I find it pleasantly frustrating when trying to evaluate albums like TesseracT‘s new 0ne, Altered State, with seamless transitions between songs (not unlike The Ocean‘s latest undertaking, Pelegial). It really has to be evaluated as a single collection of ideas that take an entire album to completely resolve themselves. That said, I won’t bother with a song-by-song here.

Overall, it is very vocally-centered music that focuses on bending oft-complex rhythmic layers around cacophonous cascading melodies of the band’s newest singer, Ashe O’Hara. There are many and varying themes but the music mainly soars with an ultra-dramatic feel … almost operatic at times.

Altered State, for the most part, is a departure for the band from the explosive nature and small amount of aggression present on their debut, One. Though stylistically and tonally it’s the same band, all of the vocals are clean this time around and the other instruments seem to be more unified and harmonious than individualized and chaotic like on their previous release. Whereas I’ve heard TesseracT referred to as being heavily influenced by Meshuggah, this album could be for fans of bands like Anathema, Cynic, and The Ocean, all who have a greater tendency toward the melodic. The Meshuggah influence is certainly still there, seeing as how TesseracT’s guitarist and bassist seem to be very into that sort of droning, odd-time rhythmic playing style and homogenous tone in all the heavy parts.

While the music itself is extremely tight. it can come across as being a bit over-processed or sterile sounding … machine-like is a better term. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and it is easy to ignore when the focus is so consistently on the vocal performance (which, by the way, I found to be extremely good). I’m sure some true “metal heads” out there will be turned off by the lack of vocal distortion on this album (possibly some fans of TesseracT, as well),  but I can’t ever ignore talent when I hear it for the sake of a label.

As I mentioned, it’s difficult to evaluate this album on a song by song basis. Given that I thought the album was fairly strong all the way through, there were still some moments in some songs that stood out, particularly the hard-driving theme in the latter half of “Of Matter – Resist,” the energetic intro to “Of Energy – Singularity,” and the oddly awesome addition of saxophone solos in “Of Reality – Calabi-Yau” and “Of Energy – Embers.” That said, these are just some examples of what I was able to absorb after listening through a few times. And to tell the truth, I like this album more each time I hear it. Win!

Altered State is out May 28 on Century Media Records.

Rating: 4.5/5 stars.

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