Tesseract - Altered States (Century Media)

Ditch the peanut goggles...
Release Date: 
26 May 2013 - 11:30pm

I've listened to Altered States in my own personal altered states, I've listened to it sober. I've listened to it on headphones getting about the place as well as reclining on a couch sucking down brandy and cigars. I've listened to it in many ways - and I must admit that I wasn't immediately grabbed by it. In fact, I didn't like it very much at all - but in the interests of balanced journalism I stuck with it and I'm very, very glad that I did. Musically you can't fault it (the bass of Amos Williams is a particular treat) but initially I did find Ashe O'Hara's clean vocal stylings to be quite annoying. Then I realised that I had come to the party with a bunch of prejudices that I needed to shed before I could wholly embrace this rather delightful album. It's more proggy than ever though there are slabs of fat weighty riffs and bass goodness that pop out at you through the almost intellectual compositions, such as the slow burner Retrospect that builds and builds before putting you out of your misery by busting the dam of rising chord work.

My problem was expecting a bunch of growling/howling vocal lines to compliment the gorgeously complex music but that's not how Tesseract do things - just check out the maudlin intro Resist; it's beautifully executed and is only complimented by Ashe's vocals - it's moments such as these that you'll miss if you're bogged down in expectations. Let them go, man! Let Tesseract do their thing...the almost funkish Nocturne switches pace in a split-second with several layers of vocals smoothing out the whole spectactular process. Weirdly at times I almost thought I was listening to some crazy 70s and 80s tunes, especially the tracks that had some nice saxaphone breaks in them. 'Saxaphone?!' I hear you say. Yes, saxaphone, and it all works splendidly. Alce Kahney and James Monteith throw out some glorious runs and widdles on the monumental Exile and I imagine Jamie Postpones (drums) had a lot of fun on here, roaming all over the kit and chucking in some great fills. Like I said, musically it's faultless (and vocally it is too); I just had to get over myself and approach the album without the blinkers of 'metal, metal, metal'. Eclipse opens like a Mr Bungle tune, all haunting and jangly before getting it's funky (yet extremely progressive) pants on. It's all genius of a very high order, then you get the raunchy sax on Calabi-Yau and you hit a new level of prog heaven. The sax gets in on the outro action of Embers too and I fucking love it.

The entire album is a work of extraordinary vision and the vocals are an integral part of that vision. They fit and I'm just glad I managed to shake off my peanut goggles to see through to the sweetness that is Altered States. My only question is what will they do next to top it?

All hail Tesseract, leaders in the prog revolution.