Sonder by TesseractRelease date: April 20, 2018
Continuing from the well-received Polaris, TesseracT have release their fourth studio album, Sonder. The album is the first to feature a consecutive vocalist following Daniel Tompkins return to the band in 2014. Where Polaris further explored the soundscapes previously journeyed in Altered State, Sonder continues this journey whilst reincorporating the heavier elements of TesseracT’s music.
Opening with ten minutes worth of previously heard material, ‘Luminary’ and ‘King’, can frustrate the introduction. However, it is not hard to imagine how strong this introduction would be had we not heard these songs already. ‘Luminary’, the opener, bridges each aspect of this album well, touching on big choruses, heavy guitar lines, softer verse passages and stellar production.
‘King’ further expands on its predecessor and reintroduces Tompkins aggressive vocals, which only occur twice; here, and in a reimagined version of ‘Smile’. The song’s second half reinvents the song to include a vocal melody that audiences will sing along with; the band do not try to dislodge Tompkins from his vocal indulgence, and instead, the whole group move on the same beat in total unison for once – that is not a criticism.
There are two shorter songs on this album, the first serving as a brief interlude, ‘Orbital’ before ‘Juno’ sets its challenge of being centrepiece of the album. A well accented head-banging riff, compliment by the wondrous Amos Williams’ slap bass, precedes the first verse. As far as this album goes, this is the best example of TesseracT’s overall sound. For want of a better phrase, it would be deemed a classic in their catalog.
Tompkins’ experience in Black Moth White Butterfly and Zeta seems to have helped in refining his voice. The falsettos are not removed, but there is a greater focus on where Tompkins is more comfortable. This sense of maturity is equally matched by the instrumentals. A TesseracT album wouldn’t be complete without its polyrhythms, its syncopation, and its unique unison between each instrument. Instead of hoping to dazzle, which they still manage too, the songs are more focussed on producing an entity in itself.
‘Beneath My Skin’ sounds like a sibling to ‘Phoenix’, off Polaris, by having a slow delicate, measured progression. ‘Mirror Image’ does as its name suggests and follows well; the two are grouped together on the album. Apart from the interlude of ‘Orbital’, this part of the album is the first the listener has a chance to reflect on what they have heard thus far.
One of the best things about this album is the reimagining of the first single, ‘Smile’. When it was originally released the production was heavily criticised. This new version sounds like a big middle finger to all those who sought to meticulously scrutinise that. The guitar lines are much thicker whilst the rhythm section is still allowed to explore. The key change is after the breakdown, which in itself is so much thicker; Tompkins screams the chorus, before entering into the breakdown again. Asides from the screaming, the song largely remains the same, the makeover makes it so much more powerful as the penultimate song on the album.
The end of ‘Smile’ features an additional instrumental section which leads into the album’s closer, ‘The Arrow’. It is a soft closure to the album, perhaps needed after the preceding song. It is by no means a lacklustre ending though, instead of being another moment to muse on the album.
Clocking in at just over 35 minutes, the album could be a few minutes longer. Although, the two shortest tracks on the album and the plethora of instrumental passages serve their purpose to the wider project. Sonder is an often-brooding album driven by punching guitar riffs, musical complexity and embellished with pop melodies with an overarching feel of maturity punctuated with bouts of aggression.