In 2011, Tesseract exploded onto the metal scene with their debut release, “One.” The darlings of the djent underground blended the brutality of Meshuggah with ambient and even melodic textures not typically found in the genre. Their next release “Altered States” found the band evolving their sound into a more progressive direction. From there they ventured into more melodic space with the sublime “Polaris” release and the sci-fi theme of “Sonder.” While picking up new fans along the way, this left some of their initial fans and some in the metal community confused about their musical journey.
During the Covid-19 era, the band planned and executed a massive undertaking called “Portals.” It was a collection of their best material put together and filmed in one setting along with dramatic elements interspersed in the music. Cinematic in scope, and epic in the undertaking, the band nicely summed up their career to date with the release.
The band, perhaps influenced by the scale of “Portals,” continued this approach in constructing their next release, “War of Being.” The album is conceptual in nature based primarily on a story by bassist Amos Williams who is also developing it into a novel. The release is also accompanied by an immersive video game co-developed by vocalist Dan Tompkins.
But none of this would matter if they fell short in producing great music. In the summer, the band released the epic, eleven-minute single, the title track, “War of Being”. The song and accompanying video immediately got the attention of metal fans who had lost touch with the band in their last few releases. The brutality of Dan’s vocals, the crushing polyrhythmic riffs, and the many changing dynamics made it clear to the metal community that Tesseract was back.
So, the question many may be asking is whether the initial single is just a teaser. Is it a true indicator of the rest of the album? Does it ignore all the subsequent releases after “One”? The answer is yes and no.
The album kicks off with ‘Natural Disaster’ and within a few seconds, the listener is shot out of a cannon into the fires of the Strangeland, the mythical setting of the album’s concept. Make no mistake, Tesseract is back, and they are back for blood. There are striking similarities to ‘Concealing Fate Part I’ with the warlike screams from Tompkins. Like the title track, there are constant pivots between melody and aggression. It’s a perfect marriage of old and new school Tesseract. Production-wise, the band has never sounded better. The guitars are heavier and on a different sonic level from prior releases. Guitarist Acle has outdone himself and has certainly spent the five years between “Sonder” and “War of Being” on evolving the Tesseract sound.
The album is broken into nine tracks but flows like one complete piece of music. The next track ‘Echoes’ offers a brief respite from the war and would have fit nicely on “Sonder” but with a slightly heavier edge with some aggressive vocals from Tompkins who certainly spends more time on this release employing screamed vocals.
Each song segues into the next as if the listener travels across the Strangeland to the next scene in the story. The pace picks back up with ‘The Grey’ which hearkens back to ‘Sunrise’ from “One.” A tight, syncopated djent riff echoed by Tompkins screams leading into a groovy, bass-driven riff more reminiscent of “Altered States.” A unique aspect of Tesseract is that they rarely rely on the typical tropes of verse/chorus/verse/chorus/solo, etc. However, ‘The Grey’ certainly contains repeated themes and motifs that make the song a solid choice for the second single.
‘Legion’ continues the attack and features one of many outstanding performances from Dan Tompkins. He switches gears constantly from savageness to serene. His growth as a vocalist over the years is truly astounding.
‘Tender’ drops the pace just a bit in preparation for the intensity of the epic title track that is to follow. The track recalls past classics such as ‘Tourniquet’ from “Polaris” but, like ‘Echoes,’ with a slight edge.
It feels like the entire first half of the album builds up to a climax with the title track, “War Of Being.” The band fills the entire eleven minutes with all the elements that make them unique. It plays like an epic summer action movie flowing from one explosive scene to another. It’s pure, intense adrenaline. The song is rightfully the center piece of the album.
After climbing the mountain for the onslaught of “War Of Being,” the album needed the lighter shade of ‘Sirens.’ A beautiful song that is reminiscent of White Moth Black Butterfly, the more atmospheric side project of Dan Tompkins. Just one more example of the light and shade employed on the album.
On ‘Burden,’ bassist Amos Williams really shines with a seductive groove that propels the track. The song adds an extra dimension to the album and once again flexes the band’s deep bag of tricks. The band brings back the manic pace on the back end of the track before segueing into the final track, ‘Sacrifice,’ whichis a perfect ending to the sonic battle that has ensued up to this point. All the drama and intensity of the title track delivered in a less jolting fashion but still delivering the emotional goods to complete our journey into the Strangeland.
What makes Tesseract truly special is their ability to take the concept of metal and to expand it into something more cerebral, more visceral. They balance the crushing, off-kilter riffs with lighter, ambient shades that are no less intense. This is a band that has really come into their own sound and keep getting better.
While Tesseract was born into the genre of djent, they have since transcended it. Like fellow UK band Sleep Token, they use metal elements within their music as a dark paint color on their palette when constructing the music. The songs are not metal in the purest sense, but they contain elements of metal to help paint the entire picture.
So, is the album like “One” or is it more akin to “Polaris” or even “Altered States”? The answer is yes, all of the above. It certainly contains the heavier elements of “One” but stays on path with the more melodic approach of recent albums. Tesseract blends the best of the past to create something truly magical in “War Of Being.”
Released By: Kscope
Release Date: September 15th, 2023
Genre: Progressive Metal / Djent
- Acle Kahney / Lead guitar, rhythm guitar,
- Jay Postones / Drums, percussion
- James ‘Metal’ Monteith / rhythm guitar
- Amos Williams / Bass, growls, backing vocals
- Daniel Tompkins / Lead vocals
“War Of Being” track-list:
- Natural Disaster
- The Grey
- War Of Being
Tesseract revisit their aggressive side with a crushing conceptual record that redefines and extends their progressive sound