One of the most hotly anticipated albums of the year is almost upon us, and if you’re a big TESSERACT fan like me, you might also be wondering how on earth they could top 2015’s Polaris. It always seems effortless for TESSERACT to evolve with each album and fourth album Sonder is no different. TESSERACT have now fully established themselves as progressive metal greats and this reflects in their sound and songwriting. An incredibly mature and focused approach is used for this album. With many rip-off TESSERACT bands on the scene, the group now need to avoid becoming a parody of themselves. Luckily they manage this.
I must admit, after hearing Smile when the band previewed it last year, I wasn’t enamoured at all. I had the same reaction during the first spin of Sonder, however I am a firm believer this often signals an album which grows over time. It is the effort of the digesting of the record after a few listens which rewards you with a superb album that just ‘clicks’.
Sonder kicks off with Luminary. Most fans might expect a twinkly intro, but this opener immediately packs a punch. Have they got your attention? Yes. During the melodic verse, there are some CALIGULA’S HORSE vibes but THAT chorus blows any soft vocals out of the water. An excellent start with some token TESSERACT motifs here and there, you’re on tenterhooks for more. Thankfully for us, more is what we get with next track King which is a right ol’ jewel in the crown. Hopefully you will have already heard this blistering single, but hearing it in context with the rest of the album creates an incredible, new experience. With this single, TESSERACT declare this is us, this is our sound, watch us evolve. TESSERACT are well past using screams to be heavy, but the screams on King do take it to the next level. The song is probably longer than it needs to be, but it is an outstanding track.
TESSERACT has always been one for atmospheric and broody songs but next track, Orbital is quite unlike anything the band have done before. A short song, but the instrumentation sounds colossal, yet really subtle. It is one to expand the imagination and I think it is truly beautiful and moving. It has to be heard to be believed. It merges into the next gem of the album, Juno. It is quite an upbeat, djent ditty making it one of the more memorable songs on Sonder. The lyrics tie in nicely with the name of the album; ‘sonder’ is a term coined by writer John Koenig to express the indescribable emotion we experience when we realise each of us are simultaneously living vivid and complex lives. It is this disconnection that Sonder hints at – the thought that something greater is happening within.
Beneath My Skin harks back to the glory days of One, with the build up of tension before the sweet release of a bit of djent. Old school fans will probably swarm to this track, but it does follow the more thoughtful and melodic approach the band are now known for. Mirror Image follows TESSERACT’s newer formula of straight-up melodic metal. Using less djent and incorporating more keys, it’s grown into one of my favourite songs on Sonder. After first listen, I completely overlooked it, but it has a charm about it which has enchanted me.
As mentioned earlier, when I first heard Smile last year I wasn’t blown away at all. However, hearing it on Sonder has made me appreciate it a lot more. A great deal happens in this song and once again Dan Tompkins pushes himself to be on of progressive metal’s best vocalists. With a couple of strong songs at the beginning of Sonder, the album also needed two strong closers to anchor it. Smile provides one and the finale, The Arrow provides the other. Normally TESSERACT like to have a lengthy conclusion to proceedings but The Arrow is really short in comparison at two and a half minutes. It was important not to drag Sonder out and luckily this final track keeps it short and sweet with a killer melody and twinkly instrumentation. Eight songs might not seem enough but I do genuinely think TESSERACT made the right decision here. Sonder is a terrifically solid body of work. I don’t think it will progress to being my favourite TESSERACT album, but album of the year..? Well, it wouldn’t be impossible.