Gig Review: TesseracT live @ Academy II, Manchester – February 5th
Back in September 2015 I sent my dad a song. The song was Seven Names by UK spacey prog metallists, TesseracT. He liked the song and thus when a tour was announced he asked me to buy him a ticket for their Manchester gig in the coming February. I warned him that this was not your typical prog band from the 70’s and that there would indeed be moshing and possibly physical appearances he didn’t approve of. Despite my warnings he brushed it aside and fast forward 5 months and there we were at the front clutching the barriers and ready to be throttled by sound waves.
First up came Nordic Giants with quite a unique set up. The band (consisting of two men in tribal outfits) played a fascinating set of instrumental post-rock involving mostly drum and synth with the main atmosphere being provided by two screens showing various short films. One song that struck me in particular was the song Together, which contained an audio snippet from a speech by Martin Luther King Jr. Culminating on the phrase ‘together’, at which point I honestly expected some sort of dubstep drop to add to the surprises, but the booming drums were definitely enough. These guys certainly had a similar vibe to acts like Public Service Broadcasting.
Next up were six-piece, The Contortionist, who couldn’t be more different to Nordic Giants if they tried. Before the gig I had the pleasure of listening to these guys’ most recent effort, 2014’s Language which saw them switch singers to Mike Lessard, previously of Last Chance to Reason. I liked Language, it managed to combine a certain sort of elevated, heavenly prog rock with a techy deathcore sound. This was frighteningly portrayed by Lessard’s robotic movements about the stage interspersed with sudden outbursts of guttural vocals… I wouldn’t have been surprised if the man decided to hop off stage and murder us all given the crazed look on his face.
After a fan was chucked out for harassing people at the front, TesseracT opened with their newest single Phoenix followed swiftly by Messenger. The guys’ presence up on stage was something to behold, all five (well… other than Jay, their drummer) assuming commanding-looking power stances and frequently becoming silhouettes whenever the music shrank and the lights ebbed with it.
Now the band were throwing out their earlier material and things were getting a bit… well… rough in the stalls. It was this moment that we had feared. Me and my dad looked each other in the eyes as if he was clutching my hand while I was teetering on the edge of a cliff with some sort of ravenous creatures at the bottom ready to tear every inch of flesh from my bones, and… we parted. I’m not going to lie I felt bad for a second or two and then I followed everyone else and rhythmically thrusted my body in time with Deception and The Impossible.
The band definitely knew how to handle contrast, their ever-building suite Of Matter was next from their more melodically complex second album Altered State. The last movement, Resist resonated with the crowd the most. It was hard to stop my lips moving with Dan’s as he sang the words with such a magnificent pain in his voice:
It was just wonderful to hear a song I admired so much, raw and in the flesh, affecting so many people at the same time and in the same way. When it ended it seemed like the band themselves had reached to a difficult place to help them perform it.
The band followed with the first three tracks from their newest album, Polaris. The songs flowed incredibly well from one to another – from the chunky grooves of Dystopia to the building ambience of Hexes to the quite refreshing poppy-vibes of Survival. It’s great to see such sonic variance coming from a band with only three full-length albums under their belt, and I think with Polaris (even if it wasn’t a perfect album) they might have finally transcended their influences, no longer being influenced from outside but rather from themselves.
Speaking of influences, the set swings back to the more mathy side with songs like the colossal, Nocturne, probably TesseracT’s most well-known song to fans and outsiders. It seems to generate the most exquisite headbang from the crowd – a deep, rhythmic and relentless headbang. It’s always a shame the band cut out the last movement of the song as I think it is one of the more interesting instrumental breaks – always impossible to headbang to because of the polyrhythmic nature of it.
The last track is always the most grandiose, the heaviest and the most cathartic. As I wipe a layer of sweat from my forehead the opening eerie notes of Acceptance ring out, and after about a minute of this the low guitar chugs come rolling in – riff after riff. One of the few TesseracT songs with genuinely captivating and frightening harsh vocals, as well as rich subject matter.
“Show your hands/you have no right to complicate” Dan screams as the lights go berserk behind him, of course in reference to the struggle between the judgmental conscious mind and the part that you actively identify with. I had been binging on the suite that it is part of, Concealing Fate, for months and months before the gig. The lyrics and structure of Acceptance were particularly potent to me having previously struggled at university with accepting myself and the circumstances I found myself in for what they were and not letting my nagging conscience get the better of what I actually wanted. And so as the final stretch of the song closed in, I realized what the guys in the band wanted me to come away from it with, and there isn’t really a better way for me to end this review than with the closing words of Acceptance, an inspiring song from an inspiring album by an inspiring band.
“All I ever said
Before the moment twisting words inside my head
All I ever said
Take back everything, all I wanted
All I ever needed was here”.
TesseracT continue on their European tour with The Contortionist throughout February and March.