Fans from all around the world logged on this past Saturday, December 12th to bear witness to the launch of Portals. Amos Williams, bassist and backing vocalist for TesseracT, is credited to the concept and design of the project. 2020 has caused artists to push outside the bonds of the typical play and promote model; who better to explore those limits than progressive metal band TesseracT, known as a pioneer of the djent movement.
Portals took the livestream performance idea and pushed it further. An hour prior to the actual launch was a live Q&A pre-show with the band members. Also included beforehand was a behind the scenes video of production and filming. Fans from around the world gathered in a live chat room getting a rare glimpse behind the curtain. A global fanbase was able to feel connected during a global pandemic, through the dedication of TesseracT and their team.
The live chat box allowed fans from all over the world to share their thoughts on the experience with each other in real time. You were able to express deeper thoughts than just the “woos,” raised horns and head banging of a concert hall. You might not have had the intimacy of being sardines in a small can, vibrating to the sound; but you were still in the loving embrace of family.
The actual performance and cutscenes were filmed a few weeks prior at Lite Up Studios in the United Kingdom. The cutscenes set the tone and created pacing for Portals. An ethereal woman stands in the shadow of a large portal, as the scene fades to black the band appears with the same portal behind their stage. Beginnings. TesseracT dives into fan favorites off their 2013 album Altered State. At the time of Altered State‘s release, Ashe O’Hara was lead vocalist, Daniel Tompkins is back at the helm. The live fan chat exploded with praise of Tompkins for making the songs his own and clamoring for a future duet between the two vocalists. Then in a complete 180* TesseracT lays into the single “King” off their 2018 album, Sonder.
The ethereal woman greats us again as she acknowledges the journey we are all on, headlong into the unknown, all and everything at once. “Acceptance” and “Deception” bring it in for a hair raising, goosebump riddled good time with sick breakdowns and complex, intriguing time signatures. The section finishes with “Tourniquet” off the 2016 album Polaris.
Far above Earth we are now face to face with a young boy. Traveler, choose your way. The haunting opening of “Beneath My Skin” launches the third segment. Followed up by the equally compelling “Mirror Image.” TesseracT creates atmosphere just as much as they create music. This is solidified in the experience of “Orbital.” Fan favorite “Juno” then lays on the heavy intro that gives way to a lighter, high energy sound. A blazing celestial body burns brightly in the portal behind the band.
Always in motion, the next section of Portals begins. “Cages” takes the humble guitar and builds luxurious layers of sound. TesseracT builds worlds within their music. “Phoenix” displays more of Tompkins’ vocal range as he creates sound that could make angels weep. The gritty, yet crisp ending to “Nocturne” leaves you begging. Mike Malyan slays. No, he isn’t the usual face you see behind the kit; TesseracT drummer, Jay Postones, was unable to join Portals due to covid-19 travel restrictions. Malyan, of Monuments, shocked fans by how well he approached such complex music.
The final cutscene leaves much to the imagination; Ouroboros, the ancient depiction of a serpent (or dragon) eating it’s own tail. Ouroboros is a symbol of life, death and rebirth. During the initial release of Portals there were unfortunate technical difficulties that caused a complete blackout of the performance during the build up in “Singularity.” Did all of our constant fandom in the chat break the internet? Maybe. #notanITperson
After a brief recess the entirety of Portals was available for replay for ticket holders. TesseracT graciously extended the replay period of the original 72 hours until December 18th. Ticket holders can stream the performance unlimited times and catch replay of the pre-show extras. Fans can even take a Personality Test to match them to the perfect limited edition merch bundle. No long waits in the merch line? An introvert could get use to this set up. I interviewed TesseracT and they confirmed Portals and other streams are not going to replace live shows. Creative displays such as this are supplemental and a flex of collective artistry.
Portals is an immersive experience with crisp sound, multiple camera angles and lasers. Yep, move over Pink Floyd, this is laser show 2.0 from Tom Campbell and his lighting team. Dynamic geometric designs give way to bars that seems to create cages that highlight each player. Portals uses color to enhance the intended mood of each section. As the credits roll to a stop, TesseracT takes the time to thank the ones that “made it this far,” along with this message of hope.
“2020 has been disruptive and tragic for everyone worldwide. We hope this display of our joy of performance encourages and enthuses you in the knowledge that things will return. Perhaps not to what they were, but they will return.”
You can check out our interview with Amos William of TesseracT here: