In simplest terms, a Tesseract is to the cube as the cube is to the square, the four-dimensional analogue of the cube. Make sense? Perhaps not; it’s somewhat like the band of the same name, TesseracT. What’s interesting about the group is that they manage to combine so many differing sounds within each track that at points it is truly difficult to determine what genre they could be classified as, and perhaps that’s the point. Maybe these guys don’t want to be labeled as anything and want each track, each album, to be a surprise to its listeners and fans. Which brings us to their latest release, Sonder, three quick years after their (somewhat) breakout Polaris.
Sonder starts off in very energetic fashion in Luminary, with the building tension of feedback exploding into a heavy groove that makes moving your fucking head a must, with punishingly heavy percussion and a bass that hasn’t been so present in the forefront of a metal bands’ sound since the days of LD-50 Mudvayne; then, almost with a snap, TesseracT jump into their time signature and genre bending verses, sounding as if they belong on top 40 radio, with the impeccably high cleans of lead vocalist Daniel Tompkins paving the way, as the jazzy drum fills of Jay Postones fill the remaining void left in the wake of the blistering opening. The band comes full circle to finish the track, with the feedback dubbed over the opening groove to create one last explosions of energy before fading into the next track, King.
As the longest individual track on the album, King manages to take everything we hear in Luminary, and double the length and intensity. A gravity shifting opening and some of the harshest vocals we’ve ever heard from Tompkins transitions spectacularly into a falsetto over the same rhythm, with a mini-breakdown precluding the softer side of TesseracT, goading the listener into thinking we’re in the safe zone, only to transition seamlessly into the djent-y grooves they’ve painted for us thus far in their short yet impressive career.
Orbital acts as somewhat of an interlude to give the listener a break; soft, atmospheric, almost subdued in its simplicity, it is essentially a filler track, but it does its job as an in-between for both King and Juno pretty effectively. In fact, were in not for Orbital, Juno would seem like a continuation of King and Luminary, as it opens with a head banging groove, before once again transitioning into an almost separate genre, with the funky bass lines bordering on R&B and Tompkins’ falsetto reminding us that yes, metal does have really talented singers. The chorus is hard hitting and unforgettable as a result of the subduing of the track post-chorus, with complex, almost tribal drum fills keeping the listeners ears glued to their speakers, coming full circle with the second chorus and some serious tempo and time signature shifts, making Juno one of the more complex and memorable tracks in TesseracT’s discography.
Beneath My Skin and Mirror Image are technically packaged as one long track, but as TesseracT is a band that’s best taken one at a time, listening to each track separately may make the experience more enjoyable; Beneath my Skin begins unassumingly with a soft, clean, vocal driven melody with little in the way of background music, preceding an insanely heavy transition in a groove-laden, bass driven beat, with some absolutely disgusting time signature shifts before shifting back to a lower gear to segue nicely into Mirror Image, which has the misfortune of being one of the more forgettable tracks on the album. The focus stays primarily on light melody and vocals, within nothing really making itself stand out, which is a shame given the overall length, though with about two minutes to spare the band kicks into a higher gear, though for some listeners it may be too little too late.
Smile was rerecorded for the album, and contains a chorus that will make you move your [fucking] head while simultaneously singing along and pressing your gas pedal in tandem should you be driving while listening. Much like on King, Tompkins unleashes some of the harshest vocals we’ve ever heard, which coupled with the filthy disgusting groove, immediately renders Smile a high point of the album; ending the track on somewhat of a light, bass-driven breakdown gives the listener breathing room, before moving onto the final track, The Arrow. The track is a microcosm of what TesseracT is known for, as it contains all the elements. Though it does not do enough to stick out following a beastly track like Smile. Put simply, The Arrow just sounds like a final track.
TesseracT really did not need to prove how technically capable they are; but, in releasing Sonder, they have shown to be one of the more uniquely talented groups in the ‘progressive’ scene, if they can be painted into any genre. A band that likes to shift their sound mid-track, they make their listeners pay attention and give them a lot to digest. Give them credit, there aren’t many bands that do the genre bending, time signature tempo shifting as well as they do, rendering each listen an experience, even if that means using the standout tracks to justify the occasional dud.