When it was announced that TesseracT’s second full-length, Altered State, was going to be another “one track broken into several tracks” situation (exactly like their 2010 Concealing Fate EP), I was both extremely excited and full of uncertainty and hesitancy. After all, the band had struck gold with Concealing Fate. Could lightning strike twice? It was a question that stuck with me until I received a copy of their latest album. And now, having listened to the album more than once (read: a veritable sh*t ton of times), I can give my answer. Head on below for my thoughts.
I immediately knew that this was an album that was going to require my full attention. I put on my headphones, I upped the volume, and I leaned back with my eyes closed. I had been eagerly awaiting this album for months if not longer and I wanted to appreciate every moment, every note without distraction.
Opening with “Of Matter – Proxy”, I was immediately struck by the diversity and dynamics of the track. Flowing from gentle, open chords to staccato, syncopated distorted guitar riffing, the track sounded like exactly what I wanted from TesseracT musically. There was maturation, a step forward that showed the band took what they knew and added upon it.
This maturation continued throughout the entire album. From a musical standpoint, the band has come forward leaps and bounds, as though the trials and tribulations of finding a new singer to create a solid, concrete lineup strengthened them.
Each member of the band stands out in their own right. Drummer Jay Postones astounds, playing with dexterity and an almost octopus-like independence of limbs. Bassist Amos Williams brings equal measures of simplicity and complexity as well as a smattering of multiple genres, including some very solid funk influences. Guitarists Acle Kahney and James Monteith devise a fantastic mix of low chugging and high leads.
When it comes to new singer Ashe O’Hara, he simply nails it. While there are no growls or screams to be found throughout the album, there is never a need for them. His fantastic harmonies and soaring vocals are more than enough to fill the role. He also very cleverly writes his lyrics either around the music or as a percussive addition, such as in “Of Mind – Nocturne”.
The band also ventures into new territory with the addition of a simple yet interestingly placed instrument: the saxophone. Used twice in the album, first on “Of Reality – Calabi-Yau” and again on “Of Energy – Embers”, it’s moments of experimentation like this that challenge the listener as well as the genre itself.
From a production standpoint, the album is glorious. Heavily layered and dynamically mixed, this is one of those albums that demand a good sound system or, at the very least, solid headphones.
Listening to Altered State, I was struck by a thought that, once planted, grew and grew; TesseracT may well be the King Crimson of the 21st Century, seamlessly blending bewildering time signatures and gorgeous melodies with constantly shifting dynamics to create epic, fascinating pieces. They also show no fear of bringing in the styles of other musical genres if it helps a song, something that would fill many other bands with trepidation.
The Final Word: With their sophomore album Altered State, Tesseract have cemented themselves as one of the most creative, daring, and innovative bands of today. This is a flawless album, one that I will be enjoying for years and years to come.