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Tesseract: PORTALS

Understandably, the last couple of years will long be known as the age when the live stream came into its own in terms of music acts reaching out to their fans. In the absence of live dates and festivals, most bands were forced to rethink how they remained relevant, active and viable. The answer came in two ways - record new music while remaining remote from the rest of your band, or engage through the screen already in your fans’ houses. It was the latter approach that heavy prog/djent metal outfit Tesseract aimed for and scored quite the win with. The aptly titled PORTALS, of which there are audio, visual and multi-media options to be chosen from, is the recorded document and it has to be said that it really is quite something.

Clocking in at over the 100-minute mark PORTALS is a superb overview of Tesseract’s career but it’s not just a run through of their most expected moments and that balance between fan favourites and deeper cuts actually works out for the better. Compromise is also never an option, lengthy outings “Of Matter”, “Concealing Fates, Part 1,2_3”, “Beneath My Skin/Mirror Image” and “Of Energy” between them hogging more than half of the over all running time. And a generous helping of shorter pieces, “King”, “Juno” and “Phoenix”, for example, then break things up quite stunningly. However, having not seen the visuals for this show, I do have to say that if there’s one issue, it’s that it arguably sounds just too good. At first, when romping through the sweeping guitars and rumbling rhythms of “Dystopia” or atmospheric thrusts of “Tourniquet”, it’s hard to take in that this was a live performance. Now, I’ve seen Tesseract live and they are consummate professionals, superb at what they do and locked in incredibly tight with each other as they do it. And yet, with PORTALS being mixed and mastered in such astounding clarity and with basically zero ‘live’ feel whatsoever, you really can’t quite shake off the notion that this is simply studio reworkings of some great music.

It is, however, a minor quibble, after all, I’d rather have some stunningly crafted versions of great tunes than a superb feeling live album of clunkers. And nothing here clunks, with guitarists Alec Kahney and James Monteith grinding, howling, riffing and thundering majestically, while Amos Williams (bass) and Jay Postones (drums) are simply a gargantuan rhythm section that can’t be messed with. Sprinkle the broad ranging vocals from Daniel Tompkins on top and his growls, clean clarion call and atmospherically dark resonance takes these excellent tracks and raises them ever higher. It also has to be said that his efforts on “Of Matter”, which he didn’t handle the initial studio version of, is impressive in the extreme.

It’s not often that my main ‘complaint’ towards an album is that it’s simply too good but in all honesty, that’s the only fault I can find here. Live albums should, after all, sound like they were recorded live and PORTALS simply doesn’t. However, let’s not kid ourselves, it still captures a stunning performance by a fantastic band and as such comes highly recommended.

Track Listing
1. Of Matter
2. King
3. Concealing Fate Parts 1, 2 & 3
4. Tourniquet
5. Beneath My Skin / Mirror Image
6. Orbital 
7. Juno
8. Cages
9. Dystopia
10. Phoenix
11. Nocturne
12. Eden
13. Of Energy
14. Seven Names

Added: October 2nd 2021
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Tesseract online
Hits: 957
Language: english

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