ALBUM REVIEW: TesseracT – ‘War Of Being’

Artwork for TesseracT’s ‘War Of Being’

Beyond 2010s blogs where all the djenters resided, TesseracT have always seemed far more grandiose. Even the humble background of Milton Keynes underplays the otherworldly playing of Acle Kahney and company, who decided with their first record in five years that the only way to truck on forward is to embrace the ultimate prog tradition: a concept album.

Having flown the flag for all the self-producing seven-string players and taking the much heralded UK prog-metal torch of SikTh, TesseracT’s prowess has been second to none in some circles. We’ve been treated to the enduring Concealing Fate suite, sax-imbued lounge djent on the wonderful Altered States, and dips and dives into the meditative and the heavy on Polaris and Sonder which saw Daniel Tompkins back at the vocal helm. The heft of talent is insane, the playing measured and meticulous. Never ones to deter from stepping out even further, bassist Amos Williams is also writing a novel based on the narrative introduced here on War Of Being. Go figure.

Not that the five-piece simply dictate to us what’s happening; the nuance of their ambitious rhythmic underbelly extends to their storytelling. As it happens, the record traces the journey of two characters named Ex and El who experience ego death after crashing onto a land called ‘The Strangeland’. Tompkins’ voice goes from angelic highs to his most deathened growls as introduced on the cinematic opener Natural Disaster, which help to characterise the inner turmoil from the protagonists’ perspectives. “I can be guilty, free /  Don’t you see? / In a world designed for you and me” he sings on Legion, a standout vocal performance showcasing the band’s toying with techniques anew. Sirens and Sacrifice have a pendulum-like swaying pulse with calm electronic moments and Burden almost serves as a slice of disco-pop. Seriously.

What could be expected from a conceptual tech metal fantasy is pure instrumental showing-off. In other hands, that is. But the band masterfully weave soothing passages into moments that bite, with crunchy low end and altering atmospheres of hope, dread, love and fear. This transition is obvious on Tender, which could pass a post-hardcore hit if not for it’s One-like breakdown outro. Echoes’ ascending main section is all bells and whistles (literally), but implements simplistic verse chorus structures. The head-bending trickery is always lurking in the gloom across the course, looking to be found, most notably borrowing from the more ‘building’ approach of Polaris. It lets the story’s affecting mood take centre stage and saves the valiant quest for minute musical diamonds for future listens.

Kahney’s trademark leads do still occasionally brand the tracks as distinctly TesseracT, while Jay Postones’ off-kilter grooves and subtle tinkering breathe life into every nook and cranny. But they’ve started to more readily hone their kaleidoscopic range into single tracks; on Echoes and the epic eleven-minute War Of Being, the instrumentals have never sounded so massive that it’s almost overwhelming. With the title track showcasing the breathtaking interplay of Williams, Kahney and James Monteith, it makes following TesseracT’s own story for the past fifteen years so satisfying. If this is the start of a TesseracT sci-fi journey, we could thankfully have another Coheed And Cambria situation in our wanton hands. So long as Disney stays away from this epic serial, it can only build into even greater things.

For fans of: Periphery, Between The Buried And Me, Scale The Summit

‘War Of Being’ by TesseracT is released on 15th September on KScope Records.

Words by Elliot Burr

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