Those of us who are fans of the Cleveland founded band, Vessel Decimal, might occasionally wonder why they aren’t more popular. Well, the answer is simple, and it says a lot about the culture in which we live. Vessel Decimal’s music requires one to think. Not just about the lyrics, or not about some indefinable concept, or whatever. No, you actually have to listen to their music in order to get it. That means that, in order to really appreciate Vessel Decimal you have to take the time to focus, to actually concentrate on the music. Sadly, the majority of people these days either aren’t inclined, or aren’t capable of such sustained listening. Which is why the radio air-waves are filled with garbage; that foul-sounding stuff that recording-label marketers think we want to hear, or believe we are just barely intelligent enough to comprehend.
“CONVERSION: Level Two” is an album that will require all of your attention – this is not background music. If you want to get the most out of this powerful collection of songs, you need to set aside some time and focus. Otherwise, this may sound like chaotic noise.
There’s a lot going on here, and if your mind wanders, or you get distracted, you are going to miss something important. No question. When looking at the 13 songs that make up this album, the first thing you need to focus on is the band’s overall songwriting. The quality of melodies, rhythm structures, and direction of the songs are fantastic.
For all the appreciation the band get for their ability to craft monstrous riffs, they also understand two key components that other proponents of this genre forget about: melody and songwriting. “CONVERSION: Level Two” is the band’s best album yet because their genuine sense of sonic joy filters through just about every note, but also because Vessel Decimal pay careful attention to their songwriting and lyrical abilities.
I don’t have any difficulty in saying this album sounds like the band’s finest hour yet. From the moment they open with the introductory “Inner Circle” the band starts working its way towards climactic crescendos.
The songs are packed with all the things you’d expect from the band at this point: flawlessly executed metal grooves, crushing guitar riffs, cinematic synth interludes, and ravaging vocals, all held together by rampant percussion and impacting lyricism.
The technical nature, highly skilled musicianship and sheer harshness that Vessel Decimal display over the crushing “Denominator” and “Neighborhood Watch”, will help open the minds of young music fans in an extraordinary new way. Setting the bar at a new level, on “Half a Million”, the band set out to wow audiences, raising expectations of what to expect.
While mostly bold, Vessel Decimal also crosses boundaries with a sound that is not only pleasing to metal heads, but teetering on the epic cinematic realm in “A Learning Process”. Ripping in with crashing drums and a mixture of screams and growls on “All Emotions”, frustration and anger flow through the instrumental and vocals while a guitar solo steps in as a pinnacle of the two emotions.
Leading with no pause, “New Stimuli” comes next with a tempo that morphs into a steadier beat. Mixing it up some, “No Suppression” is up next with a diverse sonic range and Darkwave style vocals. The vocals float in and out of the beat, and extends its darker electronic theme.
“The Tomb of Santa Claus” takes Vessel Decimal back to the chugging, grinding rhythm followed by an ominous post-rock attitude. Vessel Decimal keep the audience guessing during the opening bars of “Upcycling” before shifting the energy into overdrive and plying on the lyrical pressure: “Smells like the snakes have made peace with the rats. They twist and turn in the woodpile. They keep it growing – the stockpile.”
“Organic Program” again falls back into the darkwave and industrial slumber as it crawls hauntingly in the shadows. “Spontaneous Harmony” features three distinct vocal styles that blend and weave their way through the arrangement in succession. This brings us to the final piano driven track – “Admit It” which rides out on a set of clean vocals in a melding of shadowy echoes and eerie tones.
Overall, “CONVERSION: Level Two” is very diverse within each track, while keeping a similar theme throughout the album. The tracks shift gears often, but smoothly, allowing all of the different aspects to be appreciated. It leads into arguably Vessel Decimal’s most immaculate recording yet. The vocals are mostly harsh-sounding and full of power, working in tandem with the crushing guitars and magnificent orchestration to create climactic crescendos of epic proportions. What more could you want from a band like this?