by clavier EMERITUS
May 12th, 2017 | 8 replies

Release Date: 2015 | Tracklist

Review Summary: "I am as constant as the northern star/Of whose true-fixed and resting quality/There is no fellow in the firmament."

Polaris. The North Star, an unchanging beacon for those who voyage during night. Many a hopeful traveller entrusted the ideals of stability and steadfastness to this pinprick in the sky.

And so, its musical namesake attempts to embody those characteristics. There are no grand revolutions, no erratic movements. One can find much solidity in the grooves of this record, and “Dystopia” will eagerly demonstrate this. Harkening back to its celestial background, Polaris surrounds itself with a cool ambience, the twinkling keyboards and electronic elements serving as distant companion stars.

Dan Tompkins’ voice, so often the unifying force in his songs, seems to have been somewhat let down by gravity. The dense low end occupies a disproportionate amount of space. His voice is also oddly veiled, I am inclined to blame pollution in the atmosphere. But there are moments when it pierces through, taking flight in its highest range on “Phoenix” and reaching emotional peaks on the cathartic “Seven Names”.

Martin Grech’s lithe tenor is also a welcome presence on “Hexes”. Bringing his otherworldly vocals in on this single proves to be one of Tesseract’s better artistic decisions on Polaris, elevating a song that might otherwise have lacked a necessary passion. “Cages”, meanwhile, has a close brush with an overly long build-up, but still manages to smartly conclude. Tenderness seeps through during the sweet “Tourniquet”, which promises unconditional loyalty and love.

As faithful as Polaris tries to be to its observers, there are periods when it flickers. “Messenger” feels one-note, something that I could attribute to the dark side of stability. “Survival” is grounded in safety, exploring little new ground; such a song survives, but never really lives. “Utopia” simply strikes me as odd - I don’t recommend that Dan embark on a rap career anytime soon.

On Twitter, I once inquired as to whether the title of Polaris had any double meaning to it. Was it perhaps a sly reference to the word “polarising”? No, said Amos, it really was just the North Star. At that, I felt a slight bit of disappointment; I do believe that Polaris, despite its seemingly unadventurous character, is rather polarising in nature. The riffs are either sensibly complimentary or uninspired and dull. Its climactic parts can be construed as either sincere and arresting or tying into a tired formula. I myself am inclined to favour the former characterisations, in part due to “Seven Names” alone. Disregard its superfluous ambient ending. It features what is easily one of Dan’s most powerful vocal performances on the album and a perfect layering of tension, a la “Resist” from Altered State. Heed also the centre portion of “Phoenix”, which is a reminder that Tesseract are still capable of pulling off solemn beauty in their work.

In the end, Polaris has a strange position amongst its predecessors. Altered State is superior at being simultaneously atmospheric and cathartic, One is better at concentrating its turmoil. But calling Polaris the oddball of the three would be too whimsical, and it is certainly not beyond redemption. For now I’ll treat it as a guiding light to whatever future path Tesseract may take.

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user ratings (721)
other reviews of this album
Thompson D. Gerhart STAFF (3)
Tesseract risk nothing with an effort that neither impresses nor disappoints....

crashandridemusic (3.5)
Either one of the best albums of the year, or one of the most underwhelming......

Comments:Add a Comment 
May 12th 2017


Album Rating: 3.0

I may have gone overboard on the puns.

May 12th 2017


launch the polaris!

May 12th 2017


Album Rating: 3.0

Dystopia slays, rest of this is boring

May 12th 2017


Album Rating: 3.5

Yeah deffo their weakest effort, hoping for another 28 min epic on the new one.

Dystopia and Hexes is a great 1-2 punch. Tourniquet is gorgeous but then it dies off 'till the closer.

May 12th 2017


Album Rating: 3.0

"Dystopia slays, rest of this is boring"

But... Hexes is the best thing this band has ever produced.

May 12th 2017


Album Rating: 3.0

I definitely agree with Dystopia and Hexes going well together

May 13th 2017


I have a weird relationship with this band.

May 14th 2017


Dude I also was gonna reference mwgadeth

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