Who: Tesseract + Heart in Hand
When: 26th October, 2012
Where: Voodoo Rock, London
A venue I’m ashamed to say it took me so long to discover; once again I’m on the tour trail, this time for the infamous voodoo Halloween party; a venue where “every woman uses it as an excuse to get their tits out;” where there’s a barbecue, a cinema, a tank outside, sexy cage dancers, three floors of metal mayhem, a ball pit, cheap booze, shared bathrooms – I know what you’re thinking, but all that really happens is you hear a lot more women bitching – and on this particular night, the debut short headlining tour with Tesseract’s new vocalist. So naturally I donned my samurai outfit, and between drunken sparring matches with another samurai and a Roman, ogling my partner who needed very little convincing to jump in a cage, and being knighted by a group of Polish Black Metal fans, I made my way for the festivities. And the boobs. Love boobs.
Heart in Hand
Well hello again. I do believe I’ve panned you once already, but go on, everybody is worth a second shot, it could easily have just been a singular bad performance, and as mentioned the volume issues betrayed the fact there might be something more to them. Well, you thought I was harsh before? Sober? Well now I’m not, and I have gained an appreciation for your vocalist. Not because he’s good, hell no – no vocalist who doesn’t know what ‘pitch variation’ is can ever be classified as that – nor because he reminds me slightly of someone else I know (though I blame the tattoos for that). No, because without him you would be boring as hell. The rest of you might as well be his backing band. No you weren’t as loud this time, even the dubstep interludes being oddly louder, but every song sounded the same. That element I noted before that suggested more than meets the eye? Didn’t hear it this time. Perhaps it was simply the song choices, listening to them recorded I can note the atmospheric guitar work but here it was just filled with generic chugging. The mosh pit looked bored. When does a pit look bored? Downplaying everything that might make them stand out, once again they’ve displayed a very mediocre and unremarkable performance.
For those who haven’t been following this break-out band, they’ve found themselves with more than their fair share of vocalist troubles. Following the departure of their first, Dan Tompkins, fans cast a shroud of doubt over their ability to find a replacement, eventually emerging in the form of Eliot Coleman. I was amongst one of those few who seemed to defend their choice; he couldn’t quite reach the soaring high notes but he had other qualities; his incredible on-stage presence and his melancholic and soothing emotional lines, contrasted by an intense rasp that their last would have had greater trouble to accomplish. The possibilities for a renewed Tesseract sound, creating music more suited to his vocal style was one that felt great, but alas, is to go on untested. In June of this year, his departure was announced, the difficulties in working across countries taking it’s toll, and it was only a month ago that a replacement was finally announced in Ashe O’Hara.
Now credit must be given where it’s due; the rest of the band have by this point learnt their parts so well that they can perform without really trying, and whilst at times that ease of performing showed and perhaps the energy felt it could have been higher, they never missed a beat. Ashe, too, has succeeded in learning all the lines left to him in the wake of two strong vocalist’s and his resultant lack of energy can in some way be attributed to both inexperience and a lack of practice of the material, but as it stands the future of Tesseract very much has me worried. His movement was confined almost entirely to occasionally cocking his head back for a sustained note, spending much of his time looking rather awkward on stage, almost as though he shouldn’t be there, and his vocal abilities feel a questionable fit.
Rather than look for a vocalist on their own merits and abilities – as I felt they had done with Coleman – they’ve spent their time trying to discover “Dan Tompkins: Part Two;” they’ve looked for someone to imitate their first front-man, and that’s always to be a worry. For one thing, I don’t think he’s capable of really adding a sense of rasp to his vocal lines, simply being a style he’s uncomfortable with – anyone hoping to catch a good performance of “Eden” may have missed their chance – but that’s not to say he doesn’t have his own qualities. His ability to perform gentle melodies a match for Coleman’s lines, perhaps only short on emotion in his present form, and capable of sustaining those soaring notes that seems perhaps only bested by Tompkins before him – no easy feat at all – but they never convey that same sense of power or emotion. It’s that much more gentle and feels just as suited to pop/rock as it does Tesseract, and a pop direction is the last road I want this particular band to be walking down. Ashe is a competent vocalist, I’m not questioning that, but his particular style of performing and lack of stage presence has me for the first time genuinely worried about this bands future.
All slightly dodgy photography by Thomas Bawden.
About the Author
Position: Reviewer, Ranter, Reluctant Co-Editor
Location: London, England
Genre Preferences: Progressive, Avant-Garde, Experimental, Technical, Djent, Trad, Black
Favourite Artists: Adagio, Anthem, Baroness, Chthonic, Death Angel, Decadence, Fjoergyn, Gargoyle (Jpn), Haken, Kalevala, Leprous, Lucifugum, Pin-Up Went Down, Plus-Tech Squeeze Box, Project Hate MCMXCIX, Redemption, Sigh, Sikth, Tesseract, Thy Catafalque, Von Hertzen Brothers, Zigoku Quartet
Having held an internet presence using this alias for over a decade now, odds are if you've come across the name in the past it was myself. As for my musical history I suppose it's appropriate to say I arrived on my obsession backwards, for years holding little more than disdain and derision for a genre so seemingly obsessed with pointless brutality over composition; the likes of Deftones, Korn and Slipknot that serves as an introduction for so many flooding my musical palette, deterring my interests and yielding my only interpretation of what the genre involved. Ironically, it was Cannibal Corpse's “Vile” that first corrected me; played at high volume at a youth club by an elder metal fan angrily pushing the bleeding ears of the Green Day fans away from the stereo. I left that day clutching borrowed copies of Children of Bodom's “Hatebreeder,” the aforementioned Cannibal Corpse album, Metallica's “Cunning Stunts” on VHS and a whole new musical interest.
Arriving at a number of forums, I soaked up knowledge like a sponge, progressing through the stages of opinionated idiot to an arrogant elitist on a crusade before finally calming down, chronicling the last four years of my journey of discovery with self-published reviews. In the decade since my initial discovery, my tastes have mellowed and expanded to encompass most of the metal genre and beyond, constantly in search of something new and exciting, always seeking to expand my own musical knowledge. Black Metal with a Didgeridoo? Death Metal Disco? Trance Metal? Sign me up. I also have a strange obsession regarding the music of Asia, but I can't explain that one.
I have long since devoted far too much of my time writing - much to the amusement of my family who note the science-obsessed child now does far more writing than the English Lit. student - and have been self-publishing reviews since 2008; archives of music reviews can be found here and Film can be found here, though since joining Axis both have largely become defunct. I'm a keen globetrotter and, too, document my travels here, on an old blog originally designed to publish a novel that was abandoned due to time constraints.