TesseracT: Scala/Odyssey

Essential live set from trailblazing prog metallers.

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Tesseract’s defining line-up was undoubtedly the one that recorded their first album, One. When singer Daniel Tompkins left, they defied the doubters and came back stronger with Ashe O’Hara on Altered State, but now he’s gone and Tompkins is back in the fold. So the motivation behind this CD and DVD set must be, at least in part, to draw a line under a complex few years.

The CD, Odyssey, references the fact that the tracks were recorded throughout Europe during the latter part of 2014, and though taken from different nights of the tour, there’s an amazing consistency achieved through careful mixing. Though occasionally the instrumental mix feels slightly different from track to track, the songs flow into each other without breaks, and Tompkins’ stage banter really ties it together. Predictably, he nails the One-era tracks, and does an incredible job of the Altered State material as well.

The live DVD, Scala, is the more significant part of the package, offering the first glimpse of the renewed Tesseract. Tompkins refers to this set as a milestone for the band. “From the bottom of my heart, thank you so much for welcoming me back into Tesseract,” he says nervously, as if knowing he has his work cut out for him. The reply is a gale of cheers.

This is a must-have affirmation of the band’s brilliance.

The band certainly play like they’ve something to prove: Singularity kicks things off in grand style, with Tompkins’ vocal soaring over the maelstrom. Deception, which follows, is not only fantastic musically, but also on video is genuinely quite close to the live experience, with a multi-camera setup gleefully capturing the band as they tear through the song. Proxy shows that Tompkins is able to handle the more vocally complex songs from Altered State, while a frantic Resist and grinding Nocturne are highlights, with Tompkins’ version of Nocturne arguably better than the LP version.

The only criticism one can really make is that with backing tracks to cover synthesiser pads and an impeccable, razor-sharp standard of musicianship, there’s very little difference between the recorded and live versions of the songs. In places they’re more stripped-back though, and this is what makes the most marked difference. Here Tompkins’ interpretation of the songs from Altered State is sharper, more aggressive and more immediate.

If you’re just discovering them, this is a fantastic introduction to Tesseract. If you’re already a fan, it’s a must‑have affirmation of brilliance from one of the best progressive metal bands in the world. Welcome back, Dan.