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Wednesday 13 September 2023

Review: TesseracT (Review By Matt Bladen)

TesseracT - War Of Being (Kscope)

Now in their 20th year as a band, Daniel Tompkins (vocals), Acle Kahney (guitar), James Monteith (guitar), Amos Williams (bass) and Jay Postones (drums), drive forward with the next chapter of UK progressive metal icons TesseracT. Having arrived right at the apex of the 'djent' explosions, the band have used each subsequent album to adapt their sound, rooting it in the chunky tech riffs that they helped popularise but adding atmospheric shimmers, focussed aggression and colossal hooks.

They've taken trips to the upper atmosphere and down to the core of the Earth itself on previous albums but with a five year gap between records, punctuated by off shoot bands and solo projects, TesseracT feel they need to redefine themselves once again with their new album War Of Being, a cinematic, complex concept album which has an emotional, quasi-personal storyline that is based on an as yet unpublished novel by Amos Williams. The characters of Ex and El find themselves in a world called Strangeland, they are split up and have to progress on their own journeys of self discovery and introspection.

As it's a prog record the concept and storyline is multi-layered the story told in scuh a way that you can relate to the characters and emphasise with them. Musically TesseracT give use their widest array of soundscapes yet with War Of Being, starting out with Natural Disaster setting the pace on a rapid cut that flits between various melodies, establishing the prog credentials early. Echoes brings the djent beginnings as The Grey relies on the palm muted bass from Williams and blasts of ferocity where Dan Tompkins unleashes his screamed vocals. There are few vocalists better than Tompkins, pretty much setting the bar for techincal prog metal vocalists.

On the throbbing Legion for example he exemplifies using restraint with a track that builds the atmosphere, drifting in and out of a spacial dream, punctuated by a rhythmic thump as that shimmer carries over into the introspective Tender where the guitars if Monteith and Kahney are clean and echo, augmenting the lighter touch of Tompkins, the drums entering to build again, as it shifts back to the sparse opening into euphoric final part where there's a colossal breakdown returning to more heaviness as the track closes out.

It's this usage of dynamics that have been such a key part of what make TesseracT so impressive and War Of Being's conceptual design means that they can take things further than before as the tracks can link to one another thematically, so after the catharsis of Tender, the title track kicks off with crushing tech metal, shifting from loud to quiet and then back again, the albums heaviest moment by far, raging and torrid, but it also stands as their most progressive moment too, evoking various changes in tone and style across 11 minutes of delicious modern prog metal. Twisting into the ringing, Sirens, electronics lingering and pulsating below the surface.

Sirens takes you into the final part of the album, the penultimate drive of Burden, schizophrenic basslines and dreamy vocals paired with more grooving, chunky riffage. It all culminates on the final song Sacrifice, an 8 minute exploration of all the facets of TesseracT, it climaxes in euphoric choruses making it the most anthemic number on the album, as the bass driven middle section turns into more big riffs as the huge hook returns to finish this magnificent album.

War Of Being is TesseracT reaching their nadir, a conceptual masterwork that speaks to the strength of the UK metal scene. 10/10

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