Walking into The Den in Harrogate I was initially convinced I’d gone to the wrong place. This was a sports bar; the football was on. Double check, no this is the right place. Spotting a few of the bands by a stage in between pool tables, I must be in the same place.
One of the great success stories of the last ten years or so, the inexorable rise of occult rockers Ghost has been nothing short of astonishing. From their inception in 2006 and the release of full length debut Opus Eponymous (Rise Above Records) four years later, the act from Linköping have gone on to become one of Sweden’s greatest ever exports.
Having stayed with Black Sabbath until 1983’s unfairly criticised Born Again (Vertigo) album, founding member Geezer Butler returned to the band in the early nineties but with a growing desire to prove himself as a solo artist. After leaving again in ’94, the iconic bass player and moustache enthusiast teamed up with former frontman Ozzy Osbourne for a while before eventually going it alone to form G/Z/R.
The history of TesseracT is very disjointed and confusing in places, both sonically and in terms of personnel. With a continuous base of founder and guitarist Acle Kahney alongside Jay Postones, James Monteith and Amos Williams, the vocalist has changed more than Doctor Who, now with Daniel Tompkins returning after his initial stint on the band’s first full length One. Since his first tenure the band’s sound has changed from the, at the time cutting edge djent metal sound, to one that focused towards a more expansive arena while diminishing their metallic influences on follow up Altered State (both Century Media). Now with Polaris (Kscope/eOne) they are venturing even further down the rabbit hole.
The albums opening song will prove the most familiar and easing track for those who crave a return to the crunchy metal of One, with a prominent, chugging bassline throughout, it shows signs of an underlying trait of their sound that has been there since day one, but less so through a Meshuggah lens. Instead Polaris shows an increasingly mellow and even ambient sound with a dreamlike atmosphere, punctuated by increased tempo and thundering basslines, a prime example being the ever building ‘Hexes’.
Of course, many ears will be on what Tompkins brings to the table again, and even with him still firmly on the radar during his TesseracT absence with a host of other projects, his evolution since then is staggering. Completely void of the harsh vocals that powered One, Tompkins clean vocals soar to new heights here, and his time with Indian prog metallers Skyharbor has elevated him even further, hitting new, astonishing high notes and ever improved vocal lines show his flawless adaptability to the band’s changes.
It has often been challenging keeping up with the changes TesseracT undergo, but for every roadblock that hinders their path they always come out the other side stronger than ever; this line up feels definitive as Tompkins proves even with the significant steps the band have made forward, that he still fits like a glove. Polaris is yet another important and impressive leap forward by one of modern prog’s most important alumni.