Polarising is likely to be the outcome when the Tesseract fan base deliberate on the bands third full length. Metal fans are some of the most loyal on the planet, a recent survey actually proved that; so it will be interesting to gauge how the faithful react to Polaris. Tesseract’s trademark layered atmosphere is still present, but fans that favour the heavier Djent moments of their short but acclaimed discography will have challenges to overcome. Its not as though Polaris is a huge departure in sound, in fact the first few bars of opening track ‘Dystopia’ is as heavy as anything on One, and the time signatures of ‘Messenger’ are mind bending, but in general the downtrodden polyrhythms take a back seat to an increase in melody and a focus on songwriting, texture and atmosphere – you could call it Tesseract-Lite in some regards.
The Tesseract vocal department is tenuous, three vocalists in three years is unsettling and one would have forgiven the band for throwing in the towel, or at the very least re-branding and starting fresh, but for the band to endure the turbulent times is a testament to the focus that this group of musicians have and a commitment to the cause. Furthermore, after such an upheaval of personnel, many would generally equate the output to an equally inconsistent record, but that is far from the case. Polaris is a different album to One and Altered State, but its this is a mature songwriting and its is a collection of songs that feels otherworldly, almost as though it was written suspended above the ground and that atmosphere is what Tesseract stand for more-so than the Djent characteristics.
Daniel Tomkins is a very good vocalist, and he dominates the mix with his cleans. This works effectively when it marries up with the colourful guitar textures and vibrant bass, but there is little to no aggression, and the one moment where Tomkins raises the bar in ‘Hexes’ is far from anything resembling the tonal force of One, but for the fans that favour the Tomkins croon and the Skyharbor range will be right at home here. ‘Tourniquet’ is a delicate track that elevates the listener to heights that have not been reached yet, the funky bass lines of ‘Utopia’ defies progressive metal and the rhythm section on ‘Phoenix’ is on another level, working in unison better than they have ever done before.
The disappointing element to Polaris is the lack of progression in sound, there were moments on Altered State, in particular the saxophone where Tesseract showed glimpses that they could take their sound to a whole new level, but wirth Polaris the band have scaled back that experimentation and concentrated on the things that Tesseract do best; that being rhythm, groove, atmosphere and great vocals.
This was the album that Tesseract had to make, its important to take stock of where your at and reflect upon what you stand for. Tesseract have clearly made the decision to shift away from the Djent sound, and it may prove to be the album that we look back upon in a decade and applaud for being the reason that tesseract are still around.
9. Seven Names