TesseracT - War of Being

Angry Metal Guy

There’s promoting an album, and then there’s the campaign surrounding War of Being. Aside from the usual—social media updates, music videos, etc.—there is a literal game associated with this album that you can download for a fiver on Steam and that was created solely based on its sci-fi odyssey concept. Lead singer Daniel Tompkins is also lead director and designer of the eponymous game, alongside a host of developers, and is apparently a huge gaming nerd himself. Kudos I guess, for combining two things he’s passionate about. Bassist Amos Williams is writing a novel about it too. But a game or a novel—however good1—can’t compensate for flaws in the music. If TesseracT have put as much effort and creativity into the music of War of Being as they have into its world-building, then this has the potential to be a very good record. They need it, after the ambivalent reception received by 2018’s Sonder, a wonky misstep after the very strong Polaris. With the weight of this challenge and the longest runtime in the band’s discography on its shoulders, War of Being has much to prove.

If you’ve ever listened to TesseracT, you’ll recognize their signature instantly. But War of Being is not just a follow-up, it pulls elements from all eras of their sound, combining them brilliantly. The vibrating, flexible chugs, vicious barks, and near-dissonant harmonies of One (“Natural Disaster,” “Legion,” title track); the delicate floating melodicism and ethereality of Altered State (“Legion,” “Tender” “Sirens”); the soaring, uplifting refrains of Polaris (“Echoes” “The Grey,” “Legion”). And even the cinematic drama of Sonder, which here is shaped into something with true presence. All these sides of their personality melt together naturally within tracks, as do tracks lead smoothly into one another, creating a convincing flow. TesseracT’s continued focus on bass as an active piece of their compositions, added to the renewed emphasis on spacious atmospheres, and a stronger flex of their progressive muscles than ever before join forces to make War of Being a powerful record, that feels both a natural progression and a significant evolution.

People like to disregard djent (they shouldn’t), but the way that TesseracT execute it is muscular, weighty, and purposeful. Whether amping up an existing, teased melody (“The Grey,” title track); layering latent (“Burden”) and climbing waves of tension (“Natural Disaster,” “Legion”); or providing a backbone for surging crescendos of emotion (“The Grey,” “Legion,” “Sirens”). This satisfying strength comes from the fact that it’s the bass guitar leading the djentrification, making for a pleasing, groovy thrum of a heartbeat that carries and envelops the rest of the music. With this at its core, the album unfurls with dynamic expanse thanks to an equally strong percussive backbone, and what is, by far, Tompkins’ best vocal performance to date. His range from harsh screams to fragile, angelic cleans—including some impressively high notes—hammer home the urgency of the aggressive mêlées (“Natural Disaster,” “Sacrifice”) and amp up the emotional resonance of beautiful, soaring melodies (“Natural Disaster,” “Legion,” “Tender” ). And huge and sprawling as it is, this thing can be pretty damn catchy. “The Grey”‘s syncopated chorus still lives in my head rent-free since the first time I heard it.

Something that TesseracT haven’t managed to totally fix in the later albums is structure—though this sees a significant improvement from Sonder. While the central, eleven-minute title track begins and ends very strongly, and has its moments in between, it would be far more powerful were it a third shorter. The album as a whole loses a little momentum on its B-side, recovering fully only with closer “Sacrifice”‘s denouement. It’s arguable also, that the rumbling ambience that ends many songs as they transition into their neighbors runs a little long sometimes. Yet, the more I listen to it, the less I care, because TesseracT manage to totally suck me into their (musical) world. So even if there’s a little inconsistency, the thing flows so well and sounds so good—a rich, crisp production job, and a DR 9—I can’t really complain.

When I set out to review this, I was coming from the perspective of a jaded former fan, fully expecting another disappointment like Sonder. I held out some hope, however, and that hope came to fruition. TesseracT have just pulled out of the bag an album that recalls their early-career glory and adds layers of musical maturity. If for some reason you’ve never listened to TesseracT, this wouldn’t be a bad place to start.

Rating: Very Good.
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Kscope
Websites: tesseractband.co.uk | bandcamp | facebook.com/tesseractband
Releases Worldwide: September 15th, 2023

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Mon Sep 18 09:44:57 GMT 2023