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Vessel Decimal – To Be Or Not To Be

From its opening notes, Vessel Decimal’s To Be Or Not To Be immediately sets out a dark and brooding atmosphere. With its distant electronic note and wash of synthesizers underneath, there is a creepy dread which finally explodes as the guitars begin to shred and scream. As a first track, ‘Distractors’ establishes the band’s sound with a clarity, with the range of vocals blending together to create a curious and interesting feel. Low, gravelly growls sit alongside higher tones, while a more classic and melodic voice also contributes and extra element. The industrial sounds that the band produce acts as a glue in their songs, making the music sit somewhere between real headbanging noise and more challenging art metal. There are moments of glee to be found throughout the album too, such as the wailing theremin tones on ‘Amorphous’ which sing and dance amongst the battering kick drum while a vocal oddly reminiscent of some of the earlier Pixies tracks where Black Francis would waver between his singing and speaking, always on the cusp of letting out a scream. At times, the songs are expertly refined, with ‘Tisk Tisk’ coming in at just over 2 minutes and pummelling out the sound with a sonic fury, while others really take their time to set out their stall. At nearly eight minutes long, ‘Scenarios Of The Unknown’ offers a more progressive unfolding, with huge doom metal guitar strokes which give way for some spiky riffs and angular vocals that soar out from the darker, grumbling sound that sits beneath. Things get kind of off kilter, in a good way, with odd yearning lines, “You’re my little girl / My baby dragon.” By the track’s mid point, we’re treated to a change in pace as the track’s component parts weave together to create a sprawling sound that maintains that familiar menace while at the same time offering a kind of curious sweetness embedded deep within. Even by the time the track begins to draw to its denouement, with a divebomb that fades to silence, we’re not out of the woods yet, and a blistering outtro suddenly kicks in with a fury and ferocity before it finally breathes its last. Having said all of this, there are moments where other instrumentation is used to good effect, with ‘The Great Depression’ featuring a rich piano tone that joins in with the additional industrial elements to create a wide and imaginative sound. Of course, it should come as no surprise that this then gives way to the insane fright of ‘Words Of Encouragement’, which at one and a half minutes simply grabs the listener, roughs then up briefly with its hammering drums, before leaving them shell shocked. Anyone with a taste for progressive metal, industrial sludge, or doom metal with a difference will be sure to find something that will get their attention on To Be Or Not To Be. It’s not the easiest of records, but in some ways that’s what makes it work – you’re going to have to put the effort in if you are going to get anything out. Put in the time though, and you may well find yourself satisfied.

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