Posts Tagged ‘Brudenell’

Christopher Nosnibor

Having only recently found TesseracT on my radar through their latest album, Polaris, which is vast in its ambition and the scope of its realisation, I arrived with no real knowledge of their back catalogue, or what to expect from a live show. I realise, on arriving well after doors to find a queue halfway down the Brudenell’s car park on a soggy Sunday night, I’d also no real idea of their popularity.

The crowd are unexpectedly hip; lots of dudes with beards and plaid shirt, but then, also multitudinous hoodies and gothy / metal chicks. I’m 40 and very much in the older minority – along with the guy in the Europe T-shirt, who must have at least 10 years and 5 stone on me. I say unexpectedly, because the meaning of the band’s name perhaps gives a fair indication of what the Milton Keynes quintet are about, and their progressive / mathematical inclinations: ‘In geometry, the tesseract is the four-dimensional analog of the cube; the tesseract is to the cube as the cube is to the square. Just as the surface of the cube consists of six square faces, the hypersurface of the tesseract consists of eight cubical cells. The tesseract is one of the six convex regular 4-polytopes.’

Is prog cool now? The one thing to be clear on here is that progressive rock has, in fact, progressed. The new breed – the neo-prog brigade, if you will – are a world away from the indulgence of the likes of Yes, ELP, early Genesis. Tonight’s lineup places the emphasis very strongly on the rock element, and it’s perhaps too not difficult to unravel the appeal of music that’s cerebral and articulate, but packs a real punch at the same time.

I only catch a fleeting glimpse of Nordic Giants, but it’s enough to remind me of what a spellbinding live act they are. Resonant bass and rolling piano fill the room while the feathered duo play before a backdrop of dramatic visuals which accentuate the cinematic qualities of their expansive progressive / post-rock instrumentals.

I usually do a spot of research into the support acts prior to turning up to review bands, but The Contortionist are a completely unknown quantity to me – and I’m clearly in the minority. But then, the fact a band from Indianapolis of some considerable standing are supporting a UK band around Europe is in itself quite a deal. And they’re certainly not slack as a live act.


The Contortionist

While they’re very much a technical band, with intricate guitar parts defining their sound, they’re paired with a thunderous bass sound that’s pure metal – and corresponds with the preponderance of beards and leather jackets on display. When they go for the heavy, The Contortionist do heavy, and there are many epic chug sections propelled by some powerful double-stroke kick drumming during the course of their 45-minute set. As impressive as the music is, I’m also impressed by vocalist Mike Lessard’s vascular arms. At times, it does feel a shade pompous and that there’s a lack of engagement between band and audience, but I don’t see any of those pressed into the front rows complaining.

Some may argue that TesseracT aren’t so much a prog act as exponents of djent, or at least exemplars of the bands who emerged from the microgenre which itself grew out of progressive metal in the wake of bands like Meshuggah and Sikth. The point is, it’s heavily technical, and yes, a bit muso – the stage is cluttered with eight-string guitars and five and six-string basses, which are used to create some of the most bewilderingly complex music, both in terms of notation and time signatures, not to mention the tempo changes and dynamic leaps between the multiple sections of each song. But they sure as hell know how to let rip in the riffage stakes, too.



Benefiting from a big lighting rig to illuminate their vast arena sound, they perform like an arena band, and pull out all the stops. Daniel Tompkins’ return to the fold has clearly had an impact on both the sound and the style of the performance: he spends the set at the front, leaning over the crowd and projecting, while switching effortlessly between thick, throaty vocals and a clean, melodic range. They manage to lift a fair chunk of their debut album, while also fairly representing both Altered State and Polaris – as you might expect from a set that runs for around an hour and a half, and much to the delight of the packed-out audience.



Again, there are times when I feel the rock posturing actually builds a significant separation between band and audience, who standm rapt, as Tompkins postures and powers his way through the songs. But then, I see just how happy everyone is. It may be a 450-capacity venue, but it feels like an arena show. TesseracT play like they’re rock deities, and the audience respond in kind. And that’s cool. Certain bands require a degree of inaccessibility, of otherness to really work, and that’s very much the case with TesseracT. They’re a band with big ideas, a big sound, a big lighting rig and some big tunes, and they pull the whole deal off with aplomb.


20th November 2015

Christopher Nosnibor

As the press release reminds me, from around 2005 – 2010, ‘Leeds had one of the most vibrant DIY hardcore/metal scenes in the UK with Humanfly, Chickenhawk, Whores Whores Whores, Narcosis, Year of the Man, The Plight, Red Stars Parade, Bilge Pump, Gentleman’s Pistols and Send More Paramedics playing week in, week out alongside regular visitors to the city such as Bossk, Taint and Manatees.’

I saw a fair few of these bands: in fact, one of the first gigs I attended in Leeds, and my first trip to the Brudenell, was Whitehouse, supported by Broken Bone (who were shit) and Whores Whores Whores (who were incredible). While bands like Kaiser Chiefs and I Like Trains have garnered broader popularity due to their greater accessibility in commercial terms, the likes of Blacklisters are in many ways more representative of the seething fury that bubbles like molten lava at the heart of the contemporary Leeds scene.

The majority of the 2005-2010 acts are now long extinct, many have gone on to form newer bands creating a whole host of exciting new heavy music – the success of Chickenhawk since they rebranded as Hawk Eyes has been remarkable, and thoroughly deserved. One of the bands to have emerged from this period of effervescence is False Flags, formed out of the ashes of Red Stars Parade, Whores x 3 and Year of the Man. Hexmachine is their self-released debut mii-album.

That it is self-released is significant: the post-millennium Leeds scene has very much been about the DIY ethos, and also about the noise. Hexmachine is unaplogetically brutal, blending dizzying math-rock elements with bludgeoning power-chords and monster riffage to cook up an angular, violent metal-edged stew.

It’s not completely po-faced or built on endless rage and angst: ‘Pet Wolf’ is about frontman Jenko’s Chihuahuas, and elsewhere, ‘Phone My Wallet’ stokes a ferocious inferno about 21s Century problems. But rather than undermine the band’s premise, these details only add to their appeal: the topics are relatable, and the delivery is relentlessly visceral. The anger is explosive and sends flares in all directions. The delivery, and production, is immediate, raw, and in your face – and that’s exactly as it should be.

False Flags