Live Review: Tesseract, The Contortionist and Nordic Giants – Thekla, Bristol – 03/02/2016

Tesseract’s main European tour for their latest release ‘Polaris’ begins in Bristol, and we’re lucky enough to provide coverage of a fresh touring party sure to be on form. Joining the UK tech giants are old friends The Contortionist and mysterious newcomers to the big scene Nordic Giants, taking to the sold-out Thekla stage for a truly aquatic show.

Emerging curiously from the darkness armed with only a drum kit, a keyboard and trumpet, Nordic Giants certainly captivate their audience. They produce incredibly ambient music which fits with their included short stories incredibly well, making this an emotional live performance. With no vocals to hide behind, it’s left to the visuals and very complex musical arrangement from the two mysterious members to deliver, while the combination of anonymity and epic ambient music make for a jaw-dropping incomparable display. They’re very much a live band – and that’s their most fundamental Achilles’ heel, it seems difficult to appreciate their work as much on record. Despite this, Nordic Giants bring a refreshing diversity despite lacking a metal sound, they definitely complement their musical surroundings astoundingly. (4/5)

Indiana progressive outfit The Contortionist have forged a huge reputation in recent years and the crowd receive their set spanning three albums well, giving centre stage to content from ‘Language’. In paying homage to their influences ranging from the extreme to the melodic, Michael Lessard maintains his mysterious blank persona whilst delivering his expert range of vocal talents, though not engaging with the crowd an awful lot. Their highlights emerge when their instrumentalists take the lead, with stunning guitar leads and expert drumming definitely overshadowing an almost redundant keyboard player. They appear musically tight, but lack the vibe and energy their audience anticipated, producing overly technical monotony and more is to be expected from such an established act. (3/5)

Enter national tech treasures Tesseract as Dan Tompkins reinstates his mic-wielding talent, with opener ‘Phoenix’ setting the bar high from the onset. Dan’s incredible vocals and the band’s stylistic progression is unrivalled, bringing forth a huge arsenal of tracks from ‘Polaris’ and co. Personal highlights include ‘Messenger’ and ‘Hexes’, while Dan showcases ‘Altered State’ material remarkably better than previous attempts. Axemen James Monteith and Acle Kahney are masters at work, especially combined with Amos Williams’ wonderful bass guitar work and Jay Postones’ sticksmanship – the quartet are always an incredible watch live. Clutching a special set including a marvellous show of the entire ‘Of Matter’ series, it’s evident this opening night produces the same quality as every other night on the tour.

The crowd engagement throughout is key. With such material that the majority of fans know all too well, the band feed off the energy perfectly and create a very unique atmosphere. With the band closing with ‘Concealing Fate Part II: Acceptance’, the show sees a fitting end. With what can only be described as the band’s most iconic song, those opening notes create spine-tingling phenomena. (5/5)

Overall, this proves to be the best Tesseract performance we’ve witnessed from a band that are getting better with time, planting each note in its rightful place while their supports contribute to a show that boasts diversity and complementation throughout.


Words by Andy May.


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