Oh, the Arsies can be a cruel mistress.
It's no secret that I was a big booster of TesseracT's astonishing debut djenterpiece, One. (Long time Arseheads will remember that the band defeated Cynic, Protest The Hero, and Anthrax before finally falling to Decapitated, the ultimate winner in 2012.) That album clearly left big shoes for TesseracT to fill. No easy feat.
But TesseracT's followup Altered State is such a superior work that I've just about forgotten what One even sounded like. To my thinking, TesseracT has transformed djent from their raison d'etre to an important but complementary component of their sound... something that has only been matched by Meshuggah themselves. On Altered State, it's the vocals that take center stage, resulting in a dreamy, cohesive work (and without question the most beautiful metal album in this year's bracket).
Likewise, Norma Jean returns this year after a strong showing with their 2011 album Meridional, with which they bested The Ocean (not once but twice!), The Sword, and Dark Tranquility, making it all the way to the final match before succumbing to Iron fucking Maiden of all people. How does Wrongdoers compare with Meridional? Too well. Wrongdoers delivers the exact same goods that the band offered three years ago, with a couple of new tracks sounding like alternate versions of the old. It's all good and enjoyable, but difficult to rally behind on its own merits, especially when compared to a competitor with clearly higher aspirations. TesseracT compel Norma Jean to back down completely, and take the win.
That's it for this week. On Monday, we also finish the first round of the Arsies, with Suffocation taking on Stomach Earth.