Tesseract’s cinematic live show just proved that, 12 years since debuting, they’re in the finest form of their lives

At Tampa’s Orpheum, the UK djent pioneers reach a new apex in a flurry of contorting riffs, gorgeous vocals and awe-inspiring lights

Tesseract onstage in Tampa in 2023
(Image: © Randy Edwards)

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Imagine time-travelling back to 2011 and telling progressive metal fans that Tesseract wouldn’t truly hit their stride until 12 years later. They’d laugh in your face.

As early as the release of debut album One, Milton Keynes’ most avant-garde sonic export were being hailed as something special. Their fusion of Meshuggah’s muscular yet complex rhythm work with the ambient lead lines of Pink Floyd had put them at the forefront of the djent movement. And, as the band evolved from sweeping prog to more concise and melodic compositions, the critical acclaim never seemed to weaken.

But then Tesseract released War Of Being this year. Fucking hell. If you thought the band were beloved before, their fifth album consolidated all their gains to make itself a progressive and majestic, yet bollock-droppingly heavy, masterpiece.

The scale of the album’s impact just two months since it came out is tangible tonight. When vocalist Daniel Tompkins asks Tampa’s near-sold-out Orpheum, “Who here has never seen Tesseract before?”, almost every arm in the place shoots skyward. We’re almost jealous of those new converts, as well: not only were they brought on board by the finest music of Tesseract’s career thus far – their first live experience with the band is them reaching a new, cinematic apex.

Opener Natural Disaster storms out the gate like a raging bull. After a minuscule build-up, the song drops into an unabashedly brutal assault, the seven-string riffs of Acle Kahney and James Monteith teaming with Daniel’s incensed roars on a mission to cave in everybody’s eardrums. It’s a beautifully powerful start that demands just as much notice as the light show.

Every convulsing prog metal polyrhythm is punctuated by the sharpness of tonight’s visuals. The backlighting, twirling spotlights and columns of LEDs illuminate the band from behind and below, turning the five-piece into silhouettes against the most erratic backdrop. Plus, it’s a pitch-black during this winter’s night outdoors: not even the Florida sun has the opportunity to dampen the force of those twitching, punching lights.

Clearly proud of their newly released opus, Tesseract will play four more songs from War Of Being (the lion’s share of the track listing), with the highlight of the entire evening being the expansive title track. The 11-minute single was a declaration that Tesseract were re-embracing their more progressive origins with their newest music, and tonight it steamrolls past in what feels like half the time. It’s a torrent of chugging djent, calamitous blasts of sound and light, and then one of Daniel’s most awe-inspiring vocal melodies: a passage so brilliant that a cry of “Fucking beautiful!” roars out from the Floridian masses.

Tesseract’s latest material easily holds its own against such live mainstays as Nocturne and Juno during this set. Combine that with the evening’s sublime visual element and a continuously rapt crowd, and how can you not argue that this band are operating in their finest form right now?

Tesseract setlist – The Orpheum, Tampa, November 11

Natural Disaster
Of Mind: Nocturne
War Of Being
The Arrow
The Grey

Concealing Fate, Part 1: Acceptance
Concealing Fate, Part 2: Deception

Matt Mills
Contributing Editor, Metal Hammer

Louder’s resident Gojira obsessive was still at uni when he joined the team in 2017. Since then, Matt’s become a regular in Prog and Metal Hammer, at his happiest when interviewing the most forward-thinking artists heavy music can muster. He’s got bylines in The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Guitar and many others, too. When he’s not writing, you’ll probably find him skydiving, scuba diving or coasteering.