Review Summary: Altered State is a great example of modern progressive metal.
Altered State is Tesseract's second studio album; it's the first studio release to feature vocalist Ashe O'Hara, who took over vocal duties following the departure of Elliot Coleman (vocalist on the Perspective EP) and Daniel Tompkins (vocalist on the debut album ONE). Altered State is divided into four sections: Of Matter, Of Mind, Of Reality, and Of Energy, it has a total of 10 songs, which add up to approximately 50 minutes. The album was recorded, mixed, and mastered at 4D Sounds Studio; a studio owned by the main composer of Tesseract, Acle Kahney.
The lyrics on "Altered State" are very well written and open to interpretation. Ashe O'Hara is definitely the perfect fit for TesseracT; his voice throughout the record can be described as "passionate, pure, and intense." Without question, he has an amazing voice, you can't deny that, he delivers great melodies and keeps things interesting; the lack of screamed/aggressive vocals is evident (there is none), but at the same time, I feel like it doesn't hurt the band, this album does fine without them, like I said the singer finds a way to make things interesting; the highlights below are very impressive and unforgettable.
Track Review & Highlights
PROXY – What a great way to open the album, it has characteristics from older songs as well as new elements. The song begins with a very fresh/ethereal voice accompanied by atmospheric guitar notes that set the mood; it's very similar to that of "Lament" from their previous album "One". The guitars slowly fade in with a clear/light-distorted riff; it definitely has that Tesseract feel to it. Two memorable parts of the song are at: 1:35 - 2:48 and 3:02 - 3:25. The music is at its finest during these parts, both vocally and instrumentally; they bring great pleasure to the ears. In short, Proxy has a very cinematic atmosphere, it presents new ideas and makes a good impression. [9 out of 10]
RETROSPECT - Like the previous song, it starts off with a very heartwarming voice; the instruments that tag along create a nice atmospheric background; there's nothing too crazy in this song, it's actually pretty straightforward. The part that really stands out is from 3:54 - 4:45; the vocals are catchy as well as loud and intense, it definitely satisfies. [7.5 out of 10]
RESIST - The song begins with a very pure and natural atmosphere, it's actually very heaven like. The song moves on to the next phase; it changes with a quick drum roll leading up to the balanced guitars/bass, which are accompanied by the catchy and soaring vocals of Ashe O'Hara. The highlight of the song is from 1:40 - 3:09; the final lyric/word "RESIST" sounds so alluring and hopeful, Ashe adds a whole new meaning to it. [8.5 out of 10]
NOCTURNE - Here's the first single from Altered State; as far as guitars go, this has one of the heaviest guitar parts in the album. The song opens with a crushing/rich guitar and bass tone, it's pretty unique, the rhythm is very tight and dynamic. Nocturne brings constant change in tempo; some parts are mellow, yet some are a bit tense. The part that always gets me goes from 3:12 - 4:00; during this section, the instruments work really well; they sound very pure and modern. Ashe sings the final lyrics "WAKE ME UP" with so much passion and clarity; the angelic voices in the background make this part even better. The studio version has an extended instrumental ending, which has a nice groove; the bass playing is very smooth and thick. All in all, this song was a great choice for a single; the chances of a new listener liking it are high. [10 out of 10]
EXILED - Being the longest song on the album (8:50), this song takes a more progressive approach. It starts with a very massive and focused guitar riff, definitely one of my favorites; it makes you want to continue further on. The singing at 3:23 - 3:48 is very uplifting and divine, and moreover, the song takes you into a calm and quiet state, with the guitars playing "echoey" notes and light-distorted chords. The next part of the song starts with a very nice drum fill (5:33 - 7:10); this is definitely the highest point of the song, just go and take a listen. Exile ends with a very memorable/dreamy bass part; more heavy guitars later accompany it. All in all, this song is very involved and captivating, without question, one of the best. [10 out of 10]
ECLIPSE - This song opens up with a very strange intro, in a way it sounds a bit demonic/evil. As far as guitars go, this song showcases the band's signature style of playing. There's a specific rhythm at 2:37 that caught me by surprise, I've never heard anything quite like it before, and then again it seems to work perfectly. Following that is one of my favorite parts of the whole album (3:20 - 3:58), the transition is perfect; this specific section presents some of the best singing on the record, the clean guitar melody and puzzling rhythm make this section work really well, this combination of guitars continues to the end, making it more enjoyable. [9 out of 10]
PALINGENESIS - This is one of the shorter songs on the album; right from the start this song hits you with a very nice bass/guitar combo, nothing to out of the ordinary, despite that, it makes you want to keep listening; moments later the second guitar and vocals come in, completely changing the mood. The section at 1:14 - 1:38, is a very enjoyable part; the vocals flow very well, they seem to match the rhythm perfectly. The song ends with the same bass/guitar rhythm as in the intro. [8 out of 10]
CALABI-YAU - Here we have the only instrumental song on the album, as well as the shortest. This song features Chris Barretto (Ever Forthright) on the sax. The intro has a very peaceful and gloomy atmosphere, which is cast aside by the heavy guitars and jaw-dropping sax solo that come in at 0:41. Overall, this is an outstanding and unique track; I didn't expect Tesseract to release a song like this, and I'm sure many other listeners didn't either. [10 out of 10]
SINGULARITY - This is the second single, as well as the first to have a music video. It begins with a faint/hollow guitar riff, and suddenly the loud vocals hit you hard; the song moves forward with a very progressive riff/tempo. A stand out part of the song is 4:50 - 5:20; it has a very delicious and surreal bassline, without question, one of the best parts in the album. The section following that (5:32 - 6:12) has a very inspiring/enjoyable vocal section. Overall, this song is driven by so much emotion; there's good vibes all around, it definitely shows the progression of the band. [9.5 out of 10]
"EMBERS" - Here's the last song on the album, the intro has a very peaceful mood it features a soft voice, it almost seems whispered, but is shortly interrupted (0:38) by the heavy guitars and Ashe's final lyrics "WAIT INSIDE THE FIRE". The song ends (2:06) with a clean chord progression, which goes hand in hand with the colorful saxophone melody; it creates a great sense of hope. Overall, it's a great way to end the album. [7.5 out of 10]
In conclusion, this album is a great example of modern progressive metal; the band shows a lot of progression throughout the ten songs. Their performance on this record is really tight and evolved, it's a big collective effort, all the instruments have their moments, and they are well balanced. For the most part, every song was made to impress (no fillers) ... I'm very impressed.