British prog-metal outfit TesseracT has, ever since its inception some 15 years ago, made quite the name for itself in the rock and metal community. That is thanks to the music that the band has crafted and presented over the course of three albums and one live recording. That music has stood completely apart from its contemporaries both musically and stylistically. Its fourth album, Sonder – which was released this past Friday, April 20 – is no exception to that rule. The eight-song, 36-minue album takes the best elements of TesseracT’s own past works and crosses that with the best elements of Tool and Leprous for an album that is just as certain as its early records to impress listeners. This is proven right from the album’s outset in the album’s opener ‘Luminary.’ It will be discussed shortly. ‘King,’ the albums second single (and the album’s second song in its sequence), also serves to show why this record is another impressive offering from TesseracT. It will be discussed later. ‘Mirror Image,’ with its deep, emotional musical and lyrical content is yet another example of what makes this record another solid effort from TesseracT. It is hardly the last example of what makes the album so strong, too. Each of the album’s other tracks not directly discussed here shows in its own way why the album stands out. Between those songs and the ones more directly noted, the album in whole proves to be one more of this year’s top new hard rock and metal albums.
Prog-metal TesseracT has been making music and touring together for the better part of 15 years. On the surface that might seem like a long time, but the fact that the band has released only three albums and one live recording over the course of that time sys that the band is still very young. The release of its fourth album this past Friday, however, gives great hope for the band’s future. It is an album that proves (just as with the band’s previous trio of albums) that this band is one of the biggest names in prog-metal’s (and metal’s in general) next generation. This is proven right from the album’s outset in its lead single and opener, ‘Luminary.’ Musically speaking, the song conjures thoughts of Leprous, Tool and Tesseract’s own, more familiar material. That is evidenced through the controlled chaos in the song’s dual guitar arrangement, its low-end (courtesy of Amos Williams) and front man Daniel Tompkins’ own vocal delivery. Drummer Jay Postones’ work behind the kit is reminiscent of Mike Portnoy with its polyrhythmic patterns. The whole of those items combined makes this song’s arrangement a powerful composition to say the very least. At the most, it is more proof of why TesseracT is one of the elite names in prog-metal.
In regards to its lyrical theme, it is just as powerful a song. Tompkins explained in a recent interview that the song “conceptually explores a deep and devouring sense of insignificance, which ties into the overall theme behind Sonder.” It does just that and quite well at that as Tompkins sings, “You could raise the dead/With those terribly troublesome eyes/Maybe you’ll always be bad/Maybe you’ll always be the same/Are you alone/Locked inside/That prison in your head/You walk through the crowd/Lost in the sound/Invisible to every passing eye.” That lead verse and chorus paints quite the vivid picture to illustrate exactly what Tompkins said. The same can be said of the song’s second verse in which Tompkins sings, “This waking life is not what it seems to be/No time to talk/No air to breathe/Reminisce the scent of a single flower/What butchers cleave/The wolves devour/But if you consume it/You will surely die/When you’re buried with your tenderness/You’ll drag it to your solitary grave.” This collectively shows the impact of what that sense of insignificance can and often does do to a person, emotionally and psychologically. The coupling of that powerful statement with the song’s equally powerful musical arrangement makes this work both a strong start for Sonder and a clear example of why the album is such a strong new effort from the band. It is just one of the songs that serves to show why this record is such a strong offering from TesseracT. The album’s second single (and second song) ‘King’ is another example of what makes this record stand out.
‘King,’ much like ‘Luminary’ proves so powerful in part because of its musical arrangement. The heaviness for which TesseracT has come to be known is here once again. As has been noted by others, it is another work here that joins elements of the arrangements from the band’s debut album One (2011) and Polaris (2017). The dual-guitar attack of Acle Kahney and James Monteith forms a solid foundation for the song. Both in the full-on heavy moments and the softer moments (which are heavy in their own right thanks to the guitarists’ control) their work stands out so distinctly. Tompkins’ vocal delivery here can so easily be compared to that of tool front man Maynard James Keenan. This includes even his screams. Williams’ low-end and Postones’ work behind the kit puts the finishing touch to the arrangement, joining forces with the other lines to make this arrangement so powerful both in its heavy and more reserved moments. The power of those moments together joins with the song’s equally powerful lyrical theme to make the song even more hard-hitting.
