TesseracT

support Between The Buried And Me + Plini
author AP date 15/11/18 venue Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN

As I enter the jampacked upstairs hall at Pumpehuset for the fourth time in less than a week, it strikes me that I should probably have pitched up a tent and camped it out outside to save time on cycling back and forth between the venue and my apartment. But although a busy concert schedule can be exhausting, that is the last thing on my mind tonight, as this triple feature has been one of the most anticipated shows of 2018 for me ever since it was announced more than six months ago. Progressive metal is to be explored from three different angles, beginning with a new acquaintance in Plini, who has traveled across the world from from Sydney, Australia to carry out the warm-up duties on this tour.

All photos courtesy of Lykke Nielsen

Plini

Although the term ‘jazz-metal’ has been used to describe bands like Meshuggah in the past, Plini is the first artist who I feel really captures the essence of it. Not only does his music, which is brought to life by a three-piece session band, have a freeform and, at times, improvisational quality about it, it also has that very distinct jazz groove in the rhythm section, with the drummer seldom kicking his bass drum or striking his snare drum when you would expect him to. Similarly, here and there the bassist seems to veer off on a tangent, playing a completely different song than the rest of the outfit for a bit, only to return from it just in time to tie it all together. Indeed, Plini’s music is quite intoxicating to listen to, and very impressive to watch played in front of you. But alas, just as quickly as the opening track, “Cascade” off 2016’s “Handmade Cities” LP, casts its spell upon us, as swiftly do the proceedings grind to a halt as the righthand guitarist snaps one or several strings (should have opted for the headless guitar like Plini, huh?).

Plini’s banter during the downtime is both charming and amusing, helping to maintain a congenial atmosphere, but the band still has trouble returning from the rut — especially as the drumkit then proceeds to fail during the following “Kind” (taken from this year’s “Sunhead” EP), resulting in yet another period of quiet lasting several minutes. Due to these difficulties, Plini is obviously forced to cut his set short. Yet while the failing technology obviously has an impact on my overall impression of the concert, he and his cohorts finish it off stylishly with “Flâneur” and “Paper Moon” (the latter off 2015’s “The End of Everything” LP), at the very least giving us a glimpse of the immense talent packed into the quartet. Indeed, although Plini may be the main figure in this constellation, both of these songs have been designed in such a manner as to provide each musician with his own moment in which to show off, and yet none of it ever strikes me as ‘wankery’. No, the music of Plini is elegant and surprisingly subtle, given its avantgarde and progressive style — and certainly something I’d like to delve more into by way of a longer headlining concert. Until next time, then.

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Between The Buried And Me

I have always felt that Between the Buried and Me is completely unsuited for a supporting role. Given the length and complexity of the Raleigh, NC-born progressive metal crew’s material, it usually takes some time before they can reach a symbiosis with their audience, as most people’s initial reaction to a song like “The Proverbial Bellow”, which opens the band’s set tonight, tends to be one of sheer bafflement. But when the songs reach their climax, or when they collapse into one of the plethora of quirky breaks hidden in the midst of the music, or when lead guitarist Paul Waggoner compels your jaw to the floor with one of his ripping solos — that is the moment one’s captivation with this singular band starts. As usual, it takes some time for the sound engineer on duty to fully comprehend the magnitude of the task at hand, leaving vocalist Tommy Rogers Jr.’s singing quite weak in the mix at first. But as the minutes tick in, and in particular when “Millions” (off “Automata I” — the first part of a double-opus the band has released this year) is aired, there is no longer anything standing in between the chills that his singing gives rise to at its most scintillating, and the spines of the audience.

