Our Verdict: 8/10
Release date: Out now
Find it at: TesseracT’s band store
Review by: Graeme Blackwell
“The UK’s progressive metal progenitors return with their latest, and possibly best, collection so far”
For all their technical prowess, TesseracT have never been a band afraid of deploying a sizeable, accessible melody. In amongst the mind-melting polyrhythms and metallic force of their first two albums, One and Altered State, the UK’s progressive metal finest have always maintained a deep connection to the tunes that underpin their work.
TesseracT’s third and new studio album, Polaris, moves even further along the path, teasing out ambience and atmosphere and paring back some of the more thunderous elements of their sonic pallette. The result is perhaps the most satisfying body of songs the band have recorded to date.
The return to the fold of vocalist Dan Tompkins may have had bearing on the evolution of the TesseracT sound, the group having parted ways with previous incumbent Ashe O’Hara and welcomed Tompkins back after one album away. It would certainly be possible to draw a line between Tompkins’ experience and development with Skyharbor and White Moth Black Butterfly in the intervening years and TesseracT’s progression across these 9 new songs.
Band lynchpin and guitarist Acle Kahney also points to the greater involvement of friend and live sound engineer Aidan O’Brien as being a key influence on TesseracT’s sonic evolution, giving him serious props in a recent interview for the development of the ambient and piano parts that weave their way through Polaris’ bewitching tapestry.
Whatever the driving forces behind TesseracT’s forward march, Polaris is a thing of coherence, power and great beauty. Much has been written in recent weeks about the lack of a full-on metallic onslaught here, but there are perfectly timed passages of taught musical musculature that are unleashed as powerful assaults on the senses: look to “Phoenix” or “Survival” for the evidence.
Elsewhere there are moments of pure Floydian grandeur. Some of the soaring lead guitar lines in “Cages” certainly wouldn’t seem out of place in amongst David Gilmour’s back catalogue, for example. Tompkins’ beautifully timed, rhythmically on-point near-rap in the closing stages of “Utopia” might have, however. Nevertheless, it works perfectly and brings the aforementioned track to a thrilling end.
In songs such as “Tourniquet”, “Hexes” or album closer “Seven Names” the effect is occasionally one of, say, djent scene favourites Periphery being fronted by the crystalline tones of A-Ha’s Morten Harket; something that seems apt given Polaris’ pop-smart, heart-rending lyrical themes of emotional and physical separation and an always evolving relationship with the very nature of truth.
Their sonic explorations having so far yielded an embarrassment of progressive and technical rock riches, and with Polaris being another fine case-in-point, it will be a delight to behold where TesseracT venture next. For now, be content to immerse yourself in one of 2015’s very best.