Welcome to Connecting the Dots, the column where we give a brief rundown on a central band along with a host of other projects their members, both past and present, have been involved in. Today we’ll be focusing on djent mainstays TesseracT, whose members have been very active over the past couple of years.
2018 lineup: Daniel Tompkins (Vocals), Acle Kahney (Guitars), James Monteith (Guitars), Amos Williams (Bass) and Jay Postones (Drums)
Since bursting onto the scene in the mid-late 2000s TesseracT, has gone on to become a modern metal mainstay. While many of their peers in the djent community have either floundered, meandered or disintegrated as the genre’s popularity dissipated, TesseracT has continued to ply away and release one quality album after another. They’ve crafted a trademark sound with thick tones, massive grooves, soaring melodies, dense atmospherics and pristine production. Yet, much like their compatriots Iron Maiden during their first 15 years as a band, TesseracT have subtly varied their sound with each release to avoid becoming stale. Whether it be the epic, progressive suites from One and Altered State, the immediacy of Polaris or the darkness of Sonder, they’ve stayed true to their core sound while introducing enough variation to keep things interesting.
Track to check out: “King”
Daniel Tompkins (Vocals)
Perhaps the best known TesseracT-adjacent project, at least until Good Tiger showed up on the scene, is Skyharbor. Founded by Kheshav Dhar, this trans-continental band has at various times also featured Anup Pastry (Marty Friedman, ex-Intervals, ex-Monuments) and, of course, Daniel Tompkins. Another progressive metal outfit, they combine djent with electronics, aspects of alternative metal and the soaring vocals of Tompkins. Their debut album was split into two parts: Illusion was the melodic side featuring Tompkins, while Chaos was the harsher, more aggressive side featuring the impressive Sunneith Revankar (ex-Bhayanak Maut) on vocals. With their sophomore effort Guiding Lights, they opted to do away with much of the harsher elements, with Tompkins taking on sole vocal duties. Tompkins left the band in 2015 to devote more time to his other projects, and it will be interesting to hear what their upcoming record Sunshine Dust will sound like with new frontman Eric Emery at the helm.
Track to check out: “Allure”
Ex-Vocalist Elliot Coleman
In between Dan Tompkins’ first coming and Ashe O’Hara, TesseracT turned to the jazzy, sultry tones of Elliot Coleman on vocals. With a captivating voice and remarkable sense for intriguing and catchy melodies, Coleman seems to have finally found his musical home with Good Tiger after many years as a journeyman. Formed by guitarists Dez and Jo from the ashes of The Safety Fire, and also featuring Alex Rüdinger (ex-The Faceless) on drums, the talented five-piece released one of the best albums of 2015 with A Head Full of Moonlight. With intricate and technical riffs, driving rhythms, a layer of accessibility and one of the most interesting vocalists in the game, we’re eager to see where Good Tiger can go from here. While their 2018 release We Will All Be Gone didn’t quite capitalise on the momentum of their debut, such a quality group of musicians will inevitably get back to top form soon enough.
Track to check out: “Where Are The Birds”
Daniel Tompkins (Vocals)
Now for a bit of a change of pace. Daniel Tompkins has made no secret of the fact he loves pop music and styles other than metal, so it should come as no surprise to hear him fronting a synth-pop record. And my word, what a record it is. 2017’s self-titled record from Zeta, a three-piece also featuring Paul Ortiz (Chimp Spanner) and Katie Jackson, was a highlight of last year with its rich tones, luscious soundscapes and earworm melodies. Seriously, just try listening to “Right Time” or “Beat The System” without smiling, singing along or catching the groove. With a wealth of tasty guitar riffs, licks and solos to accompany the driving beats and spacey synths, the musicianship is every bit the equal of Tompkins’ vocal prowess. If you like music that’s fun and catchy without being saccharine and derivative, then you owe it to yourself to check this record out.
Track to check out: “Beat The System”
White Moth Black Butterfly
Daniel Tompkins (Vocals)
Another collaboration between Tompkins and Keshav Dhar of Skyharbor, White Moth Black Butterfly (WMBB) is a further venture into pop territory. However, far from the fun and light-hearted melodies of Zeta, WMBB is an emotionally heavy-hitting effort that sees Tompkins shine alongside Jordan Bethany on vocals. With a backdrop of classical and electronic music featuring soulful strings weeping alongside rich, synthetic beats, these two vocal talents take centre stage with a heartfelt offering that made Atone one of the more memorable records of last year. A dreamy record with moments of post-rock and ambiance thrown in for good measure, it’s an album with great replay value that always leaves us craving more.
Track to check out: “An Ocean Away”
Daniel Tompkins (Vocals)
In 2012 US alternative metal band Haji’s Kitchen ended an 11-year wait for a new record with Twenty Twelve, featuring Tompkins on guest vocals for six tracks. Formed in 1992, these guys have been around for a long time and, if Twenty Twelve is anything to go by, their sound is well and truly rooted in that late-90s and early-mid 2000s era of alternative rock/metal. The band combines melody and gold old American groove to good effect, with enough hints of progressive musicianship to keep things interesting. It doesn’t set the world on fire, but it’s an easy listen that executes its ambitions very well.
Track to check out: “Warrior”
Voices From The Fuselage
Ex-Vocalist Ashe O’Hara
That’s right, yet another project from an (ex) vocalist of TesseracT. 2013’s Altered State still stands as one of the best albums the genre has produced, and central to its success were the angelic vocals and engaging melodies of Ashe O’Hara. Since leaving TesseracT he has returned to progressive metallers Voices From The Fuselage, who combine his melodic vocals with atmospherics, traces of post-rock and an approach to progressive metal that combines djent and alternative rock/metal. Their sole release to date came in the shape of 2016’s Odyssey: Destroyer of Worlds, which continued modern metal’s obsession with sci-fi, and one would hope we’re not too far away from a follow-up. If you loved Ashe’s vocals and you’re aching for something that takes elements from TesseracT, early Karnivool and post-rock then give this a spin.
Track to check out: “Inner Child”
Guitarist Acle Kahney
Before TesseracT had even released their debut EP, guitarist and primary songwriter Acle Kahney was in FELLSILENT alongside John Browne (Monuments), Neema Askari (ex-Monuments) and others. FELLSILENT have more of a proto-djent sound, meaning they draw most readily from the influence of both Meshuggah and Sikth. With two vocalists going hell-for-leather, crushing grooves and a whirlwind of polyrhythms, it’s surprising that they didn’t gain more traction and that they remain so unknown today. Their sole record, 2008’s The Hidden Words, is a strong effort from start to finish full of aggression, technical playing, and huge choruses. It’s also interesting to see how their music helped shape the related bands that would go on to greater successes, with “Immerse” definitely standing out as a TesseracT song in the making.
Track to check out: “Immerse”
Drummer Jay Postones
We finish off with Heights, an instrumental trio that sits on a spectrum between progressive rock and jazz fusion. Featuring Jay Postones on drums, the band released their third and most recent album, the simply titled Phantasia On The High Processions Of Sun, Moon And Countless Stars Above, in 2015. You get what you would expect, with nice guitar noodling, a prominent bass guitar and some dextrous and engaging drum fills. Very melodic and calming, for the most part, every now and then there is a dash of jazz to spice things up a little and keep us on our toes.
Track to check out: “Aeolus”