Devin Townsend at Hammersmith Apollo, London - live review

TesseracT and Leprous join Devin Townsend for a banquet of the finest prog metal

Devin Townsend on stage at the Apollo
(Image: © Will Ireland)

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There’s a reason this show is being held in the 5,000-capacity Hammersmith Apollo: Leprous, TesseracT and Devin Townsend is a supernova of a line-up packed with illustrious prog metal talent. Their genre-busting sounds are blessed with enviable players, and three of the best singers in the scene makes this a must-see bill.

Leprous bristle with emotive power, opening with Foe and filling the rest of their set with songs from The Congregation. The band have ripened with each album they release, and tonight celebrate the worth of their most recent wares with a seriously impressive rendition of Third Law, engulfing the venue in a hurricane of Einar Solberg’s operatic bent. The complicated rhythmic beat of Rewind is a taxing physical workout for drummer Baard Kolstad, while the layers of vocal harmonies and mathematical trips during The Price culminate in a compelling set of intricate progressive components that form a powerful whole.

A crisp, geometric tesseract cast upon the backdrop dominates the stage where the second band lurk under shards of green light. TesseracT’s meteoric rise is not only justified by their exceptional technical ability, with not a single note out of place, but it’s also exemplified by the masses who passionately sing along to songs like Deception and Proxy.

You can tell that Daniel Tompkins wants to nail his vocals tonight – there’s not so much chat, but a lot of intense microphone grabbing and concentration on hitting those high notes. It pays off and so does the static, heads-down fixation on drilling out demanding beats and riffs that saturate everything from the djent-defining Concealing Fate extracts to the soulful wake-up call of Survival.

Whether it’s downright chunky old stuff, poppy (in the most prog metal sense of the word) takes from Altered State or the lush extracts from Polaris, TesseracT nail it all in glorious, angular fashion.

Epic headliners Devin Townsend Project come out and play an exquisite, heart-wrenching start-to-finish set of Ocean Machine. It’s easy to take Devin Townsend’s genius-like talent for granted, but his uncharacteristic reticence tonight reveals the challenge of performing an entire album that dates back 20 years.

“I didn’t realise how much shit would come back from that set, so I apologise,” he says, after Thing Beyond Things. Nothing to apologise for, Devin – your crushing new‑age compositions are infallible.

Rising out of the drifting ambiance of songs like Sister, dappled with acoustic self-reflection and blankets of sky-opening synth, burst gargantuan, metallic anthems Seventh Wave, Regulator and Bastard, brimming with emotion and broad appeal.

Needless to say, the Canadian polymath’s vocal range – from lung-ripping aggression through demure melody to enormous operatic outstretches – is astounding. A few takes from Transcendence finish off what has been a banquet of the finest prog metal.

Holly Wright

With over 10 years’ experience writing for Metal Hammer and Prog, Holly has reviewed and interviewed a wealth of progressively-inclined noise mongers from around the world. A fearless voyager to the far sides of metal Holly loves nothing more than to check out London’s gig scene, from power to folk and a lot in between. When she’s not rocking out Holly enjoys being a mum to her daughter Violet and working as a high-flying marketer in the Big Smoke.