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tesseract portals
Artist: TesseracT
Title: Portals
Genre: Prog Rock / Prog Metal / Djent
Release Date: 27th August 2021
Label: kScope


Album Review

TESSERACT formed in 2003 in the town of Milton Keynes, which was not, by the way, named after a 17th Century poet and a 20th century economist. They were formed by lead guitarist Alec Kahney who is currently the only member to remain since inception. The other members to join and stabilize the band arrived around 2005/6. Daniel Tompkins joined around 2009 before leaving to pursue other projects such as prog metal band SKYHARBOR, Pop Rock outfit IN COLOUR and experimental project WHITE MOTH BLACK BUTTERFLY. They’ve released four albums leading up to the current one which is an anthology of songs taken from the previous releases and the initial idea was to have fans join them in an online performance that incorporated the live set and lighting effects all brought together by a chaptered screenplay.

The live performance took place in December 2020 and it allowed for some respite and escapism from the isolating desolation of lockdown. A 4-disc book edition that includes a DVD and Blu-ray was released for posterity along with a 3LP gatefold edition and a 2CD edition, the cd edition of which I am reviewing here. I’m not a TESSERACT aficionado by any means nor am I up to speed on the genre they call Djent which TESSERACT and MESHUGGAH had a hand in creating, albeit inadvertently. Djent, by the way, is apparently an onomatopoeic word to describe the sound produced on a fretboard when you use a technique called palm muting. Anyway, here’s the first impressions of the uninitiated…

This sounds like something I have heard before but cannot put my finger on or it could be that I have heard TESSERACT before and can’t remember when I did and didn’t realise. All the same there’s a sense of familiarity about it albeit a vague familiarity. There’s a mixture of clean and harsh vocals throughout this 105-minute opus which at times feels inspired and perks me up and at other times is a long slog that has me tuning out. First track ‘Of Matter’ is 14 minutes long, the opening vocal reminds me of the band MANSUN, do you remember MANSUN dear reader? From the 90s. But then that similarity is quickly smothered with chugga-chugga bass and interweaved guitar parts. So far so good. The sound through the album isn’t dirty or greasy in any way, it’s as if the whole mix has been scrubbed down with the use of a pressure hose, which is alright but I’m not really enamoured by it no matter how hard I try.

Even the second track ‘King’ awash with a bouncy bass line feels more cerebral than gut-like. Cutting to the chase, I have had a run through of this album numerous times with different volumes and EQ settings and come back to the same conclusion. Each song interests me to a point before I lose focus and wander off somewhere else. The musicianship is top notch but I find it would turn those nerds on that would masturbate over a chord chart and salivate over a book time signatures. I’m trying my damndest to stick with ‘Concealing Fate’ parts 1,2 &3 until the end, I really am. Am I lacking in stamina, lazy or don’t have what it takes to fully appreciate what I am hearing?

But then, then ‘Tourniquet’ comes on. This is the first track so far that’s held my attention. I love to drum / bass interplay. There’s a Nick Beggs feel to the bass and the guitars slough the edges off the end of the track so it ends pleasingly. It’s at this juncture my ear stamina has started to improve. For the next few tracks, I’m enjoying myself. ‘Tourniquet’, ‘Beneath My Skin’ which is fine apart from the boy band vocals that contorted my face like a cat that just smelt its own fart. Yeah, I’d prefer the vocals if they were, to keep to a cat theme, like a cat’s tongue. ‘Orbital’ is more like a breather so I’ll skip that and move onto ‘Juno’. This is deep down in the groin and all in the stare. Well at the beginning it is anyway. It’s like swimming in inky black deep water only to surface in a well-lit cavern awash with aqua greens and blues.

After a quick interlude for refreshments the next track on the list is ‘Cages’ I like the soundscapes created by the guitars swirling around the bass that swirls around the drum core. But again, clean vocals that don’t do it for me. It’s only at the end I am treated to some gruff throat work and that’s not enough. It’s becoming apparent that I’d prefer this to be a vocal free experience. The last few tracks on the album...

‘Dystopia’ is like proggy Nu Metal, more considered and without the insane bouncing about, more of a restrained bounce. The same goes for ‘Phoenix’ I like the tone of the bass on this, I can feel the density of the wood which gives it a thick emphatic thud. That dense bass is there again on ‘Nocturne’, what is it, six string or five? Oh, we have some gruffer vocals to mix it up a bit as well, which is great and I’m actually nodding my head to the music. ‘Eden’, ‘Of Energy’ and ‘Seven Names’ finish off the album, I’m simultaneously playing air bass, head banging and becoming side tracked, a quick slap on the cheek focuses me for the home straight. ‘Of Energy’ has a nice drum passage at around seven minutes in with middle eastern notes weaving around it in the background which I find pleasing!

I like the album. As I stated earlier, I’m not a TESSERACT aficionado so this grabbed my attention and lost it in equal measure. I think I can sum up by saying I was awash with interest and attention to how this was put together crossed with aural tiredness and distraction. And that’s not to say that that won’t change with repeated exposure to TESSERACT’s output in the future. If you think that TESSERACT is the greatest thing since cheesy beans on toast and already have high familiarity to their output you will like this. Or if you are an anal riff merchant that sits in your bedroom with your guitar of choice on your lap attentively working out the guitar parts until you can play them perfectly then this will allure you also.


Tracklist

01. Of Matter
02. King
03. Concealing Fate Parts 1, 2 & 3
04. Tourniquet
05. Beneath My Skin / Mirror Image
06. Orbital
07. Juno
08. Cages
09. Dystopia
10. Phoenix
11. Nocturne
12. Eden
13. Of Energy
14. Seven Names


Line-up

Alec “Acle” Kahney – lead guitar (2003–present), rhythm guitar, bass guitar (2003–2006)
Jay Postones – drums, percussion (2005–present)
James “Metal” Monteith – rhythm guitar (2006–present)
Amos Williams – bass, growls, backing vocals (2006–present)
Daniel Tompkins – lead vocals (2009–2011, 2014–present)


Website

https://www.tesseractband.co.uk


Cover Picture

tesseract portals


Rating

Music: 7
Sound: 7
Total: 7 / 10




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