Djent never really took off as the next big thing, but it did spawn a few world-class bands that are probably more happy simply living under the Progressive Metal banner. And tonight London’s Shepherds Bush Empire hosts two of the scenes leading lights, Between the Buried and Me and TesseracT. Continue reading
Even amongst a thriving but crowded Tech / Progressive Metal scene, Northampton (UK)’s Voices From The Fuselage have the potential and the quality to stand out. With a label re-release in 2016 and the presence of former TesseracT vocalist Ashe O’Hara at the forefront, their previous album Odyssey: Destroyer Of Worlds provided a benchmark album for UK Progressive Metal with a rich and layered sound combined with towering melodies and near pop sensibilities, showing them to have real crossover appeal. Continue reading
Despite this being a début release, the name Schiermann is highly regarded in the contemporary progressive metal/djent community. At the helm is guitarist Chris Schiermann, who over the course of a decade of recording and writing music has befriended many titans in the genre, with the likes of Animals As Leaders, DispersE and TesseracT, and has taken inspiration from a wide range of influences and styles from such contemporary metal maestros to the virtuoso guitar players, most notably like Randy Rhoads. A wide palette that is abundantly clear on his début solo project release Schiermann (Purple Sun), which includes a plethora of guest appearances from such alumni as mentioned and thus offers a vibrant mix and character. Continue reading
If there is one thing that djent bands are very adept at it is their ability to lose vocalists, so much so it seems to be a rite of passage amongst bands of this ilk, from Monuments and Periphery to The Contortionist. TesseracT it is well documented are no slouches in this department, seeming to change as much as the WWE attitude era Hardcore Championship. Still in the touring cycle for previous album Altered State(Century Media) and on the eve of the summer festivals, came the news that Ashe O’Hara had left the fold, and the welcome surprise that talismanic vocalist Dan Tompkins (at the time also singing for Skyharbor and his own project White Moth Black Butterfly) had assumed his old role.
At the time it seemed completely out of the blue for Tompkins to return, but as Jay Postones explains, he was always the right man for the job, it was circumstances that played their part: “We always kept in contact with Dan and he just couldn’t do it back in the day, when we were touring it was a bit much for him really. But now we are in a much better position, more stable financially and we are able to do it as a proper band. He’s always been able to ride to the music very easily, he’s always been a part of TesseracT, really it’s just the right time.”
In that time, as Postones states, they were always in contact, and during his absence Tompkins had kept very busy with other bands and projects and has been a frequent part of the scene so the idea of rust wasn’t an issue. With so much time passed however you’d expect a settling in period of sorts. As it turns out, this wasn’t the case: “There was no need for integration at all. The hardest thing was getting all the legal stuff right because he had been screwed over before with record labels, management etc, but in artistic terms of what we were trying to create; our vision and his vision align so it was spot on as it’s always been…It was very simple, he came back in and started writing and it was seamless. It’s just great to be working with him again.”
Talking with Postones it is abundantly clear that the band are extremely happy to welcome their old singer and brother back in, in part due to the memories of those early and older tours that they were so fond of. His return brought back that sense of nostalgia as well as the lease of life to move forward: “One of the cool things was that we had a lot of material and demos written from about 2011/12 when he was with us before that we were able to revisit; there were some riffs that we started for Polaris (Kscope). It was really nice to start at that point because a lot of them were written on tour, Dan would be singing along in the van when we were driving past things like crazy, massive lakes in Canada and places like that, and it was nice to be able to start and think back to then.”
Looking back at début album One (Century Media) and Tompkins’ other projects he has done it is clear that he is quite simply a phenomenal talent, but as Postones explains about the singer’s learning curve, frighteningly he is just getting better: “Everything he has done has improved his abilities, he can sing higher that he could before which is just insane because he could reach some stupid notes when he joined is. Everything he has done has helped him develop his voice to a stage he can effortlessly do stuff on Polaris without over shooting himself, and the reason I say that is because if you play an absolute blinder on recording, you have to do it live as well, especially for a vocalist, so what he has put down, every night he’d be fine.”
The impact of Tompkins’ return has not only seen his performance on the microphone skyrocket, but has also made an impression and effect on the rest of the band, rejuvenating them all to a whole new level: “I think the level we had come to expect, I think the bar was raised when Dan came back to us. He was able to absolutely fly with the material. Seeing him nail it every night made us up our game and it was inspiring to see.”
