English Progressive Metal Band, TesseracT, aired Portals: A Cinematic Live Performance, on December 12th, 2020. This was a two-hour taped live performance streamed on-line. The band’s performance was broken up into five acts with a cinematic narrative preceding each act.
TesseracT was formed in 2003 and is comprised of Daniel Tompkins (lead vocals), Alec “Acle” Kahney (lead guitar and producer), James Monteith (rhythm guitar), Amos Williams (bass, backing vocals), and Jay Postones (drums, percussion). The band is known for playing a subgenre of progressive metal known as djent which is a high-gain, distorted, palm-muted, low-pitch guitar sound. They use open guitar tunings and polyrhythmic riffs with multiple layers. The band has released four studio albums: One, Altered State, Polaris, and Sonder, as well as a live album, Odyssey/Scala, and the extended plays Concealing Fate, Perspective and Errai.
TesseracT is one of the few major bands that maintain control of their music. They write, produce, and engineer / edit all their songs. Portals was the brainchild of Williams, who produced the show. He explained more about the event and the concept behind it, saying, “P O R T A L S is a celebration of our love of performing. Each act is a still from an ever-evolving musical personality. Each song is the conversation you have with old friends when you meet up for the first time in ages and you pick up exactly where you left off. This year has presented us all with an unusual set of barriers to surmount. The limitations of not being able to tour and the absence of shows has focused us towards the concept of creating the ultimate tour production, within the ultimate TesseracT show. Where we explore every facet of our music, and every story we have told, and in doing so create new stories and in some cases commit evolved versions to a medium that will outlast the moment.”
The Portals project was a three-month endeavor. It was shot at Liteup Studios in Fareham, England over two days, with the live performance taking place on one day and the narratives on the next day. The band performed on a large stage with a massive video screen in the background. Six cameras linked to six separate computers were used to film the show.
Drummer Jay Postones decided not to participate in the project. He resides in Austin, Texas and determined the risk of traveling to the UK for the event was too great due to Covid-19. Mike Maylan from Monument was picked to replace Postones for the show. The band stated that one of the biggest challenges was that Maylan only had five weeks to learn all the songs for the show.
A fifty-minute Q&A session took place just prior to the broadcast with the band answering questions submitted by fans. The band members participated via video conferencing in this pre-show event. Postones, while not performing in the live performance, led the Q&A from his home in Texas.
The first act, BEGINNINGS, opened with a narrative which featured Izzi Welling as GAIA, wearing blue paint across her eyes and nose, kneeling and then standing, staring into the Portal. It then transitioned to the band performing on stage with the Portal showing on the video screen behind the band. They opened with “Of Matter – Proxy” followed by “Of Matter – Respect”, “Of Matter – Resist”, and “King”. The band members remained relatively stationary, but an amazing display of blue laser lights provided a sense of movement.
The second act, ALL AND EVERYWHERE AT ONCE, opened with Welling, silently speaking a narrative which appeared across the bottom of the screen in subtitles. “We are everywhere and nowhere, hanging on for dear life, as we hurtle through the dark, our only truth is that we are on a journey, sprinting with all our might, away from the unfathomable, headlong into the unknown”. Her face paint had changed from blue to red. There were two clones of her in the background mimicking her actions. The band performed “Acceptance – Concealing Fate, Part 1”, “Deception – Concealing Fate, Part 2”, “The Impossible – Concealing Fate, Part 3”, and “Tourniquet”. The laser lights changed to red for this segment.
The third act, TRAVELLER CHOOSE YOUR WAY, introduced a new character, Jack Tompkins as The Boy (Youngest). It opened with him sitting and facing away from the Portal. He rises and turns to face the Portal which is displaying an image of the Earth viewed from Space. The band performed their songs “Beneath My Skin / Mirror Image”, “Orbital”, and “Juno”.
Act four, ALWAYS IN MOTION, opened with the The Boy (Older) portrayed by Harry Monteith. He was staring into the Portal, which was now orange, clutching an orange glowing cube. TesseracT played the songs “Cages”, “Dystopia”, “Phoenix”, and “Of Mind – Nocturne”. This time the stage was illuminated with orange lighting.
Welling returned for the fifth act, OUROBOROS, this time joined by James Monteith as The Boy (Older Still). She was kneeled facing away from the Portal with him behind her, dressed in a suit and hat with a red hood over his face. He approached her holding an object covered by a red cloth. Removal of the cloth revealed a glowing white cube which GAIA took in her hands. While standing, a wire-framed white cube appeared on the Portal over her head. It then transitioned back to the stage with the cube showing on the video screen. The band closed the night with “Eden”, “Of Energy – Singularity”, “Of Energy – Embers”, and “Seven Names”. The stage faded to dark with only the white cube displayed. The credits then rolled.
TesseracT’s performance was very technical and precise. Tompkins displayed his incredible vocal range which he has proclaimed spans G2 – C#6. While flashing the occasional harsh vocals characteristic of the band’s earlier work, he spent most of night singing with chilling clean vocals. The band did not skip a beat with Mylan behind the drums. Kahney and Monteith displayed rhythmic precision on the guitars. Williams percussive bass provided the backbone to band’s sound while playing barefoot on stage.
A chat screen was available before and during the show. From the comments, it was obvious the audience was pumped for the show. They started a virtual mosh pit which continued throughout the show. Comments on the chat included “Dan is killing these vocals now!”, This is Epic”, “OH MY GOD THIS IS SO GOOD”, “MIKE IS KING”, “This is the best 25 bucks I have ever spent”, “Best virtual concert experience this year”, and my favorite “MOS WHERE YOUR SHOES”. The audience certainly enjoyed the show.
Most people are familiar with concept albums like Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by the Beatles, The Wall by Pink Floyd, and American Idiot by Green Day. Portals was something I have never experienced, a concept concert. From the pre-show, it was obvious that Amos Williams is extremely intelligent. He had a vision in mind when he planned out Portals. The show was filled with all sorts of imagery encompassing colors, lighting, narratives, characters, symmetry, and timing which was all meant to tie together into some sort of theme or meaning. I’m sure there were people in the audience, more intelligent than me, who picked up on what Williams was trying to express and who were totally blown away by the concept. For the rest of us, there was just awesome lights, mesmerizing vocals, and tight musicianship.
- Of Matter – Proxy
- Of Matter – Retrospect
- Of Matter – Resist
- Acceptance Concealing Fate, Part 1
- Deception – Concealing Fate, Part 2
- The Impossible – Concealing Fate, Part 3
- Beneath My Skin / Mirror Image
- Of Mind – Nocturne
- Of Energy – Singularity
- Of Energy – Embers
- Seven Names
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