Review Summary: A tantalizing EP that will further polarise the band's fanbase, and leave the fans hungering for TesseracT's upcoming debut.
Ah, Djent, thou art a fickle mistress. Ever since Meshuggah released their classic “Destroy, Erase, Improve”, legions of bands have been clamouring to follow in the footsteps of the polyrhythmic metal gods. Many were successful-one only has to look at the catalogues of bands such as Fellsilent and Textures to realise that-despite the near idiotic genre name-Djent artists are fully capable of putting out some great music. With Misha Mansoor’s perfect hype storm, Periphery, finally releasing their debut effort earlier this year, and Fellsilent (unfortunately) disbanded, the eyes of bedroom metal fans and internet beings everywhere descended upon one band. TesseracT.
Oft considered Periphery’s main rival in the modern “Djent” scene, Acle Kahney’s TesseracT are one of the main pioneers of the Djent scene. Founded on the expected principles of overabundant polyrhythms, melodic-to-harsh vocals and atmospheric ambience combined with ultra-modern production techniques, TesseracT have been closely watched by music fans the world over, patiently waiting for the band’s debut album to appear. Unfortunately, after recent setbacks pushed debut LP “One” back further, the band decided to issue the Concealing Fate EP in order to whet their fans’ tongues for the upcoming release.
Interestingly enough, Concealing Fate is not your typical EP. Following once again in Meshuggah’s footsteps, the boys from Milton Keynes have decided to do away with convention and craft one humongously long song-“Concealing Fate”. Clocking in at just under half an hour, the moody epic is split into six sections in order to provide a more palatable listening experience for fans with shorter attention spans. However, the idea of splitting the half-hour epic into more digestible parts is questionable, especially when the full impact of the musical journey isn’t felt unless the EP is treated as a whole. These sections are flawlessly segued into one another via serene clean passages accompanied with airy synths.
The music found on Concealing Fate is typical Djent affair, albeit with a fair amount of flair woven in. The polyrhythmic drumming, the jazzy chords, clean breaks and ambient sections so often displayed by peers Periphery and Textures are all present. The guitarists are in top form, providing both memorable, groovy riffs and unsettling melodies and arpeggios, seamlessly alternating between the two. The drumming alternately locks in with the guitars to power forward the band’s groove, or playing across and under the riffs in flurries of dead-accurate double kick. Surprisingly, bassist Amos Williams is not lost in the mix. Instead, his funky slap bass brings a new element to the style, bringing out another dimension of TesseracT (no pun intended, of course). The songwriting too, is in top form. Presenting a slower, more epic version of the established Djent formula, Concealing Fate weaves to and fro, meandering through various sections and moods towards its inevitable climax and finale. The moody build-up of Part 1 of Concealing Fate at times almost brings to mind the vintage work of post-rock moguls Sigur Ros. Conversely, the EP can suffer from a bit of repetition due to its lengthy nature, and all at once seem too short for a release as anticipated as this, and too long for a single suite.
Unfortunately, as with many bands performing in this style, most of the complaints related to TesseracT’s debut work are in the vocal area. Like Spencer Sotello before him, Dan Tompkins has a very different vocal style to his predecessor, lacking the aggression and bite of former times. This new voice of TesseracT holds his own quite easily-his angelic croon soars over the top of the rest of the band effortlessly. While his harsh vocals may not live up live up to the great heights of Mikee Goodman, they are still competent, if a little lacking in aggression. Tompkins obviously knows his strengths, and sticks with his soothing cleans for most of the record. Unfortunately, Tompkins’ cleans are uncomfortably close to Sotello’s at times, and draw TesseracT one step away from their own sound and one closer to that of Periphery.
The production on Concealing Fate is, in one word, immaculate. Having bumped up the bass in the mix from their demo, Concealing Fate is at the forefront of high-tech production. The guitars are clean and clear when they need to be, and heavy and groovy the next moment. The bass is highly audible, and at times even a tad funky, bringing a presence and dimension not often felt in records of this style. The drums sound heavy and hard, and carry the band with a boom and a thud. Ambient synths float in and out of the background, providing sufficient atmosphere but never taking over the recording. Tompkins’ vocal production is also spot-on, never completely overtaking the show, but never sinking to the background. Nevertheless, for those used to the minimalistic production in other genres of metal, TesseracT can at times sound a bit too triggered, a bit too perfect.
Concealing Fate shows a lot of promise from a band on the brink of extraordinary things. Showing epic songwriting tendencies and a great deal of talent, Concealing Fate will no doubt further polarise their audience. The fans will yearn for the arrival of their debut with renewed vigour; the detractors dismiss the EP as proof that the band is yet another Meshuggah clone trying to gain mass appeal. The dangerous step closer to Periphery territory, and the slight change in style from the demo will no doubt irk some listeners, Concealing Fate has just as many, if not more, redeeming qualities. While Concealing Fate has its fair share of flaws, it is a truly promising EP, and if TesseracT continue to hone their style as they have obviously done over the past few years, they will no doubt become one of the genre’s most defining bands.