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Tesseract - "Polaris" (CD)

Tesseract - "Polaris" CD cover image

"Polaris" track listing:

1. Dystopia
2. Hexes
3. Survival
4. Tourniquet
5. Utopia
6. Phoenix
7. Messenger
8. Cages
9. Seven Names

Reviewed by on December 21, 2015

"Combining the instrumental chops of a tech-death band, the melody of a prog release, and with vocals frequently outside the metal realm altogether, 'Polaris' covers a lot of ground both within and beyond the boundaries of heavy metal."

Featuring the return of previous vocalist Daniel Tompkins, who performed on the “One” album but was subsequently replaced by Ashe O'Hara on follow-up “Altered State” (reviewed here), “Polaris” is both a return to form and a departure into new territory for Tesseract. Combining the instrumental chops of a tech-death band, the melody of a prog release, and with vocals frequently outside the metal realm altogether, “Polaris” covers a lot of ground both within and beyond the boundaries of heavy metal.

A dynamic record consisting of many layers of sound, this offering from Tesseract has its share of heavy parts, but also a huge amount of atmospheric down time. Putting an accessible indie rock spin on technical metal, “Polaris” is essentially something like Muse for metal fans. While unfortunately there are no saxophones this time around, “Polaris” still has the same blending of clean vocal melody with stuttering, tech-heavy guitars and bass that appeared on “Altered State.”

While an excellent experience overall, Tesseract does occasionally come against the wall of standard song archetypes that the band hasn't managed to figure out how to scale over or dig under yet, so there is some bleed through and repetition as each song follows a specific and noticeable formula. It's sort of odd for a band that's essentially in the prog realm to have that particular issue, although the problem may arise more from the djent side of Tesseract's sound.

“Polaris” exhibits a balance on the song lengths, with everything staying pretty consistently interesting even in the six and seven minute tracks. “Tourniquet” for instance is a softer ballad... almost a lullaby actually, but it still has a constant bass presence that offers a different sound that what you'd expect. The tempo changes on “Utopia” on the other hand are really striking, making for a compelling listen even when the band is adhering to standard songwriting designs. While the album has almost entirely clean singing, “Cages” also throws in about 20 seconds of random harsh vocals at the end.

Fans of “One” and “Altered State” will almost certainly continue to dig this album, and anyone willing to try a softer expression of an extreme metal style should give “Polaris” a listen.

Highs: Djent meets melodic indie rock for a compelling and entertaining listen.

Lows: The technical djent aspects unfortunately all seem to follow a very specific pattern, which sort of negates the "progressive" aspect.

Bottom line: Tesseract continues to combine two opposing worlds, meshing soft music and clean singing with technical and progressive metal.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)