“Tesseract are pushing for broad appeal while maintaining their intelligence – and it’s working!” Tesseract, Unprocessed and The Callous Daoboys just played the progressive metal concert of 2024

At a sold-out London extravaganza, prog metal intellectuals Tesseract make a stunning play for the heavy music mainstream, backed by two of their genre’s finest up-and-comers

Tesseract performing live in 2024
(Image: © Steve Thorne/Redferns)

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It’s hard to fathom nowadays that, when they released their debut album 13 years ago, Tesseract were very much an outsider’s option in the UK metal scene. Metalcore upstarts like Bring Me The Horizon and While She Sleeps were the darlings of the day, while this Milton Keynes quintet were channelling Meshuggah and Pink Floyd, not to mention barely removed from their bedroom-studio origins. Compare that standing to tonight: a headliner at London’s prestigious O2 Forum Kentish Town, which sold out so far in advance that the band could likely have upgraded to somewhere even larger if they wanted to.

Tesseract have amassed a varied progressive metal bill to kickstart their biggest-ever concert in the capital. On paper, THE CALLOUS DAOBOYS could not be further removed from tonight’s headliner, their “prog” credentials earned by their genre-smashing jams of mathcore, baroque pop and nu metal. A venue this cavernous means the drops between styles lose some of their impact, but the band overcome through sheer charisma. In the space of half an hour, London moshes, waves and even sings along to a Sweet Caroline sample.

UNPROCESSED, on the other hand, studied at the same school of thought as Polyphia. Lead singer/guitarist Manuel Gardner Fernandes is a stunningly fast shredder, as even a cursory visit to his Instagram will attest to. Yet, the Germans’ set is no mere wankathon, songs like Hell and Thrash boasting plenty of pop prowess during their choruses. Such tasteful technicality is unquestionably in vogue right now, so we can’t imagine this lot will be a support band for much longer.

Lastly, TESSERACT make a compelling case for a spot in the heavy metal mainstream. Sure, they first emerged with a half-hour-long EP that consisted of [checks notes] one whole song, but this a band that’s increasingly valued catharsis and melody over scope for its own sake. Natural Disaster, opener of last year’s War Of Being, instantly proves it by plummeting into primal seven-string riffs and frontman Daniel Tompkins’ screams. It’s an intensity that ignites the Kentish Town masses, though they’re soon stilled by the more sumptuous singing of Echoes.

Fan favourite Nocturne then barges in early, and by this point it’s clear Tesseract’s visual presentation is just as arena-ready as their music. Tubes of light surround the stage, while spotlights above flicker with the band’s every spasming polyrhythm. Though it’s an obvious pull from the Meshuggah playbook, it’s also fucking dazzling, so who’s complaining?

The theatricality, both in presentation and sonic pomp, strikes a midpoint zenith during War Of Being’s title track. For 10 minutes, this career highlight contorts through crushing guitars, then crescendos with a best-ever vocal performance from Tompkins. It’s a callback to the extravagance of early releases, absolutely, yet it’s also clearly not alienating a fast-growing audience: when asked who here is at their first-ever Tesseract gig, more than half the room shoot hands into the air.

A closing push through Juno and Concealing Fate keeps everybody moving up until the finish line. First there’s room-wide jumping then, most impressively, the entire auditorium starts moshing for a breakdown backed by incredible lights. Prog metal cult prospect no more, Tesseract are pushing for broad appeal while maintaining their splendour and intelligence – and, based on this evening, it’s bloody well working!

Tesseract setlist – O2 Forum Kentish Town, London, February 23

Natural Disaster
War Of Being
The Arrow
The Grey

Concealing Fate, Part One: Acceptance
Concealing Fate, Part Two: 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.