There is the old adage about people or things fitting together perfectly like a glove, and of course it is always cliché for bands to say this about any member when they are together and then that changes when they depart. With Tompkins’ back in the band however, the obvious connection amongst the entire unit and the bond they have shared even when apart suggests that this is the definite incarnation.
“We are all a similar age and we get on really well on tour. You’ve got to be a band of brothers when you’re in a band, not just a touring business which it is for some bands. You can spot the bands that aren’t going to make it more than a few years because there’s arguing, bitterness and egos. The thing with this band for me is that there is none of that. If you need space you get space, we all know each other really well now and can support each other when having a bad time.”
Even the issue of distance between the members (mostly all scattered around the UK with bassist Amos Williams now residing in Shanghai) does not prove too much of a burden for TesseracT, with them all making sure the communication is still going, and the unity they have as a group: “There’s a lot of conversation, the amount of emails between us is ridiculous, like about 100 or so a day. But other than the time difference in Shanghai it’s the same as it’s always been. As well as the emails there’s the usual stupidity between us all, we are a band of mates which is great, and I hope it stays that way.”
WORDS BY CHRIS TIPPELL
The ever daring and polarizing TesseracT continue to keep their ambitions high with the release of live album and DVD Odyssey/Scala (Century Media). Forgive the odd title as both sides contain the same set of songs. Odyssey was recorded across Europe during the Altered State tour while the Scala visual supplement was recorded at the posh London club of the same name.
What? Simply naming it Alive doesn’t quite cut when you’re used to adding ‘Concealing Fate’ to like half of your song titles.
Most importantly, Odyssey/Scala finds guitarist and ringleader Alec ‘Acle’ Kahney and the boys reuniting with original singer Daniel Tompkins 3 years after their last collaboration. And Tompkins does not disappoint, as his soaring vocals translate perfectly to the live format and shows no issues handling former lead Ashe O’Hara’s parts. Spending an afternoon with these kinds of talents seems like a good time, but something doesn’t quite work for me.
I have to wonder if the idea to make a concert film came after they planned on releasing the live LP. The only reason I ask is because Odyssey is the best way of the two to enjoy this evening with Tesseract. The songs feel much more alive on Odyssey while Scala has a very polished mix that almost gives the impression of being dubbed over at points. The heavier, double bass segments in tracks like ‘The Impossible’ and ‘Perfection/Epiphany’ sound like Tesseract want to give the most aggressive Periphery tunes a run for their money. Also the rousing closer ‘Acceptance’ make you wish they would let their hair down to the windmill headbanging position more often. Seriously dudes, the soaring melodies and quiet passages are great, but it’s fun to thrash out sometimes.
Something else not helping Scala is the unfortunate truth that Tesseract tend to be static as performers. With the exception of the charismatic Tompkins, the rest of the Milton Keynes’ crew is keener on standing in place. I’m not naïve, I didn’t expect the Dillinger Escape Plan style antics. That being said it’s a trend I’ve observed since I saw them open for Between the Buried and Me back in 2011. Also the bizarre MTV style editing can be jarring upon first viewing. For a band as sharp as Tesseract we shouldn’t have to sit through so many blurry and shaky camera angles.
Perhaps the decision to make this both an album and DVD was hatched after realizing that it’s barely over an hour’s worth of content so it was best to offer both variants as the greater value to the fans. While flawed, Odyssey/Scala is a testament to the appeal and skill of Tesseract who are able to release a quite capable live recording with only two proper full lengths under their belts.
Well another weekend and another show in Allston Rock City, as the denizens here have taken to calling it. Sure it has its share of faults like too many hipsters, huge rates, and a general nexus of drama that comes from being a hiccup from Boston and smack dab between two nicer neighborhoods. What Allston lacks in class, it has style up the rear end, and three of my favorite music venues within 7 blocks of each other. At Brighton Music Hall the band camp geek crowd of Boston was out to see some of prog/djent’s finest bands come to town.
Local youngsters Aviations were first up tonight. I had heard a bit about them, but I wasn’t familiar with their music until now. They were really impressive, accomplished players doing their take on djent. They also had a huge crew of friends and fans there, as evident by how active they were singing along, moshing and in general, being hyped as if these guys were the headliners. It was infections because the rest of the crowd quickly caught on. As as band they are a lot of fun live, put on an energetic show and their singer Adam Benjamin even jumped into the pit to mosh a few times! They are opening up for Animals as Leaders soon, so big things are in store for them.
