A subgenre of progressive metal (which is itself a subgenre, of course), djent emerged around fifteen years ago and is notable for its palm-muted riffs, low guitar tones, complex rhythms, and overall sonic thickness. Sweden’s Meshuggah is often credited as pioneering the style, with many newer ensembles, like Periphery, Animals as Leaders, Textures, and British quintet TesseracT also leading the charge. As great as all of these acts are, though, TesseracT may the most dynamically and melodically pleasing, as their two studio albums—One (2011) and Altered State (2013)—demonstrate. Recently, the band issued a live follow-up, Odyssey/Scala (titled after the CD/DVD, respectively), that includes many of their most beloved pieces, recorded over many nights in many places. Fortunately, the stellar material, coupled with very strong production values and a noticeably exciting audience, makes Odyssey a very engaging listen, as well as a fine testament to both TesseracT’s catalog and its relationship with its fans.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Odyssey is the reappearance of vocalist Daniel Tompkins, who left in 2011 to focus on several other projects, such as Skyharbor, Colour, and his own solo effort, White Moth Black Butterfly. He was subsequently replaced by Elliot Coleman (2011 – 2012) and Ashe O’Hara (2012 – 2014), only to return last year. Naturally, Tompkins thanks the audience for welcoming him back early into the set, and he continues showing gratitude throughout the evening, which helps show how humble he is.
Expectedly, much of Odyssey focuses on the four suites that make up Altered State. For instance, “Singularity” (from “Of Energy”) starts things off with biting guitar riffs, soaring vocals, and in-your-face beats. Tompkins’ singing is fragile yet urgent, with an arresting sense of emotion and sleekness. Likewise, the music that surrounds him is aggressive without being too abrasive, and as usual, the group shifts between intensity and subtly with exactness and elegance. Bassist Amos Williams steals the spotlight near the end with some awesome plucking trickery. Later on, the entire “Of Matter” sequence is replicated, and it’s easily a highlight of the collection since it contains some of TesseracT’s best atmospheres and melodies. Luckily, they move from one movement to the next without interruption, so that only the audience’s cheers breakup the flow. It’s a remarkable section of Odyssey.
Also on offer is the entire Concealing Fate EP (which is also TesseracT’s debut), although they recreate parts II – VI in sequence but wait until the end of the night to bring out part I. Unsurprisingly, these pieces are rougher and less vibrant than the newer inclusions, with a slightly more death metal edge. Of course, this doesn’t mean that these tracks aren’t worthwhile, as there are still plenty of hypnotic moments and displays of virtuosic musicianship. If anything, the juxtaposition of TesseracT’s oldest and newest material showcases how they’ve always be an extremely tight and ambitious outfit.
Odyssey proves once again that TesseracT is just as captivating and meticulous live as it is in the studio. There’s an extraordinary level of focus, technique, and drive in both their instrumentation and narrative scopes, which adds a layer of prophetic artistry that few of their peers ever come close to. Just as on their studio efforts, the band plays its astoundingly complex arrangements with equally staggering precision and confidence, resulting in a masterful experience. Odyssey is a must own album for any fan of progressive metal, plain and simple.