The nature of BTBAM’s music dictates that displays of physical exertion remain at a minimum during the set, with bassist Dan Briggs responsible for most of the rocking out from his position behind rhythm guitarist Dustie Waring on the left. But when the likes of “The Coma Machine” (off 2015’s “Coma Ecliptic”) and “Sun of Nothing” (taken from the band’s 2007 masterpiece, “Colors”) are played, the raw energy that exists in the more grinding, death metal-inspired moments does also rub itself onto Rogers Jr., who then erupts from behind his keyboard with a savagery that makes a mockery of his smallish stature. But while these explosive elements do contribute something to the BTBAM live experience, it is first and foremost the wonder that you feel when the band really nails one of their more daring and playful exploits like the psychotic “Voice of Trespass” (taken from “Automata II”) that makes them such a revelation. Likely no other band would even think to mix Motörhead-esque rock’n’roll with segments of lounge jazz and grindcore, yet oddly, that combination works so well when stitched together with the artistry that this quintet possesses. Granted, BTBAM really do need a two-to-three-hour headlining slot in order to really do their work justice, but even just 50 minutes like tonight suffice to maintain their reputation as one of the most forward-thinking bands of their generation.

8

TesseracT

I must confess: despite falling head over heels for the first two records from TesseracT — 2011’s ”One” and 2013’s “Altered State”, my interest in the band has been on the wane lately. One of the reasons is that the Milton Keynes-born djentlemen failed to keep innovating on their sound on their next two albums as far as I was concerned. Don’t get me wrong — the quintet still produces some of the best seven-string-studded metal around, the combination of slick grooves and dissonance with overt pop sensibilities setting the group far apart from most of their peers. But as both 2015’s “Polaris” and “Sonder” from earlier this year went onto show, the magic that made those first records such revelations exists in a more limited supply now. In fact, during the concert tonight, there is a period exactly in the middle of the set that sees four tracks off “Polaris” aired in quick succession, and if I’m honest, it is almost impossible to tell the difference between them, let alone find any truly transcendental moments in them. And while these are the only four tracks to represent that record on the setlist tonight, the trend continues into airings of material off “Sonder” — though at least those tracks are more evenly spread out across the 14 tracks played. You bob your head and throw those weird dance moves that only a solid djent riff can inspire at songs like “Juno”, but there is also hint of boredom creeping in between the initial and final thirds of the show, where the real treasures are hidden.

Under ordinary circumstances, the concert would go down as a pretty average one because of this, but the light show that accompanies it is too breathtaking to stoop that low. Not only do the hues seem to follow the tone of the music (red and purple hues for the heavier and more brutal parts, aquamarine and blue for the atmospheric, and pink and yellow for the poppy), custom rigs of bright circular lights twist and turn in the background to transform the five musicians into inhuman-looking silhouettes, their movements slow and deliberate, the banging of their heads intense and urgent. It looks f**king spectacular, and when the magical moments eventually do arrive with the likes of “Of Matter - Proxy” and “Of Matter - Retrospect”, as well as of course my personal favourite at the very end, “Concealing Fate, Part 1: Acceptance”, everything falls into place and the TesseracT I know and grew to love materialises. Although not quite as meticulously choreographed, this visual aesthetic strongly reminds me of Meshuggah, fusing together light, sound and a mysterious atmosphere into a hypnotising whole. But as you can imagine, when the music backing all of this suffers both from a lack of consistency and from periods of monotony, my overall thoughts and feelings about the show are nonetheless rendered ambivalent. By the looks of it, my thoughts and feelings are not shared by the vast majority of people attending here, however, with most of the audience looking to be having a field day moshing and singing along to all their favourites, new as well as old. And as such, I have to concede that while the show is a far cry from the mind-altering experiences that I have had as recently as last month, in terms of their performance TesseracT hardly set a foot wrong tonight.

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Setlist:

  • 01. Luminary
  • 02. Of Mind - Nocturne
  • 03. Concealing Fate, Part 2: Deception
  • 04. Concealing Fate, Part 3: The Impossible
  • 05. Survival
  • 06. Dystopia
  • 07. Hexes
  • 08. Phoenix
  • 09. Juno
  • 10. Smile
  • 11. Of Matter - Proxy
  • 12. Of Matter - Retrospect
  • 13. King
  • 14. Concealing Fate, Part 1: Acceptance

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