TesseracT
Sonder


2.7
average

Review

by Thompson D. Gerhart STAFF
April 19th, 2018 | 339 replies


Release Date: 2018 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Evolve or die.

In 2007, Tesseract were pioneers of the djent sound - then more an initial, evolutionary concept than any sort of established sound. From the Tesseract angle, early djent was a blend of progressive metal that borrowed heavily both from the heavy, tight low-end of Meshuggah and the progressive melodies of any number of contemporaries in the same field, mixed in with a decent (but not too heavy-handed) dose of atmosphere.

In 2018, djent has a distinct sound orbiting around that tight, low-end, usually set to a polyrhythmic groove. From there, it can deviate greatly - from the highly melodic and, at times, electronic sounds David Maxim Micic and Destiny Potato have orchestrated to the incredibly technical, incredibly rhythmic likes of Animals as Leaders with everything in-between and outside of that. Yet, there are many djent bands that settle on the most simplistic version of the formula - lots and lots and lots of low end and little else - and Tesseract has regrettably trended towards this path on every release following their 2013 pinnacle, the progressive-leaning Altered State.

While it once was enough to commit to heavy bass and groove with shimmering production, a djent pool now diluted with myriad bands offering the same sound has caused the same issuance of the eternal challenge of "evolve or die" that birthed djent in the first place. One was an establishing act. Altered State was a solid push for "evolve." Polaris, on the other hand, opted for "die," and Sonder does nothing to divert course.

To be blunt, Tesseract are entirely too reliant on ambiance as their "secret sauce." Where a proper use of ambiance can add a pensive tone or an opportunity for emotional reflection to a song, Tesseract rely on it both as cohesive glue on nearly every track on Sonder and as a melody replacement. It's simply not enough.

As on Polaris, Dan Tompkins simply doesn't stand out enough from Tesseract's low-end to project the kind of melody that could make a track stand out (partially due to mixing, partially due to lack of harmonic compliment), while the album's guitars primarily serve as bass attenuators and tonal windchimes - blending in or adding just enough pleasant tenor to go ignored. Amos Williams still offers some incredibly sexy bass runs (the runs on "Juno," in particular, offer some refreshing rhythms that make the track more than it would otherwise be) and the rhythms on each track are as tight as ever, but for the most part, it must be asked: what are Tesseract hoping to achieve on Sonder"

It could be that the band are content to rest on their laurels with a following that will surely support their consistent (if mediocre) direction. This strikes me as likely, as the band opted to part ways with Ashe O'Hara after what was a very fitting and intriguing role on standout Altered State, just to bring back fan favorite Tompkins and produce standard fare. But who can say for certain"

The one thing I am certain of, however, is that the impetus of "evolve or die" will hang over Tesseract, if it hasn't already. A stout following will linger on something like atmospherics only so long before they start to yearn for something more. And if they're not already looking for it, they should be.



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user ratings (227)
Chart.
3.4
great
other reviews of this album
Robert Garland CONTRIBUTOR (3)
In defence of the rating: number three....

Happy2review (3)
Sonder is natural step for the band following 2015’s Polaris. Perhaps more of a half-step though, ...


Comments:Add a Comment 
AtomicWaste
Moderator
April 19th 2018


2764 Comments

Album Rating: 2.7 | Sound Off

I want Ashe back. I want the logical progression from Altered State, not this.



Also, how do we get them to get rid of that stupid stylized capital "T" at the end of "Tesseract." It always has and always will look absolutely stupid.

ExhaleTheLight
April 19th 2018


667 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

Dan >>>>

bloc
April 19th 2018


51373 Comments


Looking forward to hearing this one. The singles sounded good.

Digging: Karate High School - The League Of Tomorrow

Darius
April 19th 2018


17156 Comments


Altered State was a good album, but I could never get into them other than that. Think it was the vocalist

"stupid stylized capital "T" at the end of "Tesseract." It always has and always will look absolutely stupid."

