GIG REVIEW: TesseracT, Plini & Astronoid Live at The Granada, Lawrence, KS
British progressive metal giants TesseracT recently released their amazing new album, Sonder, on a worldwide scale. Sonder marks as their fourth full length work, the third out of the four albums to feature Daniel Tompkins on vocals. The band decided to tour in support of this new record in the US, starting one day before the release date. I was lucky enough to catch one of the last few shows of the tour in Lawrence, KS, a college town outside of Kansas City that contains one of the bigger venues in the area, The Granada. This was also the first time that I attended a show comprised of progressive metal bands, a little off the norm considering I mostly attend rock shows and metal shows in the veins of death, thrash, and the black sub-genres. I wasn’t sure what to expect.
The show began at around 7 p.m., with Astronoid taking the stage. I hadn’t had the chance to listen to any of their music prior to the show and I want to beat myself over the head for not doing so sooner. One of the descriptors that I found for their sound was “dream thrash”, which isn’t too far from the truth. While progressive in nature, they did bring about a thrash influence and even introducing, at times, some black metal-esque riffage to the front. The vocal style was also surprising, keeping it crisp and clean throughout the entire set, setting a deep contrast to the instrumental portion. Astronoid were energetic in their playing, with the guitarists jumping around from time to time and the drummer obliterating through every track. Every moment was mesmerizing, with people in the crowd taking it all in. Even in the heavy moments, the crowd just stood in awe, with only a few really banging their heads and getting into it. I didn’t think that there would be much moshing at a prog show, but it was completely nonexistent here. The night was off to a great start.
After Astronoid, Plini took to the stage. They play progressive instrumental metal, along the lines of Animals as Leaders but a little less technical and more “dreamy”. Dreamy is used as a descriptor here as a lot of the riffs are technical in nature but are given more freedom, so to speak, to evolve into grander ideas. I was familiar with Plini beforehand but seeing the music being played is just a whole other world to what is heard on CD or mp3. Plini Roessler-Holgate, the mastermind behind the project, spoke after a few songs, coming off as very gentle and soft. This wasn’t too surprising, considering the music he creates. The crowd was very much into his bands set, even asking for an encore at the end, although it didn’t go their way. I’d never witnessed a fully instrumental metal band in person before and keep my attention for the full duration. It’s just a whole other sight to behold.
Taking the stage after Plini, the progressive metal titans themselves, TesseracT, finally took the stage and immediately blew me away. Their style is more reliant on the bass more than other bands. This held true, as every single note resonated through one’s body throughout their entire set. This was then accentuated by Daniel Tompkins beautifully laden vocals that carried throughout every track, sometimes shaken up by his more aggressive tone and Amos Williams destructive growls. Dreamy riffs and choruses filled up The Granada through Acle Kahney and James Monteith’s guitar work. Jay Postones topped it all off with his precise drumming skills, further emphasizing TesseracT’s already explosive oomph. It was unlike anything I had ever seen at a show, with everyone solely focused on the musicians in those moments. You could feel an overwhelming amount of pressure from the band with every note they played. Every moment you were on the “edge of your seat” so to speak, wondering what else they could pull off. They played tracks from every album, especially Sonder. “King” and “Smile” were definite favorites, as the audience sang along. A few were even pointed out by Daniel, as he made sure to grasp the hands of the fans during their stage time. Those moments hit it home, as you don’t see musicians taking that step or time to get that close to fans while performing. I’d been a fan of the band for a few years now, but this sealed the deal for me.
I’m hoping TesseracT makes many more rounds in the US in the future. Having witnessed this tour firsthand, I can say it was one of the most genuine and enlightening experiences I’ve had. Each band had their own unique personality to bring to the table while fitting in with the overall theme of progressive music. This tour package brought the best of all worlds; excellent musicianship, outstanding sound, and genuine personality. I’d have to say that these bands are among the top 10 of my list of favorite bands to watch in a live setting. Hell, maybe even the top 5. If you can catch the remaining days of the tour, then you should. I’m hoping that the support I’ve seen so far will bring TesseracT back to the states, with even more supports and hopefully bigger spots in the US scene.