Polaris review by TesseracT

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  • Released: Sep 18, 2015
  • Sound: 7
  • Lyrics: 8
  • Overall Impression: 7
  • Reviewer's score: 7.3 Good
  • Users' score: 8.3 (45 votes)
TesseracT: Polaris
4

Sound — 7
TesseracT formed in 2007, becoming one of the pioneers of the djent movement. The band started out with guitarist, Acle Kahney, sharing his work on sevenstring.org in or around 2003 along with Misha Mansoor (Periphery) and John Browne (Monuments). Over time, Acle and his peers were perfecting their technique, writing material, bouncing ideas off of each other, and learning homebrew music production. Eventually, Acle had material that he was ready to perform and tour with, and put together a touring lineup in 2007, though Daniel Tompkins - who would perform lead vocals on their debut album - did not join until 2009. Their first album, "One," released in 2011 to critical acclaim in the progressive rock/metal community. Fast forward to 2015, and the band's third album is releasing - "Polaris" - and since their initial release  has left the band and returned, and the band has moved labels to Kscope Records. "Polaris" has 9 tracks with a total runtime of approximately 47 minutes. The track "Messenger" was released as the lead single from the album in August.

"Dystopia" is lyrically an intensely interesting track, and it reads like an abstract dream narrative - which fits along with the music very nicely. The track does a good job of using quiet/loud dynamics and I appreciate that the bass is actually audible. The tracks on the album are recorded to run into each other, as the outro of "Dystopia" bleeds over into the intro of "Hexes" - I can definitely appreciate that, being an "album" person, myself, rather than a "song" person. "Hexes" has some very soft and light verses, but with powerful choruses. "Survival" comes pretty close, at times, to being a melodic song. There are some things I really like about "Survival," and some things that get just a tad repetitive. "Tourniquet" is dominated by Daniel's vocals, with a lot of the music on this track acting more as a soundscape for the lyrics to go on top of. That being said, there is some pretty sublime interplay between the guitars and bass near the end of the track. "Utopia" has some cool tidbits going on, being possibly the song on the album with the most groove. At times the rhythm playing on the album gets a little repetitive, but the high points in the album usually make up for it, which is what happens on "Utopia." "Phoenix" is dominated by an arpeggio and Daniel singing sustained falsetto notes, which is fairly engaging, initially. The "chorus" of "Phoenix" has a fairly mainstream type of sound to it, which is new for TesseracT. "Messenger" has a pretty intense intro, with some powerfully "djenty" riffing going on and Daniel doing some cool stuff, vocal-wise. "Cages" has a cool little thing going on with some reverb and delay, really creating more of a soundscape than a traditional song for the first 1/3 or so of the track, and from there it moves into a pretty cool groove with dominant bass and drums. The track builds to a peak slowly over the course of several minutes, and by the end has some of the few screamed vocals on the album. "Seven Names" closes out the album, which it does in large part with a chilled out vibe, with the exception of a fairly intense bit in the middle. The musicianship on the album is extraordinary, though the rhythm playing seems to get just a tad repetitive. I absolutely appreciate that the bass was actual dialed up enough to be audible, which is good because Amos is too talented to not be heard. Jay's drumming is pretty awesome, but it seems like it is over-compressed at times - the dynamics just aren't there.

Lyrics — 8
While I think I prefer Daniel Tompkins to Ashe O'Hara on vocals, I definitely look at the band's last effort with Ashe, "Altered State," as the superior album. I don't think that is in any way Daniel's fault, but I find myself trying to compare him to Ashe - just as I found myself, possibly too often, comparing "Polaris" to "Altered State." Daniel is an extremely talented vocalist, and has the right type of range for TesseracT, providing everything from a falsetto to a good energetic and slightly guttural screamed vocal. The lyrics are extremely interesting on "Polaris," and probably one of my favorite parts of listening to this album has been trying to decipher the meaning behind the lyrics on each track. As a sample of the lyrics, here are some from the opening track, "Dystopia": "Talking in my sleep, cursing through my teeth, sweating in the heat/ Stuck inside this dream of darkening frustration/ Liars in my dream, I'm frightened and I'm weak, there's nothing left for me/ And the visions I endure are simply entertainment/ Dark figures chasing me, I hear the wolf that cries, see them multiply/ You're ablaze behind the eyes; they burn into my memory/ A sudden sense of hope, the virtue of my ghost, you're another ugly host/ And I can't believe that you would just deny everything/ I choose to live free/ It took a second warning then I said goodbye/ With tainted eyes I need to believe/ It took a little longer to sympathize/ And you were hoping I would give in to you." I can't help but really enjoy the lyrics on the album.

