TesseracT – Altered State
2013 seems to be the year that djent goes prog, and even though it was always a “progressive” subgenre, it has held distinction as progressive metal’s ugly, black sheep 3rd cousin. The fanbases have been divided so much that djent is not even considered a ‘metal’ subgenre by the “authorities” (and I use that term lightly) at The Metal Archives [Editor’s Note: There’s actually a decent (if not *good*) reason for that.]. However, TesseracT’s latest album, titled Altered State seems to have gone a fair ways in bridging that gap.
Altered State is actually the second outing from TesseracT, and their début album One made a bit of a splash back in 2011. One was a worthy album in and of itself, but that’s another review for another time. Altered State is hitting harder though, largely in part to new lead vocalist Ashe O’Hara, who does not make use of the harsh vocals that held equal ground with the clean vocals on One.
Altered State ends up a rather unique beast. The music is still quite ‘djenty’ in character, with lots of down tuned 8 string rhythm guitar patterns, often built around polyrhythms. What’s built on top of that is what makes it remarkable, and that’s melody. Not only does TesseracT break some barriers by placing djent in a melodic focus, but their melodic sensibilities are quite refined. The album’s lead single, “Of Mind — Nocturne” is a great example of this, with its driving rhythm and soaring vocal melodies. Similarly, my favorite song, “Of Reality — Eclipse”, has a tremendous verse, with the similar vocal style existing over palm muted guitars and a heavily syncopated bass/drum rhythm. Even without the technical excellence, Ashe O’Hara is a phenomenal vocalist.
There’s still moments that feel ‘pure-djent’, I’m not sure if I’d say it’s enough to please purists. On the contrary, it’s probably really just enough to piss off haters. These sections are restrained though, often to a single riff, like the introduction of “Nocturne”, or small sections in “Exile”. Both songs are very good, but it’s passages like these that make me thoroughly confused by djent, a genre that holds rhythm and groove in such high esteem, and then proceeds to disrupt that groove with jarring and abrasive riffs that seem to stop the song.
I’ve always been a strong believer in complexity, and been burnt too often by bands whose complexity gets in the way of their melody. Altered State is one of those rare albums that really hits the spot for my tastes, however. Through 3 ‘songs’ divided into 10 tracks (or maybe it’s 3 movements divided into 10 songs?, or maybe the band is just really uncreative with their names?), Altered State showcases musical diversity, it pushes established genres into new territory, and it all sounds so very crisp and exact. There’s certainly been a number of progressive metal bands bringing a bit of djent influence to the party this year, but TesseracT is really the standard-bearer of this movement, and if you want to stay on the up-and-up with the genre, this is the album to be listening to.
4.0 // 5