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Review: Tesseract – Altered State (Album)

This accessible new sound from UK progsters TesseracT has lead to their most accomplished work to date! See inside to hear our thoughts!

Band: Tesseract
Release: Altered State
Release Date: 28th May, 2013

Having gone through three vocalists since ‘One’, it was inevitable that the Tesseract sound would have radically evolved on their sophomore offering. ‘Altered State’ is certainly a musical progression for the band – the stunning musicianship that went into creating it is sure to split the critics, but the end result is nothing short of breath taking.

Ashe O’Hara (also of Voices From The Fuselage) was certainly instrumental in determining the band’s new direction. Their fourth singer in recent years, his densely layered vocals often define the mood and melody on this release. However, his ethereal contribution is not the only interesting thing about their new sound. ‘Altered State’ is essentially one extended piece in four movements, sub-divided into shorter songs for more casual listeners, and the attention they’ve paid to creating a cohesive whole (rather than focussing on the intricacy of individual parts) can be easily heard. This approach has led to some of their most accessible music to date, but without sacrificing their prog edge.

The band’s accomplished rhythm section – courtesy of Jay Postones on drums and Amos Williams on bass – is responsible for much of the complexity on the record, and the use of muted riffs from guitarists Acle Kahney and James Monteith make for really interesting interplay between the bass and guitar parts.

Chris Baretto’s guest appearance on saxophone makes for two of the records most enjoyable moments. His solos on ‘Of Reality – Calabi-Yau’ and ‘Of Energy – Embers’ are delivered with real musicality. The tone he gets from his instrument is superb, and really helps to accentuate the jazzy elements of the songwriting on ‘Altered State’.

Lead single ‘Of Mind – Nocturne’ is the epitome of the band’s new approach, with its relatively simple, chorus-centric structure. The weighty opening riff is an excellent example of how this band can take a simple melodic idea and make it groove really nicely.

Tesseract are bound to receive flak for some of the musical decisions they’ve made on this release – the absence of any harsh vocals or spaghetti-fingered virtuosity will meet with some resistance. However, any criticism along these lines is ultimately misguided. They’ve displayed outstanding musicality on ‘Altered State’, and the sheer quality of their composition and performances is far more impressive than any fiddly riff or indulgent solo.

After their many lineup changes, it will be interesting to see whether Tesseract decide to continue down this particular musical path on future releases.

Reviewer: Solomon Radley

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