I agree

PistolPete
April 19th 2018


4756 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I liked Polaris a bit more than most, so we'll see what I think of this but the songs are meh to me so far. Good review, you're absolutely bang-on with a lot of what you're saying.

Digging: Denzel Curry - TA13OO

Darius
April 19th 2018


17156 Comments


sup verm

cloakanddagger
April 19th 2018


285 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Eh, I feel like this has grown on me from the first listen, gone up from 3/3.5 to just below a 4, it has more presence than Polaris in the heavier sections and the transitions are better too, imo it flows a lot better.



Good review though, I'm tempted to do a more positive review for this at some point.

judgedeath2
April 19th 2018


47 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Hmm, I really liked the early singles off this, I feel like it’ll be more of a 3.5 for me.

BeyondCosby
April 19th 2018


2130 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

@atomicwaste What is the logical progression? Everyone keeps saying that TesseracT refuse to evolve but each album has been them trying something different. So what is an evolution? Genuinely curious.

PickleVai17
April 19th 2018


240 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

The singles sounded better than most of polaris, so I look forward to hearing this one.

MO
April 19th 2018


22374 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

great review man, really awesome



"but for the most part, it must be asked: what are Tesseract hoping to achieve on Sonder"



this has been my quarrel with tesseract for a while now. it's like a "yea and?" kind of mentality. I do think they know they have something good and are just going to stay the course

clavier
Contributing Reviewer
April 19th 2018


716 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

as a whole, Sonder is more consistent than Polaris, though I'm struggling to find any particularly memorable moments on Sonder (for all its flaws Polaris did have Hexes/Seven Names)

Beardog
April 19th 2018


2048 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I just want Tesseract to bring back a more natural sound... Their mixes on the past three records sounded so overproduced, and even as much as I disliked the sound of Altered State on release; it sounds miles better than the past two releases they've put out

Toondude10
April 19th 2018


12990 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

Agreed with pretty much everything on here. Good review as always.

Digging: ERRA - Neon

AtomicWaste
Moderator
April 19th 2018


2764 Comments

Album Rating: 2.7 | Sound Off

@atomicwaste What is the logical progression? Everyone keeps saying that TesseracT refuse to evolve but each album has been them trying something different. So what is an evolution? Genuinely curious.


Take a Calabi-Yau or Resist and run with it. Use atmosphere to open things up, not as just transitional material or something when you don't know what to do (which is how it feels to me on this). Set a direction to your music rather than just finding a riff or little groove and living on it as long as you can. There were dynamics and dynamic shifts on Altered State that we haven't seen since.

Get back to those functional melodies from Ashe. Maybe they worked because he was airy and could act higher in the sound and as a more ephemeral presence around it, but it's not working that way with Dan (as much as I like and revere Dan as a singer).

Doing more with the flute and sax would be cool - there's a touch here and there on this one, but nothing like a Calabi-Yau. Mostly, I guess I just haven't felt the direction or passion in anything after Altered State, but when I put on Altered State, I hear it right away. As a more overarching point, the whole of Altered State felt very cohesive, with one track informing the next, but I didn't get that on Polaris or Sonder, either.

JAV
April 19th 2018


2937 Comments


The problem with Ashe imo was they didn't shape their tone around his voice and he sounded out of place quite often. they did at least try something different with him though. I loved Dan on One but his follow up albums with them have sounded a lot more uninspired, he's a really talented vocalist but it's been disappointing since his return with only a few really stand out songs.

Digging: LLNN - Deads

CurtisKaiju
April 19th 2018


36 Comments


Good review but it doesn't read like a 2.7 score.

bigweinerdon
April 19th 2018


57 Comments


Polaris was an absolute snoozefest so.

Still looking forward to hearing it though.

cloakanddagger
April 19th 2018


285 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Pretty sure the sax parts in Calabi-Yau and Resist were guest spots by Chris Barretto, rather than by the core members.

matt926uk
April 19th 2018


36 Comments


'lots and lots and lots of low end and little else'?! did u even listen to polaris at all?



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