TesseracT
Sonder


2.7
average

Review

by Thompson D. Gerhart STAFF
April 19th, 2018 | 578 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.



Recent reviews by this author
we broke the weather we broke the weatherDevin Townsend The Puzzle
Le Grand Plastic JazzSteven Page Discipline: Heal Thyself, Pt. II
Coheed and Cambria Vaxis I: The Unheavenly CreaturesDeafheaven Ordinary Corrupt Human Love
user ratings (427)
3.4
great
other reviews of this album
Robert Garland STAFF (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


2875 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


1207 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

Dan >>>>

bloc
April 19th 2018


68476 Comments


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

PistolPete
April 19th 2018


5275 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.

cloakanddagger
April 19th 2018


516 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


79 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


2781 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

@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.

MO
April 19th 2018


23607 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
Emeritus
April 19th 2018


1110 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


4196 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

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


14832 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

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

AtomicWaste
Moderator
April 19th 2018


2875 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


3508 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.

CurtisKaiju
April 19th 2018


40 Comments


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

bigweinerdon
April 19th 2018


2176 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Polaris was an absolute snoozefest so.



Still looking forward to hearing it though.

Digging: A Dozen Black Roses - Treading Ever So Deeply

cloakanddagger
April 19th 2018


516 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


37 Comments


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

BeyondCosby
April 19th 2018


2781 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

"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."



I would argue that, if they do it more than once, it becomes more copy/paste than if it's a one and done thing. Like "alright we gotta do our sax part here".



"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."



I would completely agree with that statement for the first four tracks. After that the album kinda gets lost in itself. Take "Palengenesis". The song has a killer opener, peters out and just gets lost in a groove, and then just repeats the opener later. The moment isn't hit harder, it's not climactic it just.... happens. Where as each song on Polaris has a climax and, from what I've heard from Sonder so far, each song there has a climax as well.



"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."



I don't know about informing... but they do bleed into one another haha.



You make some interesting points, I'm just ribbin' ya because I genuinely loved Polaris and I think this album will fall close to that one. Thanks for taking the time to put together a well thought out response.

AtomicWaste
Moderator
April 20th 2018


2875 Comments

Album Rating: 2.7 | Sound Off

There's always "that guy" that says "doesn't read like an x.x review," isn't there? The album is just above average. A 54% on a test, if you will.

Anyway, Palengenesis is basically an effective bridge between Eclipse and Calabi-Yau, while having some theme and groove of its own. Its groove is fine. It's a little simple and repetitive, but the melodic complements are there to make the track what it needs to be (and it's pretty good, at least in my opinion).

I'd also argue there's a climax at just after the 2 minute mark. If you're listening to just the low-end, yes, it's the same groove as earlier, but the contrasts sell the track and the fact that a slight variation on the guitar melody initiates Calabi-Yau is another big selling for the cohesion of the album.

You can see that as bleeding if you care to, but it's very cohesive album writing to my ear. I also don't think the sax stuff would necessarily be overblown if worked correctly (finesse is key, as always). It doesn't necessarily even have to be sax/flute or any given instrument, just, the fact that they experimented with that sort of sound instead of playing it safe. There's little experimentation to be found on Polaris or Sonder, at least in my opinion.

Being relatively familiar with your opinion of the band, we're likely to just disagree, which is alright.

Toondude10
April 20th 2018


14832 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

I feel like a lot of fans of djent are like the Undertale fandom. If you don't like it, they'll try and make you like it or tell you to kill yourself...



...at least that's my experience with Periphery and TesseracT fanboys.



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





FAQ // STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2019 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy