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Tesseract, live in London

Support: Animals As Leaders, Navene K

Britain's foremost djentlemen headed into London's Scala for a sold-out night of mindbending technicality with more strings attached than a payday loan. But what did we learn from the situation?

**The Scala Should’ve Opened Its Doors Earlier **

‘Ticket collection opens at 7.30pm’ reads the sign outside the Scala. That’s all when and good if King’s Cross happens to exist within a time-condensing wormhole but in reality the poor old sods who are stuck in the epic queue have no chance to catching the Animals As Leaders’ former drummer Navene K pound the crap out of his skins to the wall-quaking expletives of his laptop. While the sight of Navene drumming along to his self-made electronica is novel, it’s about halfway into the set when he cranks up the bass to pant-soiling levels that the really gets interesting – taking the djenty death metal offerings into rave territory like some mad Joey-Jordison-meets-The-Prodigy powerhouse. It’s quite something.

Playing Guitar Isn’t All About Shredding

In the world of progressive metal Animals As Leaders have cornered a market for music that sounds more like a sketchy video game soundtrack than songs you can whistle along to. On the plus side it’s a a mindbending experience. The eight-string wizardry of Tosin Abasi and Javier Reyes is a wake up call for anyone who thinks that a band needs a bass player or that playing guitar means shredding like Steve Vai. And for all the fret wankery there is an inherent heaviness to every crunch and lick that escapes from the stage, jolting and stuttering like machines and punctuated by fluid, ambient moments of thoughtfulness. The drop in Wave Of Babies has the hordes hollering while the trippy grace of Espera that segues into the techno funk of Physical Education is clever and inventive.

**Instrumental Metal Has Its Limit **

On the downside there’s only so much Animals As Leaders anyone can take and after an hour of unmelodious robot noodling it’s all starting to get a bit samey. Sure, the hardcore fans are getting off on the guitar geekiness and, to be fair, Matt Garstka’s drum patterns look super-complicated but Animals have no regard for memorable hooks, and as an instrumental band, they can’t rely on the chance for a good singsong. Thank goodness Tesseract are here to fill in the gaps.

The Song Needs To Fit The Singer

When Dan Tompkins announced that he was rejoining Tesseract their fans punched the air and let out a collective ‘thank fuck for that’. Like djent or hate it there aren’t many singers as good as Tompkins and while tonight is a celebration of his return it’s also a chance for him to prove that he can perform those songs that were recorded with their previous singer Ashe O’ Hara. Which he does… sort of. They begin with Singularity but it doesn’t suit Dan’s voice and the set gets off to a shaky start exacerbated by the heavy bass that overwhelms their sound.

Tesseract Really Nail It In The Last Quarter Of Their Set

While the rest of the band maintain a look of relaxed nonchalance their singer really goes for it, using all sorts of theatrical gestures to entice the crowd into a bromantic reverie while crooning to the high heavens and hitting high notes normally reserved for choir boys. These days he refuses to shout or growl, leaving that job up to their bassist Amos who does it with a heavy does of death metal, except for their grand final Acceptance which as always is a highlight. But it’s the double whammy of Resist and April where it that really delivers and pins down the recipe that Tesseract have perfected: churning mechanic metal and full-blown emotion in equal measure. Ying and yang at its most metal.

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.