Album Review: TesseracT - War Of Being
Reviewed by Dan Barnes
It’s been five years since Milton Keynes sonic experimentalists, TesseracT, last issued a new full-length and, although there was the Regrowth EP in 2022, it is the broader canvasses on which the band produce their best work. Unsurprisingly, War of Being’s most engrossing tracks are the two longest on the record and, the title track in particular, is perfect for the TesseracT fan on the move as it incorporates every aspect of the album in a single, handy eleven-minute package.
Opening with heavy percussive bombs, War of Being moves through all of the aspects you would expect from a modern prog anthem; from guttural vocals and Meshuggah polyrhythms to emotional wrought post-hardcore melancholy. There are a few nods to the prog bands of yore in some of the interludes, adding an accessibility to the dense and complex composition. Hook-laden melodies compete with intricate soundscapes in a multi-movement suite that, while challenging, never loses sight of its basic humanity.
Sitting almost mid-album, it arrives after TesseracT have flexed their creative muscles on the heavier first half of War of Being. Intensely dissonant polyrhythms dominate the jazz-introduced Natural Disaster, which sees guttural growls compete with Dan Tompkins’ soaring vocal lines, Acle and James’ choppy guitar with a pulsing mid-section and an electronic underscoring with an angular, gothic reverberation. The Grey finds the band exercising a stabbing riff and a sharp shrieking vocals as it reclines within concealed progressive guitar and bass. Whereas Legion goes full on Prog from the outset and wears Dream Theater clothes though ascending vocals and fragile guitar that appear like sunbeams dancing in a shaft of light.
After War of Being the album takes a turn for the less aggressive and more introspective. Tender is built around soft guitars and delicate vocals which, when it does move toward a higher tempo, does so in a balladic manner. Sirens opens with a distinctly R&B style, as expansive and unbridled in scope and emotion as anything Katatonia can conjure and as enticing as the titular creatures and their lush melodies.
There is a funk sound to Amos Williams’ bass on Burden, lending to the song’s more pop sensibilities, leading into the second of TesseracT’s lengthier tracks, Sacrifice, which brings War of Being to a conclusion. Picking up the funky bass and setting it against Jay Postones’ simple but effective drum patterns allows the early emotional passages to swell with power and passion and metamorphose into something even greater than the sum of its parts.
For album number five, TesseracT have landed between the modes and methods of the old school prog bands and the modern ideas of the new school and have hit the mark with pin-point precision. Although running at a tad over an hour there is nowhere that War of Being feels overblown or bloated and repeat listens only emphasises the depth of the record. There are dates announced for February next year with Unprocessed and The Callous Daoboys, which I suspect will no doubt be very interesting evenings indeed.