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TesseracT: The Significance of the Insignificant

The Brit metallers explore spacey, aggressive new territory
on new album ‘Sonder’

Anurag Tagat Apr 10, 2018

TesseracT release their latest album 'Sonder' this month. Photo: Steve Brown

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The last time UK metallers TesseracT were in India, they spent about 14 hours on ground without a chance to get on stage due to an unexpected downpour at Bacardi NH7 Weekender’s Bengaluru edition in 2013. Bassist Amos Williams recalls over the phone, “Yeah that was intense, wasn’t it? All the electric supply disappeared from the stage, the stage started sinking. Everything was ready, but the weather just got worse. I felt terrible for everybody who was waiting for the show.”

And it turned out they had booked their flight out of India the same night. Now, nearly eight years after their India debut at the Great Indian Rock festival shows (alongside Swedish metal giants Meshuggah) in 2010, TesseracT were scheduled to return for a multi-city India tour put together by Bengaluru venue The Humming Tree in March. The tour has fallen through, but there is speculation that TesseracT will make it to India later this year. Williams said of the tour, “It’s our first headline tour of India, which is exciting. It’s nice to come back with the original lineup as well.”

The bassist is referring to the fact that their jinxed 2013 show featured vocalist Ashe O’Hara (who led the band on their 2013 album Altered State), who left when their longstanding frontman Dan Tompkins quit Indian prog band Skyharbor to return for good. TesseracT then released their third album Polaris in 2015, which quickly settled any apprehensions fans had about Tompkins fitting back into the band.

On their fourth full-length album Sonder, which releases on April 20th via Kscope Records, there’s a resolve to be ethereal, aggressive and mindbending all at once, in a perhaps more compact sense. At 37 minutes, the eight-track Sonder is their shortest album yet, and certainly a bit of a surprise considering most progressive metal bands are all about writing epic-length albums. After their second single “Luminary,” which pivots and spirals much like the best from the band, the rest of Sonder comes across a little more abrasive when it comes to riffs from founder-guitarist Acle Kahney and riffsman James Monteith and unparalleled for Tompkins’ ability to go from pop hooks to shrieks. Williams says the abrasive edge may have perhaps subconsciously come from being on tour with Meshuggah and thrash metal greats Megadeth. He says, “We would’ve heard that and gone, ‘that sounds great, so let’s do something heavier’. Maybe not consciously, but definitely subconsciously we would’ve sat there watching them every night going, ‘Yeah, let’s do something like this’.”

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Watch the video for “King”

The bassist also credits their change in equipment (they now use amplifier and processor Kemper Profiler) for slight shift in tones, but also says Sonder took only five weeks to complete, whereas their debut album One was in the making for nearly five years when the band developed from what was once Kahney’s solo project. Williams says, “I think in fact the albums have got shorter since we started, but that’s because for example, One, we weren’t touring much.” The result is a more “energetic, emotive” music, that still has its moments of technical wizardry—drummer Jay Postones showing off next-level fills even when the band is transitioning from the verse to the pre-chorus.

For Sonder, the band—along with longtime sound engineer and producer Aidan O’Brien—used “Orbital” to connect the themes with the sound at its most direct level. They gathered field recordings sent in by fans and sampled it on the two-minute track. Williams says, “The song itself has a theme of perspective—looking at the earth and realizing all the voices that are out there, all the sounds that we don’t hear on a daily basis. That ties into the theme of the album as well—everyone has very rich and fulfilling lives that are complex and as separated but unified to us as we feel about our own lives.”

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If one looked at TesseracT album themes on a broader scale, Williams notes that communication and changing perspectives is “a very thick thread that runs through all of our work.” Sonder takes its name from a word coined by Swiss-American writer John Koenig, to describe a feeling of otherness. For the band, they’ve taken its meaning and fit it into their world of inter-connectivity. Williams says, “Sonder is very much trying to bring that [common theme of communication] into a human perspective and to realize that everybody has a beautiful life that means as much to them as our lives means to us. It’s time to really communicate that and with each other.”

Hear the second single “Luminary”

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