This next album features a band that was included in this year’s Sonisphere lineup in the UK. After scrolling through the long list of bands in attendance, I came upon the band TesseracT. Before Sonisphere, I had never heard of them. After some basic research, I found out how renowned the band was in other countries, how they have been together for many years, and have released two albums. Being compared to bands like Periphery and Between the Buried and Me on other websites, I thought I’d give this band a shot.
This five-piece from Britain has recently released their newest album titled “Altered State,” their only album featuring vocalist Ashe O’Hara. Spanning close to an hour, this album features 10 songs broken down into 4 total movements. I can describe this album as progressive metal, but the sound that envelopes this entire album could help expand the genre into ambient or space rock. The vibe throughout the album is very interesting, and goes almost unnoticed between songs if one pays little attention to it. Over top this ambiance is the brilliant musicianship of the band as they perform one of my favorite albums I’ve listened to recently.
The guitar work is phenomenal, using djent guitar work for both bass and electric guitars. Acie Kahney and James Monteith on guitar, and Amos Williams on bass guitar do a brilliant job, mixing different styles of progressive metal throughout the entire album. The range of sound shifts dramatically, from deeper, palm-muted riffs in the song “Of Matter” to a much softer, delicate, and more ambient tone in the song “Of Energy.” Although featuring less solos than a typical progressive metal album, these guitarists more than make up for it in the beautiful sound they create, ranging from sounds like Animals as Leaders to Pink Floyd. Using effects like reverb and delay, the guitars are key components to the overall production, and become the driving force of the entire album, like violins to a symphony.
Jay Postones does a magnificent job on the drum set. A change in sound from their last album “One,” Postones relies less on the double bass pedal and focuses more on crisp, clear hits on the upper half of his drum set. The song “Of Reality” shows the drums at its finest, as the drums display perfect timing and precision amongst the other instruments. The change in time signatures that so often accompanies progressive metal is present throughout the album, but the drum work helps to make the transition flow more smoothly, creating an easier listening experience to the audience.
Having only sung on this album, Ashe O’Hara adds “Altered State” as a highlight to his musical resume. O’Hara can truly belt out the lyrics with his talented voice, and easily proves his strength early in the album. His voice is best represented in the song “Of Mind – Nocturne,” as his range dives from lows to soaring highs. Unlike their last album, there is no scream or growl vocals, proving that metal can be just as great without it. Vocals would be pointless without meaningful lyrics, which TesseracT is able to surprise me with their complexity and significance. The chorus of the song “Of Mind – Nocturne” displays one of the most colorful and interesting of lyrics in the album:
“You’re the plague within my dreams / Soaring through an atmosphere of an adequate lack of strength (and we’re responsible) / The truth is that it will end here / Denial’s an impairment of your fear / Can we save us from ourselves? / Can we save us from ourselves? (This is the savior and its form)” (source)
That’s coming from the chorus. Touching on aspects of love, loss, and self-realization, one can only imagine the imagery of all that O’Hara sings throughout the rest of the album.
The one thing that stood out most to me in this album is its composition. When I listen to “Altered State,” I feel like I’m listening to two different albums at once. The first album is a progressive metal vibe, one with deep guitar rhythm, complex drumbeats, and vocals that set the overall mood and tone of the song. The other album I can hear is more of a musical score, featuring guest musician Chris Barretto on saxophone, and is full of ambient tones and spacey sound effects that layer below the instruments. As stated earlier, it is almost unnoticeable if you aren’t paying full attention to the album, meaning you lose an entire layer of what makes this album so great. Unlike their first album “One,” “Altered State” shows the band expanding into new territory, providing a much more ambitious and intricate album.
“Altered State” is an album that you must clear your schedule in order to not only hear the album, but fully feel the album. One has to carefully listen to the album through over-the-ear headphones to trap out external noise that could interfere. I also recommend increasing the bass, which is necessary for this album due to their djent-like sound. Unlike typical progressive metal albums, this album is not one to mosh to or jump around to. I cannot use a statement equivalent to “if you like ___, then you’ll love Altered State” because of the uniqueness behind the overall sound. Attempting to make comparisons of other albums or bands to this album would only be suggesting contradicting styles of music. This album truly is a listening experience. So sit back in your favorite seat, get comfortable, click play, and enjoy your one hour musical experience! Please support this band on their website as they tour across the globe.
Check out this Youtube video of my favorite song off the album “Of Mind”: