Review Summary: 'Altered State' is Tesseract improving upon an already epic sound. The new all-clean vocals aren't for everyone, but they certainly fit the music.
'One' by Tesseract was one of the first 'djent' related albums I heard that featured mostly clean vocals, and managed to stand apart from most of the other releases in the genre. The epic clean guitar tones, the poppy rhythmic parts that did more than just 0-000-00, the vocal dynamics, the 6 song concept mini-album inside the album. How could they possibly top this while getting a new singer at the same time?
With the departure of Dan Tompkins, I was very scared as to what would happen to this band that I loved so much. While the instrumental aspect of their music certainly stood for itself, Dan Tompkins added a vocal element that was almost certainly irreplaceable. However, the release of 'Nocturne' killed all skepticism I had about this band disappearing into the abyss of growing djent bands. Starting with the ballsy djent tone that we come to expect from Tesseract, grooving like a mo' fo', it got me PUMPED. Vocalist Ashe O'Hara managed to do 100% clean vocals (no rasp or screams), without making the album less metal.
The overall sound of 'Altered State' makes me feel like i'm pounding a hammer onto a piece of metal while sitting outside on a grassy hill away from civilization, there are birds and other animals wandering about with me, all while day goes to night and the seasons change. Now, all corny comparisons aside.... The rhythmic aspect of this album is just ballsy, and nothing else describes it better than that. Every song has something that makes you want to move in some way. The melodic backdrop on top of the rhythm sets up the perfect scene for O'Hara to write some of the catchiest vocals you will EVER hear in metal. Adding to this even more, the layering of the vocals creates a really interesting feel and really fills up the sound.
Comparing 'Altered State' to 'One'.... "Altered State' is groovier, catchier, and features a much bigger range of emotions. The clean guitars are better, and almost makes it feel like one is watching a movie and this is the soundtrack; there were several times during my first playthrough of this album when I actually wondered, 'holy *** was that guitar?!' (gotta love that Axe-Fx). The vocals are not as dynamic (no rasp or screams), but the extra catchiness and level of vocal layering makes up for it. With guitar being my main instrument, I also just HAVE to point out that the guitar parts in this album absolutely crush the guitar parts in 'One'. They are much more diverse, they flow into each other very well, they push the song forward, they provide an epic sonic landscape, and they will get stuck in your head like a vocal part. Oh, and did I mention that they're ballsy? (yes I did)
Songs to check out:
If it wasn't completely obvious, this album blew my mind. It is one of my favorite albums of 2013, and quite possibly one of my favorite albums of all time. I could rave about this album all day, and in fact I had to delete several paragraphs of ranting to prevent myself from sounding like too much of a fanboy. To me, this album is THAT good. I would recommend this album to anyone, even people that aren't usually into metal.