Over the course of three full-length albums plus numerous EP releases and reworked pieces, UK progressive metallers TesseracT have shown a propensity for continued change in their music. Making a firm impact on their first full release One, spearheading the then emerging Djent scene, even then they seemed on a different plain of thinking to their brethren and quickly began to branch out. The follow-up Altered State (both Century Media) saw more expansive structures and reduced before Polaris (Kscope) brought refinement, melodic and immediate songs; all throughout retaining enough core to still be recognisable.
In a way (for now), latest release Sonder (Kscope) is an anomaly in the catalogue as it is the first full-length release that retains the entire line-up from the previous, with vocalist Dan Tompkins remaining after returning to the band on Polaris. As a result, and in spite of the band’s sense of assurance over each release, Sonder feels like the band has been finally able to completely settle, and turn in not only their most cohesive follow up but also by far their strongest album to date.
Having successfully offered different styles on each prior release, Sonder brings these styles together and moulds matters into their most defining album to date, and one that will offer genuine surprises to those who have intently followed their journey at this point. The initial three songs set the bar for the album’s diversity, with opener ‘Luminary’ being a very melodic opener which blends the archetypal TesseracT guitar tone with more stripped-down verses and is armed with an immediate and colossal chorus. The proceeding ‘King’ then showcases their more expansive nature ranging from their heaviest material since One (complete with the surprising return of Tompkins’ growls which on previous albums seemed a world away) to near ambient serenity; before ‘Orbital’ offers an ethereal, post-rock atmosphere that, although brief, is ethereal and consuming.
A lot of focus upon TesseracT until now has often rested on the vocalist situation, but the rest of the band have always adapted to changes with apparent ease and this is even more evident on Sonder as they are able to transition to various styles and paces throughout. Whether on the vivid, funky basslines on ‘Juno’, the dissident riffing on ‘Smile’ or the weightlessness and uplifting ‘The Arrow’,
Sonder is without a doubt TesseracT’s most vivid and varied work to date.
All the elements of their makeup that they have previously shown have been brought together and fully mastered, with Tompkins’ once again proving to be one of metal and prog (or just generally) most dynamic and special vocalists. TesseracT hasn’t delivered a weak album to date, but finally retaining a line-up across albums appears to have worked wonders, as Sonder is not only their strongest album to date, but is a new benchmark in Progressive Metal.