Personnel: Daniel Tompkins (vocals); Acle Kahney, James Monteith (guitar); Jamie Postones (drums).
Audio Mixer: Acle Kahney.
Recording information: 4D Sounds.
On Polaris, British prog metallers/djent movement pioneers Tesseract offer hardcore fans what they've been waiting for: the return of vocalist Daniel Tomkins. It's been tough to keep track of all the comings and goings on the microphone: first with Elliot Coleman followed in quick succession by Ashe O'Hara. Tomkins (who also fronts Sky Harbour) possesses a natural range and silvery-smooth delivery in every situation that is the envy of most rock singers, and has always been their most compelling frontman. Musically, Polaris combines the best aspects of their previous studio albums with only one stumbling block. Guitarist Acle Kahney's mix is pristine. His and James Monteith's guitars retain the prominence they displayed on One. While they seldom scream, they ring, soar, hover, and push (check "Hexes" and "Survival"). The more detailed melodic ideations and rhythmic counterpoint of bassist Amos Williams that so underscored the music on Altered State are more fully integrated here. Listen to the angular, syncopated "Messenger" or his inventive wrangling on "Cages" for examples. Drummer Jamie Postones is not merely an anchor for all of these mechanics. He foreshadows and guides the shifting rhythmic drama and textural palette with precision and fire; he never sacrifices his forceful authority, even on mellower jams like "Phoenix." But Tomkins is the set's hero. His staccato cadences on "Dystopia," his crooning on "Tourniquet," and his high-pitched crystalline wail on single "Messenger" and "Seven Names" are showcases for a voice not only expressive but nuanced, disciplined, and capable of conveying meanings that lie underneath song lyrics. The only real rough spot here is "Utopia." The track is filled with shape-shifting melodies, birthing one out of the other in seamless succession, until a funky rap breakdown in the bridge that first distracts from it before derailing it altogether. Influenced by Rage Against the Machine, it contains none of their punk anarchy or squall. One can write the track off to an overarching ambition, but many Tesseract fans will enjoy it anyway. That complaint aside, Polaris is the record that Tesseract have been working toward. The evolved maturity of their writing, playing, and arranging is matched by the experience and confidence Tomkins gained while away. Reunited, they deliver not only creativity and sophistication but inspiration. They are the prog/djent unit to pay closest attention to. ~ Thom Jurek