British progdjentlemen aka: Tesseract have returned after 2 years with a new masterpiece. Yeah, I’m giving you a hint of what my final verdict would be. The story so far: Dan Tompkins left the band after the release of their first album, One. They recruited Ashe O’Hara as their singer and everything worked out perfect. New singer, new album (Altered State), awesome acceptance (ha!). Then, everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked and Ashe left the band! So, guess who’s back better than ever? I wasn’t sure if Dan could beat Ashe’s performance in what was such a great album (Ashe’s live performance deserves a separate analysis) but hell, all doubts disappeared at an instant. First, they released a live dvd/cd with a full performance in the UK in which they prove why Dan is the man, why Tesseract is awesome live and why life is good. With such re- introduction to the band, all weapons were aimed to the new album. And now, here it is.
With duration of 46 minutes, the new album demonstrates the band’s maturity in their sound, the combination of melody, groove, strength and emotion. This time there is no big opus divided into pieces, only songs separate from each other standing on their own with their own story and music. Starting from the opening track, Dystopia, the groove drives us throughout 6.52 minutes with the drums, guitars and bass following the same beat and rhythm while Dan shows how he has matured in his singing style. Long are gone those screaming days (a little bit on Cages) and they will not be missed since the melody and the emotion that Dan is able to transmit compensates any screaming days of yore. Hexes is the second track and it follows the greatness of the first track. Going from soft and slow to reach a sort of climax in the middle of the song, it offers various passages of different rhythms, nothing too complicated, in which Dan and Martin Grech, guest singer, deliver a delicious mix of emotion and strength. The third track is the second single of the album, with its correspondent video, Survival. It starts with a few vocal lines, until the band makes its appearance in full shape. At first glance it seems the weakest song of the album but in time you learn to appreciate it for its simplicity and hook. The fourth track is called Tourniquet. It starts with a reverberated guitar picking, followed by Dan’s soft voice and the other instruments and this continues up to past the middle of the song. There, the song raises its mood and sound a little bit but shortly returns to the previous softness. A relaxing tune. After that momentary lapse of softness that is Tourniquet, things go back to the old Tesseract groove in the form of Utopia, the fifth track. Dat bass line provided by Amos Williams, complemented by Jay Postones tasteful drumming immerses us in the tempo of the song and has no plans of releasing us. Another fine delivery of groove. Phoenix, the sixth track, is overall a calm tune but it has its moments of loudness in the form of the chorus. The verses are sung in front of an arpeggiated guitar until the bridge arrives and then, the aforementioned chorus. A simple yet effective song. The seventh track is the first single of the album, Messenger, and although I didn’t really dig the vocal effect on Dan’s voice the first time I listened to it, the song took over me on following listenings. Again the guitar riff is consonant with the bass and the drums and this gives a rhythmic foundation that is so compelling and soothing but with a small touch of powerful emotion that makes this guys so recognizable and enjoyable. Cages is a song that builds up slowly from the beginning and reaches its climax near the end. A calm intro a la Pink Floyd’s Wish you were here starts the song until the several instruments appear: first Acle, Dan and Jay, then Amos and James. The tempo, the mood and volume of the song rise until the band reaches full volume and groove for a minute until the song ends. The final song of the album is Seven Names. Calm yet powerful song that starts with Dan’s vocals over a background keyboard melody. Then, the band appears with Jay and Amos going hand in hand, Acle and James doing some reverbed arpeggios until the chorus arrives .A mid-tempo song that fades away until the end with a simple arpeggio, a piano, and some background melodies.
A very good album, a more than decent follower of Altered State, a work of art. I would say that the star of this album is the groove, the communion between drums and bass. The complexity of odd time signatures and rhythmic changes are subordinated to the tempo of the song and even could go unnoticed given the perfect mix between polyrhythms and feeling. The instruments are perfectly matched in sound and performance and they form a very tight foundation from which Dan can express anything with his voice.
If like what you listen to then buy their stuff, go to their concerts, promote them, do everything you can to support them.