Overall Impression — 7
I'm not hating "Polaris," but it definitely has to take a backseat to their previous effort, "Altered State," which for me was the ideal TesseracT album. To be more specific, "Altered State" saw the band really stretching their legs creatively and going beyond their previous work. "Polaris" is the equivalent of playing it safe. I can't say that I dislike the album, but a lot of it is boring. My favorite tracks from the album would have to be "Dystopia," "Utopia," and "Cages." I can still enjoy this album, but when I got through listening to it, I found myself loading up "Altered State" for a listen.

12 comments sorted by best / new / date

    theblazinasian
    I've only listened to the album a couple times, so I haven't formed a full opinion about it. However, I will say that I am really digging it. With each album, Tesseract has moved further away from riffs and more towards soundscapes, approaching the sound of bands like Karnivool and Dead Letter Circus. Phoenix gave me a really strong DLC vibe. While I think Tesseract retains their identity on this record, I am just slightly concerned that they might lose the sound that makes them unique. I can't say that I don't miss songs like Nocturne. There aren't any really big thematic riffs that stuck out on Polaris. However, Tesseract also manages to do some new things (or at the very least, new for Tesseract). Hexes is without question my favorite track, and for me, the proof that Tesseract can both become more melodic and remain a band that offers something that no other does. I have a feeling that as I begin to know the songs better, the album might grow on me more. Right now, I'd give it a tentative 8/10.
    frankibo
    Exactly what I was thinking, I think you've hit the nail on the head with how you have summarised it. It's less catchy, less memorable and less riff driven (the first time may change upon further listens as you intimated) however it feels very complete and whole - describing it as a 'soundscape' and the Karnivool comparisons are very accurate. On first impressions it doesn't grab me but it still comes across well, a 7 or 8 is fair and that may grow over time.
    shredder3386
    I've gotta say, I wasn't blown away when the single dropped but after hearing the whole album, this has got to be one of my albums of the year for sure. These guys are one of the best bands out there today at creating a really strong and infectious groove in their writing. Hexes is my favorite so far.
    travislausch
    I'll have to do a review myself later on, but I'll just say for now that after a couple listens, it's growing on me, but it's not going to be a classic. Frankly, it's kind of underwhelming. But TesseracT's "underwhelming" is better than a lot of bands' "good".
    Nexus_Black
    LOL "polaris is the equivalent to playing it safe." is like saying "the weather is playing it safe this year".Like the wind they just do what they want and while i agree that Altered State is an awesome album, it is how both albums evolve that makes them both awesome! So yes, while altered state has alot of cool riffs and sick songs that work in their individual contexts, I find that Polaris is a better album as a whole in the sense that all the various reoccurring themes in the lyrics, riffs, and soundscapes of this album are more consistent and more cohesively(and i use that term lightly because part of what i like about this music is how it may seem sporadic or random) put together! all in all dont say the waves crashing is boring because thats what is beautiful about it. just because u dont like them on one day and you like them on another day means that the two days are technically different. its the fact that there are these two contrasts that makes it art and glorifying one album over the other cheapens the experience that is Tesseract (or any other band that releases two albums that sound different)
    TheInserter
    Polaris has an entirely different feel to it than previous TesseracT albums I concur, but I appreciate it for what it is. Not every album should change the world. I personally think Polaris is a hugely expanded album rather than trying to stick with the same formulas of songwriting. Dan is a magician and this album is great!
    vppark2
    I agree with Altered State being better, but this is good. There are surprisingly some strong Faith No More, and Michael Jackson moments that Dan delivers. Also, this band has never had a hard time making bass audible.
    vppark2
    Today is stacked with new releases. Going to check out Scale The Summit, and Reflections in a bit. Not really a fan of blessthefall's or Atreyu's, but The Black Dahlia Murder certainly delivered on theirs.
    m4ss3 m/
    Tbh, this album is pretty stale. All the songs are really similar and there really isn't any standout tracks. I still think One is their masterpiece.
    travislausch
    That's kind of how I'm seeing TesseracT the more music they release. Their songs do have very similar-sounding parts to them. I can see that if they keep this up for a few more albums, I'm probably not going to be too impressed. But I felt the exact same as you after my first listen, and the more I listen, the more I find it growing on me. Some of those melodies are real earworms!