Whether or not the return of Dan Tompkins as Tesseract’s singer launches a period of stability for the Brits, the musical effect is unquestionable.
It takes about 15 minutes into the second listen of Polaris to make it abundantly clear this is the most distinct, coherent and engaging record the band have made.
Gone are the djent-isms that half the bands on the internet immediately ripped off, and in its place is a warm, heartfelt style of prog metal. While there are still some jazzy funk rhythms and plenty of crunch, the melodic strength is what drives this album, and it’s why Polaris has more memorable songs than any record the tech-metal movement has spawned since.
Each track has a character of its own, ranging from the Meshuggah-derived judder of opener Dystopia that is immediately familiar, or the atmospheric weightless soaring of Tourniquet that feels more akin to recent Anathema. Tompkins’ varied, effortless vocals crowd the piece, able to infuse clean singing with tenderness, fire, contemplation or whatever other emotion the song requires. It conveys enormous personality to every song, and the catchy melodies hook you while the subtleties convey – be that the almost-radio-friendly instant earworm of Survival or the more complex chorus of Hexes. Start to finish, Polaris is affecting, captivating and bloody gorgeous.