“Band members complained of a loss of feeling in their hands after only one song”: When Tesseract set a world record by playing on a stage built from ice

British djent pioneers Tesseract entered the record books in 2015 when they became the first band to perform on top of a structure made completely out of ice. The gig was part of Jagermeister’s Ice Cold series of gigs and took place at Snow Village in Kittila, Lapland. The temporary village was built every year from 20,000,000kg of snow and 350,000kg of crystal-clear natural ice, covering an area of 20,000 square metres and consisting of a hotel, restaurant, cocktail bar, chapel and cinema. Stephen Hill was there to bear witness.

“One of the main challenges is keeping the instruments at the same temperature,” bassist Amos Williams tells us. “If the strings become colder during the set then tuning will become a massive issue.” Which is something that would be more than likely in the minus 20ºC temperature the band had to perform in. In fact during their soundcheck many band members complained of a loss of feeling in their hands after only one song. To combat this for the duration of their 75-minute set each band member is given a special heat sack, a small marble-sized bag that is as hot as a freshly microwaved baked potato, to hold between songs and return some feeling to their frozen riff digits.

There was more than just the conditions for the band to contend with as well, it was also left to each member to trudge through the snow to various bars and restaurants in the surrounding area to drum up an audience for the show. “If you book us they will come… hopefully,” laughs vocalist Dan Tompkins before as he prepares to mount a table and address a bar full of Finnish locals. “I genuinely don’t know if there will be anyone there.” He says after his speech.

The band need not have worried – at around 8pm around 100 locals, many of whom are coerced by the promise of free Jager and others in attendance from sheer curiosity, arrive by foot, ski and snowmobile. Tesseract wander gingerly onstage (or to the top of his drum riser nearly thirty foot above the stage if you’re drummer Jay Postones) and impress everyone with their set of shimmering, melodic, tech-metal. It’s a stunning setting which feels as historic as the record breaking show is and, save for a quick slip on the icy stage by Tompkins half way through, goes off without a hitch.

There is obvious and audible relief in the Tesseract camp after the show. “It was good but I could hear some of the tunings going out as we were playing.” Guitarist Acle Kahney tells us. What thoughts were going on in your head while you were up there? “It was just surreal,” he says. “It was definitely hard to concentrate. You just don’t think you’ll ever be doing something like this when you start a band.”

“It’s an honour,” adds Tompkins. “There are, not just so many bands, but so many people on Earth. I just kept thinking in my head, ‘seven billion people on this planet. Five of us.’ We are the only five people that have done this. You know, this is why I came back to the band. For moments like this – it feels very special. We did Sonisphere and that was incredible, but this is something else.”

Sounds as if you didn’t even notice the cold?

“Oh no,” he laughs. “As worthwhile as it was you couldn’t ignore that cold.”

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Tesseract Metal Hammer bundle

(Image credit: Future)
Stephen Hill

Since blagging his way onto the Hammer team a decade ago, Stephen has written countless features and reviews for the magazine, usually specialising in punk, hardcore and 90s metal, and still holds out the faint hope of one day getting his beloved U2 into the pages of the mag. He also regularly spouts his opinions on the Metal Hammer Podcast.