The appeal of Vessel Decimal – a band founded in Cleveland, Ohio in 2007 – lies in the sheer strength of the songwriting. Moreover there are powerful riffs, and you’ll get lost in the grooves, absorbing the punishing crush of the bottom end, but also reflecting on the narrative elements found on the brand new album, “CONVERSION: Level One”. Vessel Decimal are all about the balance found in the music, and the spiraling riffs that define their sound demonstrate that time and time again. It’s nice though that the band takes the time to back off, to allow you to revel in the lyricism they have created and also to realize that there are a ton of different directions that a band like this can go. It’s important to have a sense of purpose in music and this record is a perfect example as to why. Vessel Decimal never try to be more than what they are, but what they are is truly triumphant. Everything is perfectly calibrated, set up in such a way that we can see every moving part and fall in love with the band no matter where we are in the record.
“CONVERSION: Level One” is a record that opens up like a wound, as it grows and splits, unfurling into an ever grander inquisition of modern existentialism. It pushes and pulls against itself creating pockets of darkness that the sparse trappings of melody fall helplessly into.
This is thrilling stuff – a vivisection of twenty-first century living. Musically linked, as it is, the flow from track to track is part of what makes the album such an immersive listen, a perfectly executed recreation of their crushing and sensory-overwhelming performances that’s been expertly captured on record.
The entire album at times feels like a warning from the future that spontaneously combusts into life. You can attempt to dig out any hidden meaning in the song titles, but it’s easier than ever to make your own interpretation of the tones, textures and emotions that are being communicated.
Though at the end of the day, Vessel Decimal has kindly supplied lyric sheets to make sure you grasp each meaning and message correctly. Ultimately, the album is a masterpiece in the art of emotional communication through musicianship and lyrical narration – as it seeks to be a true reflection of the human experience.
Right off the bat, Vessel Decimal move into the thick of things quickly with “I Turn”: “What’s the opposite of substance? Tell me why it’s so popular. I rack my brains and never find an answer. And I stretch and I strain. And I try to relate. Would someone please explain to me, why this trend carries so much weight?”
But the band really moves into overdrive on the slamming “In The Beginning”, as they look at generational transformation: “The stereotypes of suburban life. The neckties and the 9 to 5. He pays the bills, she cooks and cleans. She’s at the market, he’s at the factory,” and then they switch into: “But their children interrupted these patterns as a form of submissive automated government slavery.”
There’s one moment on the album which genuinely sends chills down the spine, and it’s the opening explosion of “Idiot Anthem”: “Tonight is all about forgetting what life’s all about. And getting all our bodies up and moving right out of the door. We’re saying ‘yes’ and ‘give me more’. We’re leaving rich and returning poor.”
No doubt, “CONVERSION: Level One” is a fist in the air statement for a much needed revolution in thinking, a renaissance which Vessel Decimal seem increasingly keen to usher in with their own particular brand of cybernetic, digitally enhanced, progressive metal music.
Elsewhere across these 14 tracks, Vessel Decimal blaze their own trail, with shock-wave rhythms, sludgy riffs, and pulsing bass-work. There are honest to God incredible riffs and lyrics here that feel like they’re extending what the band are capable of, almost adding a new depth to their dynamic ability.
The hit extremely hard on “Get To The Climax”, mixing melodic and harsh vocals, in an anthem that starts out with the statement: “Fabricating new territory of cravings. Building new desires from algorithms.” “The Light Web” examines the power of communication and the manipulation of the media, while the upbeat, “The Stupid Songs” takes a closer look at our hedonistic tendencies.
The instrumental “Grasp” is certainly cause for deep reflection, while the soaring drive of “The Storefronts” navigates its narration through the threats of consumerism. This is one of the album’s standout tracks.
But the best is still to come with “Burst”, “Things “Will Never Be The Same” and the epic fifteen minute track, “The New Trail”, which finds the band firmly in an expansive post-metal/post-progressive-rock landscape. Here the band breathe new life into an often dull and played-out set of genres with dazzling results.
There is definitely a sense of purpose that guided Vessel Decimal, to create a collection of songs which carry a more determined sense of identity and meaning. The band have always been phenomenally talented, and their ability to write truly incredible songs has been consistent.
Whatever factors determined the significant tweaks that makes “CONVERSION: Level One” such an excellent album are surely to be repeated again, as Vessel Decimal have created their best work yet, and they feel more focused and driven than ever before.
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