Review Summary: TesseracT comes back with an incredible sophomore release, a brilliant new vocalist, and some new flavorful and fresh melodies (not to mention saxophone); yet it's several structural issues can't be ignored.
TesseracT, being one of the founding fathers of djent, really should score a 5 out of 5 release. Talent and effort wise, there's absolutely nothing wrong with Altered State. Every instrument can be heard crisp and clear. The music sounds incredible and Ashe O'Hara fills some big shoes pretty effortlessly, taking Tompkins' place on lead vocals with very little dilemma. The only true problem with Altered State is the structure as an album. Its billed as a 51 minute track, when quite honestly it isn't even 4 tracks (even though I will review this as such). It's 10 different tracks that intermittently fade into each other, which is kind of a bummer considering it has a concept, or at least a universal theme. Before I go any further with my criticisms, let me just say there's a few other related issues scattered through below, and begin:
Of Matter is virtually flawless. Proxy is eerie and starts off the album with a cascade of acoustic sections along with soothing vocals and some very technical electronic-type of riffs. Retrospect is arguably the best moment of the album, O'Hara's vocals soar in all different directions and the blend of melody and djent is just phenominal. Resist concludes Of Matter with elements of it's two predecessors, plus an epic finish. The tracks all fade into each other seamlessly and Of Matter very much does feel like one track. Issue #2, however, they have just opened with the best song on the album, something no artist should ever do. That's not to say other parts of the album don't get close, but when the bar is set so high, the listener tends to get disappointed.
Of Mind opens with the first single "Nocturne". Nocturne has immensely improved since it's debut in 2012, with the addition of blast beats in the beginning and an interlude at the end, and it already was a pretty good song in the beginning, with a solid chorus and a powerful pace. If you turn your computer up full volume, you can hear a slight transition between Nocturne and Exile, but unfortunately it mostly feels like they're two different songs. Exile is the first of two eight minute epic segments. If you take Proxy and mix it with Pink Floyd, Periphery, and an ecstatic and elated sound, you have Exile. Exile is gorgeous and soars through the sky with complexity and craftsmanship.
Of Reality begins with Eclipse. Subconciously, listeners may be expecting to hear the lyrics "Sing to me, they're falling like raiiiinnnn". That's because they've taken their teaser from last year, subtracted Coleman's vocals, added O'Hara's vocals with different lyrics, and created a second half of the song to create "Eclipse." It still confuses me which parts were sung in what versions but this version is powerful and another song heavily driven by it's strong vocals. Sadly, once again it's completely separated from the other two movements (which thankfully do seam into each other). Palingenesis is deep and climatic, with all different sorts of vocals, including the slightest hint of background screams. Since O'Hara doesn't scream (which is not necessarily an issue), that little feeling really helps with the album overall. Then all of a sudden it fades into the only instrumental track. Quiet at first, it segues into a part that's guaranteed to send chills down your spine, a saxophone solo. That's right guys, they had one short saxophone song very long ago, and they had the legendary Chris Barretto bring back the sax for some much needed epicness.
Of Energy is the fourth and final movement and it begins with the second eight minute movement, Singularity. This song is very reminiscent of the TesseracT we heard in their debut, One. In fact, at times O'Hara almost sounds exactly like Dan Tompkins. Fading into Embers, we have a soft and chilling intro that is followed up by some djenty riffs and a final statement that sounds something like "Wait (or maybe wade") inside the fire" and then a final combination of acoustic guitar and smooth saxophone. That last part is fairly satisfying but the album's closing just feels extremely rushed. Compare Embers to Origin, the epic conclusion to the 28 minute epic "Concealing Fate, or Eden, the 9 minute devastating closing track on One as a whole. It doesn't feel like so satisfying now right" That's what I mean when I say I have a problem with the album's structure, it begins better than it ends(again, not to say it doesn't end well) when it should be the opposite; either that or they should be equally epic.
Overall, I think a 4.5 is extremely fair and accurate, because Altered State is not in any way lazy and it's certainly another TesseracT keeper. Unfortunately, it's just 2 or 3 steps away from a 5/5.
Top Three Movements: