Tesseract / Animals as Leaders – The Talking Heads, Southampton – 03/11/2014

Crammed as tight as canned sardines, people forgot about the cold and miserable weather outside. They intended to generate a lot of heat and energy at tonight’s sell-out show in Southampton’s 260 capacity venue ‘The Talking Heads’.

The night kicked off to an impressive start as Navene Koperweis – the former Animals as Leaders drummer / producer, forged through his set comprised of a mix of backing tracks that varied in style and genre. Although it mainly focused on electronica/dance beats, Navene seamlessly switched between lashing and smashing the hell out of a drum kit to playing complex and heavy prog–riffs. The effect was magnetic; pulling people to the stage as they filled the venue, where they stood banging their heads with beatific smiles on their faces. This is the first time Navene has played his solo instrumental material in England, and I can say without a doubt that the fans loved every second and i’m sure they would happily welcome him back.

Animals As Leaders
Animals As Leaders

It’s been two years since Animals as Leaders last played in the UK, and the crowd fell silent as the band took to the stage next. The palpable, underlying anticipation soared and the crowd stood awestruck as Animals as Leaders broke into their opening number and then continued to treat the crowd to a technical wizard master-class and mesmerising performance.

If you’ve seen Animals as Leaders live before you know exactly what to expect from these guys and for those of you who haven’t, it’s basically an hour (plus) of continuously insane ‘djent’ – ‘prog’ riffs and beautiful melodies combined with machine-like drumming, ear-splitting guitar solos and other intricate stuff… I mean literally continuous – these guys rarely talk between songs. The three musicians went through their set transitioning from technical metal, to a march-inducing steady chug, to pure jazz, with such ease that it seemed like child’s play to them. Not quite so easy for the crowd though, as their mix of excitement, awe and jaw-dropping appreciation disrupted any attempt to synchronise head-banging and body movements with the band’s complex riffs and grooves.

Technical wizards Tosin Abasi and Javier Reyes played their eight string guitars with complete ease, focusing on the low rhythmical growls of the instrument, and as the band broke into songs such “Woven Web” and end track, “Cafo” the crowd broke its stillness and erupted. All too soon, the band finished up and left the stage leaving a stunned crowd trying to make sense of what they had just witnessed but still hungry for the oncoming onslaught.


They weren’t disappointed. Headliners Tesseract took over the stage with so much energy the crowd didn’t quite know what to do with themselves. The venue almost burst at the seams as bodies collided and heads swivelled at improbable angles. Not to mention that after a three year departure, vocalist Daniel Tompkins re-joined the band earlier this year and as he took the stage with his fellow members, the crowd instantly welcomed him back with open arms.

Dan’s vocals have improved over the years – they were incredible before but now he can hit any note. His vocals are expressive, smooth and pitch perfect, with a range so high that “progressive whale-song metal” seems a more appropriate genre label. The crowd pleasers of the night were numbers such as “Nocturne”, which featured heavy, chuggy guitar riffs and intricate, hypnotic melodies. Amos William’s deep bass work, delivered the underlying groove while that precise ‘head banging’ drum beat was tirelessly performed by Jay Postones. “Resist”, containing rib-pummelling energy and power, and “Origin” (the ‘whale’ song), also went down well.

The crowd seemed mesmerised, yet unable to wield any synaptic control between the music and body movements: their energy filled every crevice and the fans never stopped moving. Tesseract’s entire set list went down a treat but songs such as “April”, “Deception” (Concealing Fate Part.2) and “The Impossible” (Concealing Fate Part.3) were my personal favourites of the night and it seemed to be the crowds’ too.

Before the band finished Dan thanked the fans for welcoming him back and paid respect to former vocalist Ashe O’Hara. His final words “Daddy Daniel says enjoy your life” were taken literally as Tesseract gave the crowd one last face-smashing track with, “Acceptance.” The finale encouraged a synchronised mass of head-banging and a good ol’mosh, leaving the fans happy and sweaty. Tesseract is definitely a band that must be seen live.

[flickrapi user=”planet mosh” get=”photoset” id=”72157648804691548″ size=”z” count=”100″]

In a nutshell, all this made for one fucking brutal show and the soul pummelling line -up delivered the goods. If you have a ticket for this tour then prepare yourself and if not well what are you doing? Go hunt one down!

About Ella McClary

Music/gig/festival fanatic.. \m/