out.

Next came Head PE. I wasn’t expecting much. Their singer came out all hidden in a bandana and heavy coat and stayed hidden during the first song. Then took it all off and was a huge, brawny, built-like-a-tank Hardcore guy. I remember a skinny pretty boy with dredds and a red tracksuit. Anyway…

Turns out the band are amazing live. They were really powerful and confident and self aware that their schtick wasn’t cool anymore but that they were still good enough to pull it off in 2014 convincingly… like what it must’ve been like seeing W.A.S.P during the post-grunge years. They also have this whole Hardcore Punk side I never knew about, playing songs of short fast American Hardcore I never expected in amongst the creamy vintage rap metal. Oh… and a bizarre but very fun cover of “Ghost Town” that just made me think of Father Ted.

Next came American Headcharge who I was pumped about seeing… they played a weird set, a few hits from the debut, a few deep cuts from the sophomore record, and a few new tracks, but no singles from the new EP or sophomore album (I really, really wanted to see “Loyalty” live! And it was nowhere to be seen, but oddly, “Ridicule” was… still, they played “Dirty” which was nice!). I expected “Sugars Of Someday” to be their main promotional drive and they ignored it too.

The band were ok live, but the odd setlist of midtempo numbers and the singers almost mocking attitude to the crowd just didn’t set the place on fire. This must’ve been what it was like seeing Poison live during the grunge years.

Then Soil came on. Fuck me, people were pleased about that. I don’t think I’ve ever met a Soil fan who knew more than “Halo,” “Unreal” and “Breaking Me Down” but people were there, going ape for deep tracks from the new album and Redfine as well as almost half of the whole Scars album. The band played tremendously, the crowd ate it up, good times were had. During Halo, their singer just did the entire song from the center of the crowd (actual middle of the room, not just two people into the front).

I almost skipped going to this gig, I was bloated from dinner, I could really have used the time to do Uni work, I’m homesick as hell and could’ve used this weekend to visit relatives… but nope, I didn’t miss it, and it rewarded me. This was an excellent concert.

Go see Soil live if you like them. Check out Hed PE if you don’t know them. Don’t skip any gigs that you have tickets for, they might just be completely awesome!

Come to think of it, I saw Riverside and Baroness in Academy 3 too, and they were all awesome. Come to Manchester and see a gig in the Academy 3!

Next up on my gig calendar: Tesseract and Animals As Leaders…. Bring on the Djent!

Tesseract - Altered State

Tesseract – Altered State

Altered State is the second full-length studio album from the British Progressive Metal Band Tesseract. It was their first album to feature Ashe O’Harra on lead vocals, it was self-produced and was released in 2013.

Since getting this album, I’ve been listening to it constantly. It has such a high replay value, and just gets better with each repeat listen. It is such an immersive, cohesive, powerful record and I wouldn’t mind going so far as to call it a masterpiece.

The album is broken down into four sections: Of Matter, Of Mind, Of Reality and Of Energy, which are themselves broken down into separate tracks. The album as a whole flows like one giant song, each of the four sections flow like one continuous song, and each track works on its own. It really is a well-developed and brilliantly executed structure.

Highlights include the powerful “Resist,” the catchy “Nocturne” and the lengthy and interesting “Singularity.”

Musically, there are beautiful shimmering clean guitar sections and a wash of hypnotic electronics subtly mixing with powerful emotive clean vocals with a real haunting quality, there are brilliant rhythmically interesting and groovy drums mingling perfectly with clever bassline, and there’s the odd section of crushing Djenty heavy guitar at the appropriate moments to top it all off. It’s a lot more subtle, intense and driving than their debut, with an almost post-rock attitude to song building. The way things weave and change fluidly makes it a really enjoyable and entertaining listen. Its a real extension and perfection of everything the band have been working towards so far. They even keep things interesting with some well-placed and non-gimmicky use of saxophones.

Overall; This album is fantastic, it’s a real step-up for the band and a defining moment for the whole movement. If you like this sort of music you’ll absolutely love this record, and if you haven’t heard of this band or album yet, I’d strongly recommend you give it a try. This is one of those rare, perfect, gems of an album that can completely captivate you and capture your imagination time and time again.

Tesseract - One

Tesseract – One

Tesseract are a five-piece Progressive Metal band from England and 2011’s One is their debut full-length studio album. It was produced by Acle Kahney, Amos Williams, Francesco Cameli and released through Century Media.

The standard of musicianship here on this album is excellent, particularly drummer Jay Postones and bassist Amos Williams, who’s superb rhythm section forms the backbone of the record. The production job is flawless, and all instruments (and even individual bass strings, drums and cymbals) are clear and audible, amongst the textured guitar, vocal and electronic waves which float over the top.

There’s a nice balance of fast and slow, heavy and soft, straightforward and complex, and a cohesion and sense of purpose that makes the album feel like one, singular, well-considered piece of work.

Highlights include the catchy album closer “Eden,” as well as the lengthy multi-part “Concealing Fate” and the punchy “Sunrise.”

For fans of the band’s second album, Altered State its worth noting that Daniel Tompkins (of Skyharbor fame) provides lead vocals on this album, before their current singer Ashe O’Harra joined the band becoming the band’s fifth lead vocalist to date. Thompkin’s vocal style is in the same ball-park of lush, melodic and emotional clean singing, although different enough that you notice the change.

Musically, this album is noticeably heavier than its follow-up, and there aren’t any saxophones, but in general the band’s identity is more-or-less the same and if you enjoyed Altered State, you should easily enjoy One.

For newcomers to the band entirely, especially those skeptical of anything associated with the word “Djent” its worth noting that in the same way that Thrash Metal bands took the chugging of songs like Black Sabbath’s “Symptom Of The Universe” and spun-off on that idea developing entire songs and albums using that as a starting point from which to develop their own ideas; Here, you can hear the sort of guitar tones and complex rhythms that Meshuggah have been playing since the 90s used as a jumping off point.

Rather than the all-out punishing assault of Meshuggah and their progressive take on extreme Metal, Tesseract deliver that sort of rhythm mixed in with floaty melodic vocals in the vein of Tool and Rishloo, and subtle ambient electronics to create something else. It couldn’t have existed without Meshuggah, and it couldn’t have existed before Melodic Metalcore became a decade-long mainstay of the Metal world, but it isn’t one or the other.

If you are a fan of established bands like Dream Theater, Riverside, Opeth, Fates Warning, Tool or many other Progressive bands within the Metal spectrum, you will find little touches here and there that chime something with what you like already, be that in the use of dynamics or uncommon time-sigs, but updated and in a different shape. If you like bands like Sikth, Botch, Carbomb, Fellsilent, Dillinger Escape Plan, or anyone in the math-y end of the Metal spectrum you man find something you like, but updated and in a different shape, and well, the same goes for if you like Meshuggah. Its not impossible to like Meshuggah and Tesseract despite what a vocal minority may claim.

If you are a fan of bands like Periphery, Monuments, Circles, Animals As Leaders, Textures, Volumes, Structures, Intervals, Skyharbor, Vildhjarta, Miroist, Hacktivist, The Algorithm or The Safety Fire then you may recognize the shape already and enjoy another slightly different take on it.

Overall; Tesseract are a strong and interesting band and One is a strong and impressive debut that should keep fans of the band, fans of the subgenre and fans of the overarching genre happy. Don’t make the mistake of overlooking the band because of the movement they belong to, as you’ll miss out on some brilliant music if you do. This isn’t just a throw-away album from a flash in the pan trend, there’s a demonstrable artist weight to be found here.