A lot of folks in the house tonight were lured by the draw of Cloudkicker finally touring. Studio whiz Ben Sharp could finally strut his stuff, and with Intronaut as his backing band, it was going to be pretty exciting. They even had their own commemorative shirts that said Cloudtronaut… or was it IntroKicker? I can’t recall. Led by Sharp, the band cut through a string of flawless prog tunes such as ‘We’re Going In’, ‘You & Yours’, and ‘Dysphoria’. It was fairly amazeballs! Sharp’s guitar mastery is impeccable, as he pulled out a bevy of techniques. Techniques, mind you, not tricks. There is a difference. For their part, the Intronaut guys played great and helped bring these little masterpieces to life. Behind the band a video screen showed space satellite footage that added a little more juice to the scene. I for one hope this collaboration continues live, and perhaps even extending to the studio someday.
Staying on stage with only a short break, Intronaut continues to remind me over and over why they are one of the preeminent heavy music bands of our time. At this point in their career they can go out on a lot of tours they want to take, or just tour by themselves if they want, but to hit the road on this kind of package says a lot about them. Tonight they were doing a shorter set, on top of double duty. Opening with ‘Killing Birds with Stones’ was great, and such a good indicator of where the band is headed. Each of the players in this band is stellar, but none more so than Danny Walker on the drums. The guy is a machine on the kit, but plays with a lot of passion too. The vocals of Sacha Dunable and Dave Timnick always get me right in the guts too. Tracks like ‘Venom’ and set closer ‘The Way Down’ just stay with you long after the final notes disappear. Typical of Boston area shows, some people left after Intronaut and didn’t stay to the end of the show, possibly because their girlfriends were bored or something.
Tesseract took quite a while to go on, but everyone in the room was amped to see them. A rumor had gotten around the club before long that singer Ashe O’Hara was sick, and could not sing tonight. When the band hit the stage, there were still a lot of perplexed faces in the crowd as the band appeared to be down to a three-piece with no singer. The band played great and the crowd none the wiser enjoyed a few songs before Amos Williams addressed the crowd, confirming that doctors advised Ashe not to sing. However, the band planned to play their full set without him, apologized profusely over it. They ran through a mix of songs from their catalog, with the audience singing back at the singer-less band. It was actually awesome and a testament to the fan base of this band. From what I could tell, some people left early, disappointed. But those who stayed were rewarded for their patience, and the band played their asses off. It was one of the most mature and professional things I have seen in a long time, just how hard the band played and how humble they were the entire time. The situation was far from ideal, but isn’t that what live music is all about? Especially in a scene where everyone plays along to backing tracks and the like, it was great to see these guys were so unflappable. A special treat for the crowd was the closing number of the night ‘Concealing Fate: Part I Acceptance’ which was played to a lot of oohs and ahhs for those remaining in the room. Afterward the band went into the crowd for a long time, signing merch and taking pictures.
TesseracT Set List:
Of Mind – Exile
Concealing Fate, Part 2: Deception
Concealing Fate, Part 3: The Impossible
Of Energy – Singularity
Of Mind – Nocturne
Concealing Fate, Part 1: Acceptance
Words: Keith (Keefy) Chachkes
Photos: Echoes In The Well
TesseracT bass player Amos isn’t the typical guy in a metal band. Articulate and quick-witted but giving carefully considered answers he is the unofficial spokesman of one of British metal’s most exciting bands. His answers are delivered eloquently without the “um’s” and “ah’s” of so many musicians and while completely calm Williams’s dedication to his craft is unwavering. Involved with everything the band does creatively and business wise handling visa applications and press commitments the bass player is candid and speaks with the self-assurance that comes when your band has written one of the most important releases in the last ten years for British metal. Giving us his thoughts on the band’s new album Altered State, new singer the gifted young Brighton based Ashe O’Hara and new beginnings for a greatly inventive and passionate group. Continue reading
Since debut album One was released to much critical acclaim prog metal pioneers TesseracT have been dogged with the departure of not one but two lead vocalists. While such adversity would have broken manly lesser acts, the Milton Keynes act picked themselves up and following the departure of American singer Elliot Coleman came across young Brighton based frontman Ashe O’Hara. Continue reading