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TesseracT – War Of Being (Album Review)

You know it’s a good year for progressive metal when all of HakenPeriphery and TesseracT decide to release the new music they’ve tirelessly been working on over the last years. These times have not been easy for musicians and music fans alike, with concert tours being postponed or scrapped, release schedules being messed with, and musicians being separated, unable to collaborate as they used to. But these times also brought opportunities to create something new, with artists almost being forced to take their time, rethink what they wrote and work on it just a little longer.

All of this happened between the release of TesseracT’s fourth album “Sonder” (2018), a rather introverted record filled with short but intricate, well thought-through tracks, and their newest effort, the massive “War Of Being”. A whopping five years lie between these albums, and it shows. The time of going the extra mile, combining all influences that shaped the band’s sound – and adding more – as well as seemingly turning around every note until it’s where it supposed to be, makes “War Of Being” the most versatile, complex and (dare I say it) biggest album the band has made. Yet. None of us know what the quintet still has in store for us. But let’s dive into what we do know. And there’s a lot to discover.

The album’s opener hits us in our faces right away like no TesseracT song has in well over a decade. “Natural Disaster” brings back memories of the band’s debut album “One”, combining the brutality of “Concealing Fate Part 1 – Acceptance” with the wall of sound of their later efforts. It also makes clear right from the get-go that “War Of Being” is no atmospheric, pensive record taking its time like “Polaris” (2015). No, TesseracT want to see blood on this one. And the resonance on the release’s promotion shows that their fans are definitely on board with this.

“Natural Disaster” serves as a perfect foretaste of what listeners can expect in the next hour. It rolls through several stages and paces, including an apparent tempo change (that true polyrhythm warriors will know how to expose as a meter change), heavy riffing, grand gestures, clean and harsh vocals en masse.

TesseracT 1

Yes, there’s harsh vocals. Vocalist Daniel Tompkins has always shown his ability to morph from a sweet housecat into a wild animal in a matter of seconds, but never with the ease and obviousness heard on “War Of Being”. There’s screaming, scringing, shouting, and even a little growling, standing next to soaring or soothing clean vocals as if they had only ever existed in this combination. This may bring back some fans of heavier sounds who lost interest into the band after the uncompromising debut record but might also scare away prog fans who avoid these harsh vocals like the plague. Either way, it’s a bold step that results in what is probably Tompkins’ most versatile and admirable performance to date. The perfect proof of his versatility as a vocalist might be the track “Legion”, where Tompkins showcases an impressive array of vocal techniques.

Still, clean vocals still slightly dominate the scene. In some instances, screams function as emotional outbursts in key moments or pinnacles of songs. “Echoes” leaves no time to breathe after the massive opener, kicking in with soaring chords and later persuading with possibly the best chorus on the album. After a softer passage, Tompkins catapults the band back into a slow bouncing riff with a brutal “we were born to die”, contributing to the pure might that this band holds.

Conversely, a song like “The Grey” directly opens with heavy riffing and screamed vocals, giving off a first impression that this will persist over the course of the song. However, verses, pre-choruses and choruses mostly shift to clean vocals and exhibit high melodic qualities. In fact, “The Grey”’s pre-chorus is so catchy (“this is clarification”) that it would sufficiently serve as a chorus. Leave it to TesseracT to surprise you with the actual chorus seconds later.

While “War Of Being” doesn’t contain any “actual” ballads, it wouldn’t be a proper TesseracT album if every song was a riff-loaden juggernaut. Both “Tender” and “Siren” take their time building up and portraying the softer side of the band and Tompkins’ voice. But not without playing with the listener’s expectations by including overlapping polyrhythms and a bleak outburst towards the end of the songs. “Burden”, on the other hand, is built around a straighter forward groove prominently featuring the complex slapped bass lines by Amos Williams. The bass monster also provided the story told on “War Of Being”, portraying the relationship of two characters Ex and El in a fictional world called The Strangeland, intertwined with questions of identity and forgiveness. The promo copy does not include any lyrics, so it will be interesting to discover this whole different dimension on “War Of Being”.

TesseracT solos together

Sandwiched between the building up “Tender” and the cooling down “Sirens” is the epic title track, the longest continuous standalone track TesseracT has recorded up until now. Prior to the album’s release, this song was released as the first single promoting the album, featuring a lavish video. Taking the listener on a journey through dragging djent riffs, fragile ambient passages, and grand chorus hooklines, this track almost feels like a sci-fi movie squeezed into eleven minutes. It also uses the opportunity of showcasing the entanglement of Jaime Postone’s ridiculously tight bass drum attacks with the band during an extended riff around the two-minute mark. Quite the statement to return with this whopper half a decade after the last album’s release.

Finally, an almost ten-minute-long track at the end of a progressive metal album always creates high expectations. After the mellow “Sirens” and “Burden”, the dramatically named closer “Sacrifice” once again catapults TesseracT’s new album on a new level with a heroic chorus that will have fans tearing up and screaming along during the band’s upcoming shows. “Because we’re stronger and wiser” – yes, TesseracT, you are, but so are we, and we’re glad we get to walk through our own Strangeland together again.

“War Of Being” is a monumental album that wants to be discovered and conquered. Layered and complex, on both musical and conceptual levels. It’s probably also what sounds like TesseracT’s most collaborative and collective effort, with everyone finding their place to shine. The thick rhythm foundation consisting of Jaime Postones’ insane polyrhythmic beats (how many limbs does this guy have?) and Amos Williams’ intricate and groovy bass lines is as impressive as ever. On top rages the beast that is Acle Kahney’s and James Monteith’s tightly intertwined guitar work. It’s probably redundant to say that the band’s founder and chief producer Acle Kahney equipped “War Of Being” with a wall of sound production, something that can almost be expected on TesseracT releases.

TesseracT are back with possibly their best album yet. It has yet to pass the test of time, but it looks like “War Of Being” will only reveal more details and layers with every listen.

PRE ORDER YOUR COPY HERE

TesseracT ALBUM COVER

Tracks:

  1. Natural Disaster
  2. Echoes
  3. The Grey
  4. Legion
  5. Tender
  6. War Of Being
  7. Sirens
  8. Burden
  9. Sacrifice

“War Of Being” will hit the shelves on September 15th. The band will also embark on a world tour during the coming winter. 

Musicians:
Acle Kahney – guitar
Jay Postones – drums, percussion
James ‘Metal’ Monteith – guitar
Amos Williams – bass, backing vocals
Daniel Tompkins – lead vocals

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