18th September 2015 - Kscope
09. Seven Names
Several significant things have happened since we last heard new music from UK progressive darlings TesseracT. First and foremost, Daniel Tompkins – the vocalist from their breakout EP/album Concealing Fate/One – returned to the fold, replacing Ashe O’Hara and satiating the desires of many of the band’s rabid fanbase. Significant for many, he’s an undoubted talent and fits the more mellow side of TesseracT just as well as he did their more aggressive material.
The first single of their new album Polaris – “Messenger” – justifies his return immediately. It sees Tompkins at his very best, showing off his incredible range. Every utterance is butter-smooth, and an absolutely massive ‘money note’ at the song’s climax is so very satisfying. Equally, the climactic final track “Seven Names” is a star turn of the quality for which many recall his previous tenure in the band; the slow, head-nodding groove eked by the instruments underpins his gorgeous melodies to a tee, and it’s the kind of track that won them so many fans in the first place.
For a band whose style is built mainly on rhythm, Polaris shows remarkable variety elsewhere. Whilst sounding exactly like you would expect TesseracT to throughout, each track has an identifying quality. “Tourniquet” is, in the main, a very gentle song, with falsetto vocals adding to the delicacy, all building over a very low, insistent bass line and a simple three-note guitar melody. The thick bass sound of “Dystopia” is notably gratifying, while “Utopia” opens broodily but evolves into something impassioned and groove-laden.
The composition is full of many such distinguishing elements, and the performances correspondingly masterful. Moss’ bass is ever-present and constantly brings out the best of the complex cadence, while Jamie’s drumming is provocative yet at all times organic. In these two, TesseracT have one of the very best rhythm sections anywhere, and Polaris is all the better for their steadfast presence.
Polaris is also a really bright record: all the tones are crisp and elating; Dan’s vocals are euphoric; and all the little flourishes are brisk and uplifting. It’s great. It sounds really nice and there’s very little wrong with it. If there’s one criticism, and it may be a major one for some, it’s that it doesn’t quite have the same edge – the same rich vein of freshness – that has made their past output so vital. In the last few years, bands like Monuments have upped their game massively, and whilst this record is not a step back, it does treads water a little; sculling in neat, perfectly-formed circles. Or four-dimensional cubes, I suppose.
That sounds harsh, and really it probably is; it merely comes from holding TesseracT to such a high standard, as one of the British progressive music scene’s brightest talents. I firmly believe the tracks from Polaris will be at their most potent live, and there is a lot of very good stuff, executed pristinely. TesseracT are still flying the flag, and flying it high.