As Tompkins noted in an interview about the song, “Far too often, we find ourselves lead into conflict and inner turmoil. Life is surely a battle. History has a bad habit of repeating itself, and when living with the constraints of an onerous life, it’s easy to overlook the greatest gift we’ve ever received: life itself.” This message is highlighted as Tompkins sings, “You died within me/The boatmen came to sail me down the river/Bind me up with visions of a blind man/I operate this way/Turn nothing into gold/Death on such an ugly day/You dine like a king on top of the world.” This lead verse hints at Tompkins’ statement of “ourselves” being “lead into conflict and inner turmoil” and the ease of overlooking “life itself.” It is illustrated even more distinctly as he sings in the song’s second verse, “You show us all/That forgiveness is the weakest call/And now revenge against that grudge inside your tiny head/Remove the crown of absolution/Let the retribution fly/The king has all/The king has all/But words can kill and main and take their toll/And you massacre my dreams at night/And eat away at every thought/Until we take control/The king has all/Totalitarian and carnivore.” That final statement, “you massacre my dreams at night/and eat away at every thought/until we take control” is critical because it would seem that is Tompkins stressing that the history repeating itself will continue until we do something to keep it from continuing. As he noted in the song’s chorus that it is possible to take that control and say to those forces, “They’re taking away the freedom/To be just you/But the sun always shines for you/They’re taking away the freedom to be just you/You’d kill to find me/But the crown above my head is deadly.” That is someone finally taking control and realizing the ultimate gift, which leads ultimately to stopping that proverbial cycle of violence. The manner in which Tompkins’ presented the overall message is so powerful in its own right. When it is coupled with the equally powerful impact of the song’s musical arrangement, the two elements together make perfectly clear why this single is one more example of Sonder’s overall strength. It still is not the last of the album’s most integral compositions, either. ‘Mirror Image’ is one more of the album’s most notable entries.
‘Mirror Image,’ is so notable in part because of its own musical arrangement, just as with the previously discussed songs. Unlike those songs, this song’s arrangement is heavy because it is not heavy. Rather, it is a very reserved, contemplative arrangement. The coupling of the piano, guitars, drums and bass give this song a distinctly ethereal feel, especially in the song’s opening moments. Even in the arrangement’s more powerful moments, there is still a noticeable reservation that creates its own power here. The contrast of that feeling to that of the song’s softer moments creates a powerful whole that makes it easily comparable to works from Leprous. That stark contrast from ‘King’ and ‘Luminary’ yet powerful musical statement in itself does plenty to make this song so strong. The song’s lyrical content adds to its power. That is because it presents what seems like a rather familiar topic in the issue of relationships.
The seeming topic of a relationship is inferred as Tompkins sings here, “I’m half crazy/Searching for the sight of you/Hoping that you’d pull me through/The hand of God/you forced me to/I’m half crazy/Longing for the love of you/Begging on my knees to you/Weeping for the honest truth.” This is only a glimpse into the song’s lyrical content that leads one to believe this song centers on the familiar topic of relationships. The song’s final verse finds Tompkins singing, “I’ve been dreaming/Love is not an endless thing/Anxious to ignore our feelings/Love is not an endless thing.” Taking these lines into consideration with the previously noted lines, one has to think that there is little chance this song could, lyrically, be centered on anything but the matter of relationships. That doubt is lessened even more as Tompkins sings, “Lightning struck into a mirror image of the truth/It keeps me awake/the stars begin to fall/A meditation to absolve/It keeps me awake. Even in the song’s opening verse, Tompkins sings of seeing “an image of it all” as if to say he sees the bigger picture of his thoughts. It all comes together. Keeping this in mind, Tompkins has again found a powerful (and original) way to take on an all too familiar topic. Considering this along with the power and originality expressed in the other songs noted here, the whole of these songs does plenty to show why Sonder is another strong effort from TesseracT. That is not to discount the other songs not noted here, either. Each of the album’s other songs does its own part in supporting the noted statement, too. Keeping this in mind, not only does Sonder prove to be another strong effort from TesseracT, but an other album that is fully deserving of being called another of this year’s top new hard rock and metal albums.
TesseracT’s latest full-length studio recording Sonder may only boast eight songs and run for a total run time of 36 minutes, but over the course of that time, it proves to be another recording proving that TesseracT is one of the elite acts in metal’s next generation. On that same note, it is a n album that proves both musically and lyrically to be, without doubt, one of this year’s top new hard rock and metal albums. It is available now in stores and online. More information on Sonder is available online now along with all of TesseracT’s latest news and more at:
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