TesseracT are at the cutting edge of the British prog metal scene, award winning and with a dedicated fan base that is definitely on the increase. Animals As Leaders are similarly forward thinking instrumentalists, playing almost outside the realms of human comprehension. The impressive amount of sold out dates, including this one, is a testament to the popularity and prowess of both acts.
First up, one man band Navene-K. Although the floor was filling up at a trickle, all eyes were fixed on the stage throughout his performance. His sound is a fusion of electro sounds and progressive metal touches. His timing is impeccable, obviously well practiced, switching between drums and guitar with ease. The latter is like some kind of modern art installation on an easy access stand. Among the throbbing synths and backbeats, which you feel as much as hear, you get the impression that drums are the weapon of choice. Although the guitar is well played, with an Animals As Leaders esque tone, he seems more energised and comfortable behind his kit, clattering out some impressive and varied fills and beats. The realisation may day on you that you are ‘just watching a guy play drums’, but for one man, he fills the space as well as four or five.
By the time co-headliners Animals As Leaders take to the stage, the venue is fit to burst. Their dizzying flurries of super technical guitar gymnastics melt a lot of faces. Main man Tosin Abasi rattles off complex riffs like it ain’t no thing, breezing through sweep picking, tapping and every other technique in the book like a tutorial video on fast forward. The set compromises a decent selection from their three album discography, and fans recognise and react to songs like ‘Tempting Time’ from the intro riffs alone. Tosin and fellow guitarist Javier Reyes are understandably a little static onstage, focusing on nailing down the tracks. Drummer Matt Garstka makes up for this by being incredibly animated and fluid. His tempo-bending drum work is without flaw, and his frenzied solos and fills are something to behold. A change of guitars leads to slightly bassier, sub-djent territory, and the last two songs are absolutely triumphant, the closer sparking the first instance of moshing of the night.
Somehow even more eager punters have crowded the Scala to see TesseracT. They come onstage with a vibrant rendition of ‘Proxy’ to massive cheers, and the audience reaction throughout the set is one of rapture, in a constant state of movement and flux, crowd surfing and moshing. Their set balances tracks from both One and Altered State well, with their signature weighty sound spurred on by Jay Postones’s thundering kick drum, his performance seeming to place him in an expanding alternate universe of gravitational intensity and distorted time signatures.
The return of vocalist Daniel Tompkins sees him on top form. Whereas former singer Ashe O’Hara seemed at times more of a passive stage presence, Tompkins is a consummate frontman, bounding around the stage and channeling the music into movement. All this while delivering an absolutely soaring vocal performance, handling the material written in his period out of the band effortlessly. He also employs his impressive range as an extra layer of instrumentation, expanding the melodious ‘April’ and ‘The Impossible’ to even greater heights. Amos Williams stalks the stage purposefully, laying down a wall of bass texture. Closing with a crushing ‘Nocturne’, the crowd are left baying for more. TesseracT prove they are a vital landmark on the current metal landscape.