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TesseracT

One

(Century Media; US: 22 Mar 2011; UK: 21 Feb 2011)

The technical skill of today’s young metal musicians is staggering, especially when you take into consideration just how quickly they’ve learned to master techniques that the older metal innovators spent much of their careers trying to perfect. All over YouTube, self-shot clips have been posted featuring kids showing off how good they are at the often jaw-droppingly complicated aspects of extreme metal, whether it’s riffing and soloing on guitar, or blasting away on drums. And the scary thing is, the kids in those videos seem to be getting younger and younger. With the newest generation displaying such ridiculous technical chops, the mind boggles at the thought of what some of these kids will be capable of in 10 years.


In recent years the first wave of that new generation of metal artists has started to produce some rather heavily-hyped music, but the more we hear from these bands, the more we start to wonder if too much focus has been placed on technicality and nowhere near enough on actual songwriting. In the wake of former metalcore and now progressive metal leaders Between the Buried and Me, other young bands have surfaced, such as Protest the Hero, Periphery, Born of Osiris, and Veil of Maya. While some bands have made marginal progress in learning to create a cohesive song amidst all the displays of instrumental dexterity, at times it still feels not enough progress is being made. Although the kids are buying the records, these bands are still miles away from achieving the level of respectability that veterans such as Meshuggah and Opeth have earned.


Based in the suburbs of Milton Keynes, England, guitarist Acle Kahney developed his skill largely online, where on forums he exchanged ideas and feedback with other young musicians. With Meshuggah and another Swedish band, Textures, serving as primary influences he formed his own band out of that Internet community, and TesseracT began its slow, gradual gestation over the course of several years, various demo tracks floating around the internet. With a following steadily building online, the band finally inked a deal with Century Media, and after a very long wait, during which the band toured North America and released the tantalizing, tour-exclusive Concealing Fate EP, the rest of the world can hear what all those tech-metal geeks have been buzzing about all this time.


Compared to the band’s fellow young peers, TesseracT is a total anomaly. Like Periphery, it derives heavily from the distinct rhythm guitar style of Meshuggah’s Mårten Hagström, building stuttering, deceptively complicated riffs around a straightforward 4/4 time signature. However, while Periphery’s blend of cleanly sung lead vocals and those blatant Meshuggah moments still at times feels like oil and water, TesseracT sounds so graceful on their debut album that it’s a marvel, especially when compared to so many new metal bands that don’t have a clue.


The Meshuggah/Textures influence on One is very apparent, but Kahney and TesseracT bring a lot more to the table than one might expect. With the enthusiasm of pure music fans incorporating all of their favorite sounds, the compositions all straddle numerous genres at once: punishing extreme metal, the melodic sensibility of post-hardcore, the spacious sounds of modern progressive rock (especially Cynic, Dredg and 3), and even mainstream modern rock. The result is sublime; the balancing act between those bludgeoning rhythm riffs, shimmering clean guitar accents, and Oren Ambarchi-esque drones lend One a richness that is rarely heard on a debut album these days. Singer Dan Tompkins brings tremendous vocal range; he’s got as strong a singing voice as Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington and Thrice’s Dustin Kensrue, but when he needs to sound more authoritative he can belt out as strong a scream as the Dillinger Escape Plan’s Greg Puciato. With songs that blend the introspective and the aggressive so effortlessly, to have a singer sound equally versatile on songs like “Nascent” and “Acceptance” is a huge plus, and a big reason why this album works so well.


As labels continue to sign the latest young phenoms, all too often their debut records come out before they’ve even had time to grow and find their own sound. TesseracT, on the other hand, has spent a lot of time underground growing as a band, and now arrives feeling fully formed. The six part, 25 minute centerpiece “Concealing Fate” is the best example of just how good this band has already become, tinkering with dynamics, building tension and releasing it in more graceful fashion rather than explosive. If there’s one tiny drawback, it’s that the band overplays its hand a little too much over the course of 55 minutes, but considering the confidence on display, it’s an easy thing to let slide. One marks the arrival of a major metal talent, and better yet, convinces you that even bigger, greater things are yet to come.

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Adrien Begrand has been writing for PopMatters since 2002, and has been writing his monthly metal column Blood & Thunder since 2005. His writing has also appeared in Metal Edge, Sick Sounds, Metallian, graphic novelist Joel Orff's Strum and Drang: Great Moments in Rock 'n' Roll, Knoxville Voice, The Kerouac Quarterly, JackMagazine.com, StylusMagazine.com, and StaticMultimedia.com. A contributing writer for Decibel, Terrorizer, and Dominion magazines and senior writer for Hellbound, he resides, blogs, and does the Twitter thing in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.


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