Altered State

Written by: AP on 04/08/2013 20:15:07

When an entire genre of music derives itself from one sound as djent does, the question will inevitably arise whether or not that style has a future. After all, there's only so many directions in which it can be pushed without compromising its core 'ideology'. TesseracT, however, beg to differ. Centered around the immense talent of guitarist Alec Kahney, who along with Periphery's Misha Mansoor is widely credited as having invented the genre, this Milton Keynes, UK based outfit garnered universal acclaim for their debut album "One" in 2011 for its highly unique fusion of Meshuggah's warped universe with post- and ambient metal; and with this sophomore release "Altered State" they continue to defy boundaries and shove the genre into ever more intriguing and creative domains.

Though "One" unquestionably remains one of the pinnacles of the djent movement hitherto, that album suffered from the inherent inconsistency of being centered around the "Concealing Fate" EP (2010) - a record within a record, so to say, which was thematically disconnected from the remaining songs - and had a slight penchant for unnecessary meandering. Fortunately, those issues have been ironed out with frightening efficiency on "Altered State"; an album which in every regard emerges as superior to its predecessor, posing the undersigned with the bittersweet conundrum of having tremendous difficulty in identifying weaknesses on it. The songs have a clearer focus now, pertaining to four distinct movements ("Of Matter", "Of Mind", "Of Reality" and "Of Energy") representative of the transformations TesseracT have undergone over the past few years, and as a result, the atmosphere seems all the more constant. It is one of mystery and elusion, Kahney and his colleague James Monteith fusing rumbling djent (understood here in the onomatopoetic sense of the word) based seven-string riffs with abstract melodies distilled from a mixture of progressive metal and psychedelic rock. In a sense, TesseracT sound eerily similar to Tool now, just with their own instantly recognisable mood and tone.

Despite its flaws, "One" left such a strong impression on me songs from it continue to find their way onto my playlists on a regular basis (though in retrospect I feel it deserves a half or full grade lower than I originally awarded it). But the material that comprises "Altered State" is the stuff of dreams; songs to lose yourself into; songs that pack such rich amounts of texture and detail that I could spill hours dissecting, analysing and rejoicing in them. They have this quality, and they're almost invariably memorable, thanks in no small part to new vocalist Ashe O'Hara. TesseracT's career has been a veritable set of revolving doors when it comes to singers, having hosted no less than four lead vocalists between 2004 and 2012; but not even Skyharbor's Daniel Tompkins, who lended the studio vocals for "One", can match the prowess of O'Hara, whose stunning breadth in the likes of "Of Mind - Nocturne" and "Of Reality - Eclipse" sends tears glistening at the corners of my eyes and a deluge of chills running down my spine. His singing style is not akin to Tompkins', and I suspect for some fans it might require a certain degree of acclimatisation before it can be fully appreciated; but upon hearing the tenor-like soaring highs in "Of Energy - Singularity" the importance of O'Hara's presence in forging such fine music out of TesseracT's collective pool of prowess becomes exceptionally clear. They are the reason and the difference between "One" and "Altered State" that makes the latter far the more memorable affair.

Of course, the proverbial telepathy between Kahney, Monteith, bassist Amos Williams, drummer Jay Postones, and saxophonist Chris Barretto (who makes cameos on "Of Reality - Calabi-Yau" and "Of Energy - Embers"), too, plays a crucial role is establishing "Altered State" as one of the absolute highlights of 2013 thus far. Unlike so many other djent bands, whose sole concern is to mimic Meshuggah - often with dismal results - TesseracT's music is so much more than a maelstrom of conflicting time signatures and monumentally heavy drones. In fact, the songs here are rarely very heavy at all, sounding more like a metallic take on free jazz and certainly nothing whatsoever like the extreme metal professed by Meshuggah. The song writing behind "Altered State" is nothing short of phenomenal, and the resulting soundscape is one which TesseracT, and TesseracT only can lay claim to. In order to reap the full rewards, the record should be experienced as the single piece of music it was intended to be; but the real beauty of it is that its singles are strong enough on their own to provide ample highlights.


Download: Of Matter - Proxy, Of Mind - Nocturne, Of Reality - Eclipse, Of Energy - Singularity
For the fans of: Meshuggah, Tool, Uneven Structure
Listen: Facebook

Release date 27.05.2013
Century Media

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