Release date: May 19, 2015
There is no bigger fan of Tesseract's Altered State album than me. I saw the band twice after that album's release in 2013 – once that fall in Brooklyn, and once the next year in Manhattan just prior to vocalist Ashe O'Hara’s departure – and to say I immensely enjoyed both shows is an understatement. The energy coming from both the band and crowd was insane. Needless to say, I was eager to relive some of the tour's magic – and that's where this live CD/DVD, Odyssey/Scala, comes into play. It's the band's first live audio/video release.
As much as I looked forward to the album, I admit I was ready for a letdown for two reasons: 1) O'Hara, who had captivated me on Altered State, doesn't perform on this album as Daniel Tompkins has resumed his role as vocalist; 2) Century Media Records released a video clip, "Concealing Fate (Parts 2 and 3)," a month earlier on YouTube, and I found the editing to be rapid and disorienting. But I approached the release with an open mind. The DVD kicks off with the silhouette of band members as they take the dark stage at Scala, a night club and music venue in London where the footage was filmed on Nov. 6, 2014. And within seconds, the band explodes with an unexpected, yet awesome, opener: "Singularity." The band just continues to rip through their technically-complex catalog from there with surgical precision.
The past two years have been an important time for Tesseract with their popularity beginning to skyrocket due to the success of Altered State, which was nominated for Prog magazine's 2013 Album of the Year. This live CD/DVD captures the lineup in the midst of that upswing. It's akin to Dream Theater's "Live in Tokyo" VHS in 1993. You're seeing one of the next big progressive metal bands in their element after their breakthrough album. You're seeing the hunger of a young band, a crowd's passion for that band's innovative sound, and the band's desire to blow the balls off of everyone watching. It's something that can't be recaptured a few years from now. This is the moment. And Tesseract bottles it perfectly with Scala.
Yes, the editing is a little quick at times, but it's not as bad as I thought upon watching the clip online. In fact, I liked the camera angles. I felt like I'd viewed the show from every nook and cranny of Scala. One moment you're practically on top of the drum kit of Jay Postones, the next you're right alongside the fast fingers of guitarist Acle Kahney, then you're getting a glimpse of the bare feet of bassist Amos Williams. I also liked the high number of audience shots. Some concert videos often overlook the fans, which can give a sterile vibe. But not here. This captured the head banging, crowd surfing, and fist pumping of all in attendance.
My only complaints are the omission of "Exiled" and Tompkins' occasional use of falsetto on Altered State tracks in spots where O'Hara belted them at full strength. As an Altered State junkie, that's a no-no for me. But it seemed like it was only a stylistic choice by Tompkins, who showed in other tunes that he can hit high notes with the very best of them. He'd also performed with the theatrics and emotion of Geoff Tate, which is right up my alley. While I prefer O'Hara's voice, there's no doubt that Tompkins has a more polished stage presence.
The live CD is also just as on-point as the DVD. The band sounds terrific and you can even hear the crowd chant "one more song" at the end of the disc, which includes an assortment of performances throughout Europe and Russia in 2014. The album's digipak even features one particularly silly picture of the band all sitting on rocking chairs on a store's front porch. They're all straight-faced except for Postones, who is clutching a giant lollipop and smiling widely. It shows a refreshingly funny side of a band that makes some very serious music.
In closing, Odyssey/Scala is a must-have for any Tesseract fan. But, of course, what really matters is whether the band can continue their upswing on their next album later this year. It's going to be hard to top Altered State, but this band has the talent to achieve anything.
- Michael R. Ebert (progzombie.blogspot.com)