UK quartet TesseracT carved out a space for themselves in the Metal/Progressive scene by combining a myriad of sounds to create something wholly unique. They are one of those rare bands who do not have any direct comparison—just when you think you have pinned down their sound, the next track will throw you for a loop and bring you right back to square one. In fact, with each album the band has released since forming in 2003, they have pushed their sound to new levels, both diverging from and closely adhering to that “djent” sound that they helped pioneer.
Moving forward, their fourth album, Sonder, set to release on Friday, April 20, 2018 through Kscope Records, sees the band using Vocalist Daniel Tompkins’ incredible range to its fullest while combining accessible, clean vocals with powerful riffs and atmospheric grooves.
Produced by Aiden O’Brien and mastered by the band’s own Guitarist Acle Kahney, Sonder manages to pack in some explosive moments in its short 36 minutes, but its reliance on clean vocals and softer moments makes the album feel as though it is pulling punches rather than giving you a hard kick in the jaw. Yes, Tompkins’ vocals are stellar, with a silky softness, but there are several moments on this album where he favors that clean sound when it feels as though raw harshness is needed. Too often the quieter moments on this album wear out their welcome, and despite the short run time, there are some tracks that wind up sounding like filler.
However, opening track and lead single “Luminary” is one of a few tracks that manages to grab and hold on from beginning to end. Kicking off with harsh Metal guitar riffs, it shifts and evolves by weaving in the atmospheric melodies the band has become so well-known for. It is no surprise TesseracT offered up “Luminary” as a single, because its chugging, experimental sound is a mix of clean and gritty vocals that is likely what fans of the band are looking for. If that raw feeling this song gives off managed to bleed through the rest of the album, Sonder might have been much better off.
Some of that does manage to make its way into the following track “King,” where Tompkins vocals call forth echoes of Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington with a few gritty screams over chugging riffs and crashing drum fills. Following that up with the slow, transitional “Orbital” feels like a miss, though. This track is one of several moments that breaks up the momentum built, dissipating the established dynamic sound for the sake of pure filler. If “King” had transitioned immediately into “Juno,” Sonder’s standout track, without that pause, the energy would have felt much more powerful. Even so, the deep, grooving bass and chunky, driving guitars of “Juno” manage to build some momentum back up again, though without ever truly reaching another peak.
“Mirror Image” starts of at a hazy drawl, once again sounding like another transitional piece. Even when it does kick in, it does not manage to grab in the way that the album’s openers do. Sonder is unfortunately front-loaded, but those who are already fans of the band’s trademark sound are sure to find plenty to like in the album’s eight tracks. While there are several parts of this album that TesseracT manages to nail, the end result falls slightly short. For these reasons, CrypticRock gives Sonder 3 out of 5 stars.