LIVE: Tesseract / Unprocessed / The Callous Daoboys @ Kentish Town Forum, London

By Ellie Odurny

Bounding onto the stage to the sound of Cascada’s ‘Every Time We Touch’, Atlanta sextet The Callous Daoboys aren’t necessarily who you would expect to see supporting prog metal giants Tesseract. As the electro dance beat gives way to the opening drums of ‘Star Baby’, discordant guitars, violin and dropped bass align far more with the band’s progressive genre attributes than first impressions might suggest.

Vocalist Carson Pace makes repeated calls for the crowd to dance, which is no mean feat given the choppy, ever-changing rhythms and frantic energy displayed on stage. A later request for “silly antics” seems much more fitting. As the venue continues to fill, looks of mild confusion morph into hesitant admiration as the growing masses absorb the chaotic cohesion of closing numbers ‘Blackberry DeLorean’ and ‘Fake Dinosaur Bones’. Not many bands could get away with blending a sample of Neil Diamond’s ‘Sweet Caroline’ into a mishmash of screaming, screeching guitars and guttural growls, but The Callous Daoboys emit a confidence that makes the bonkers sound they create seem entirely intentional and oddly captivating.

“Bounce, bounce, bounce, bounce,” heralds the arrival of German quartet Unprocessed, as they thunder into the opening blows of ‘Hell’. Seamlessly blending fierce metal screams with note-perfect clean vocals, the flawless shredding and ludicrous blast beats set the tone for things to come.

There was a time when tech metal gigs veered into the realms of self-indulgent, where displays of technical prowess took precedence over the delivery of an entertaining performance. Thankfully, it feels as if those days are in the past, as Unprocessed demonstrate by weaving their musical expertise into a dynamic and engaging show. When they’re not busy shredding or pelting the audience with a fine balance of weighty snarls and anthemic vocals, they’re moving around the stage and swapping positions so that the front row gets to experience each member’s expertise up close and personal.

It’s impossible not to comment on the huge amount of skill that Unprocessed exhibit, but their sound is so much more than the mechanics of fret mastery and impeccably timed drum fills. There’s a subtlety nestled amongst the deep growls and crisp guitar tones that makes every moment of their set truly enthralling from start to finish.

Headliners Tesseract take to the stage, flanked by pillars of light that provide a stunning visual accompaniment to opener ‘Natural Disaster’ from latest album ‘War Of Being’. The bass immediately resonates through the venue, with stunning vocals from Daniel Tompkins soaring over the crowd into every corner of the packed-out Forum. The lighting throughout pulses and flashes in time with complex polyrhythms, bolstered by waterfalls of pyro falling from the roof for a theatrical spectacle fitting for the band’s dazzling performance.

The whole of the ground floor comes alive for older tracks ‘Nocturne’ and ‘Dystopia’, every head banging in unison with a sense that the band’s energy is flowing collectively though the entire audience. Each carefully placed beat, stop and lick flaunt Tesseract’s precise musicality, with vast crescendos and ferocious screams giving way to haunting melodies and crushing breakdowns. They never take their foot off the gas, with the colossal title track from ‘War Of Being’ filling the space with chunky riffs and delicate instrumental interludes. There’s something magical about the way that this band combine achingly heavy grooves with delicate precision and raw emotion that transcends their djent roots into something otherworldly and quite spectacular.

This immense, all-encompassing sound continues to flow through the intricate notes of ‘The Grey’ and the gloriously atmospheric ‘Juno’ from 2018’s ‘Sonder’.  The older material more than holds its own throughout the set, but it’s the newer tracks from ‘War Of Being’ that elevate Tesseract’s output and showcase the band in their prime. Pushing beyond the admittedly varied echoes of a prog concept album, these tracks reveal a bold complexity on an entirely new level.

Tesseract’s powerful songwriting and exquisite musicianship bring the crowd together in collective awe and admiration. By the closing notes of ‘Deception’ – part 2 of debut EP ‘Concealing Fate’ – people are hugging each other, eager to share the poignant impact of tonight’s brilliant display of progressive metal.