by Jacob N.
Few bands have pulled me into a genre to the level that TesseracT has pulled me into
metal. I began listening to them in late 2021 and I fell in love with the melodically complex and
atmospheric song variety. The conservative use of screams made them easy to get into as well as stick with. At the time, however, their last album “Sonder” was released in 2018 leaving fans wondering when the next release would be. They had been teasing a new album since early 2023 stating that it would be much more intense and complex than their prior works. Finally, on September 15, 2023, TesseracT dropped “War of Being” after five years of nothing.
TesseracT did not disappoint. Just as advertised, this concept album featured a greater
variety of sounds that take the best elements of prior albums and turn them into what feels like a crescendo in TesseracT’s discography.
Much of the structure is reminiscent of their 2013 album “Altered State” which is the most
experimental of any of their other albums. Many of the songs flow together into short musical
vignettes that make up the album. The first five songs on the album “Natural Disaster”,
“Echoes”, “The Grey”, “Legion”, and “Tender” are all connected essentially making an “act one” to the album. Similarly, many of the songs are complex enough in their structure that they alone feel like multiple songs only to resolve the main motive of each song. Rather than feeling like 9 separate songs, it feels like one large musical journey with a few extra tracks to resolve the ideas in the first half.
The vocal performance by Daniel Tompkins is by far his best yet. Featuring a wide range
of vocal techniques, he manages to sway the mood of the songs seamlessly. Tompkins’ vocal
technique is still reminiscent of his prior work. The melodic elements are similar to the album
“Sonder” often featuring metal-style screams. These however are often done in such a way that they still melodically complement the songs without being over the top or obnoxious. It even seems to borrow some technical elements from Their 2015 album “Polaris” which has some incredible and complex harmonies, especially in the song “Phoenix”. Overall, it is an extremely captivating performance that shows incredible growth. By far, Tompkins’ best moment on the album, and in turn, TesseracT’s discography Is on “Legion”. At about 3:20 he delivers the line “Thrown into the grey, in the ruin I remain, from the only world I've ever known.” With such raw power it took several re-listens of the album to stop getting goosebumps at this point. Not only does he scream, but he preserves the melody in a vocal style I haven’t heard anywhere else.
Not unlike the vocals, the use of guitar is extremely reminiscent of prior albums while
making it into something unlike anything before. It features lead guitarist Alec “Acle” Kahney and rhythm guitarist James Monteith. Like in prior albums, the lead guitar is usually a hard-hitting djent-style guitar lead backed up by the atmospheric support of James Monteith. Kahney really seemed to lean into the hard-hitting melodies of prior albums like “Sonder” and “Polaris” This is especially reminiscent of songs like “King” from “Sonder” and “Dystopia” from “Polaris”. This seems to be melded with even more complex rhythmic structures than in prior albums. Kahney really shines at the opening of “War of Being” with a powerful guitar part that works seamlessly with the work of drummer Jay Postones. This creates a single, almost imposing melodic line that punches throughout most of the song. Rhythm guitarist James Monteith continues to bring the Iconic TesseracT sound with the atmospheric sound that is ubiquitous throughout all of the albums. Monteith's part in “Sirens” stands out for me. It almost sings along with Tompkins in a ballad-style track, acting as a counter-melody to the vocal line.
On a first listen the work of drummer Jay Postones may go unnoticed. However, the
precision in the rhythm he brings out is unparalleled. Postones’s technique would best be
described as subliminal complexity. Without focusing on the drums specifically, it could be easy to assume they are simple. On tracks like “The Grey” however, his technique is extremely precise, tying all of the parts together with incredible technical precision. Rather than hitting the drums continuously and making a wall of sound, he chooses to apply rhythmic elements at extremely precise times, almost making a percussive spider web.
Despite the flak that bassists get for existing, TesseracT’s bassist, Amos Williams is
insanely good. I’m not sugarcoating it when I say he is likely one of the best in the world. Prior
work on songs like “Messenger” shows this in totality. The opening bass hooks on “The Grey”
and “Burden” are both instantly iconic. In the B section of the song “Sacrifice”, Williams shows
his true potential with a complex and almost groovy bassline.
Despite all my praise, this album is not for everyone. Being metal, it is not going to be
everyone’s cup of tea. It also indulges in a fair amount of experimentation with unusual time
signatures and background sampling. On several tracks, there are long atmospheric sections
that break up the tracks. For those who simply want one song after the other, this may be an
issue. The whole album clocks in at almost exactly an hour, making it longer than what most
people are used to. To fans of progressive metal, however, these are likely very positive details that will only serve to enrich the experience. Those who enjoy hard-hitting djent bands like Meshuggah or Periphery or complex progressive bands like Dream Theater or TOOL.
In conclusion, War of Being isn't just the best TesseracT album I have listened to, it is
one of the best I have listened to overall. To Progheads worldwide, this album is an instant rite
of passage for anyone remotely interested in the genre.