Recorded in early 2013 as a blizzard pummeled the East Coast, The Proselyte‘s Our Vessel’s in Need EP hardly conveys any of the snowed-in claustrophobia or manic feel one might expect. Its five songs move, and have tones thick enough to fortify the walls of New Alliance Audio against the storm, but there’s little in the sound that seems to be trying to get away from itself. Maybe they finished tracking early on, or maybe that’s just a testament to the Cambridge, MA, outfit’s songwriting, which is all the more a highlight component of the new EP — released by Gypsyblood Records, an imprint helmed by Stavros Giannopoulos of Chicago’s The Atlas Moth – even than it was on The Proselyte‘s prior 2011 sophomore full-length, Sunshine (discussed here). In the interim, aside from completing several tours, The Proselyte have cut their lineup by one, leaving drummer/vocalist Alec Rodriguez (who also produced), guitarist/vocalist Nicholas Wolf (also of Phantom Glue) and bassist Brad Macomber (also “circuitry”) as a tight-knit power trio with a sound that confidently stands on either side of the border between heavy rock and metal and still focuses on blending melodic and growling vocal arrangements and keeping a sense of atmosphere. About a decade ago, Boston’s Cave In were picked up by RCA using similar elements, but while that band may or may not have had an influence on the rushing churn of Our Vessel’s in Need opener “End Regions,” The Proselyte are by and large a more bruising, heavier group, and even when they dip into upbeat, driving sounds, as on “End Regions” or the irresistibly catchy “Irish Goodbye,” and seem like they might be channeling some of Red Fang‘s crowdpleasing heaviness, they do so with the born-in intensity of the Seaboard they call home.
Our Vessel’s in Need is in and out in a brief 23 minutes, the time feeling that much shorter for the push in the songs themselves, and as with the prior full-length, Rodriguez‘s recording job is clean and professional. The sound overall, however, is bigger on these five tracks than the prior outing, and The Proselyte fill it with likewise sizable riffs and rhythmic movement. Each has a factor distinguishing it from the others, whether it’s “End Regions” with its stomping drumline and harmonized bridge, “Log Computer” with the catchiest chorus of the release — the lines, “Caveman committee/Prehistoric and sitting pretty/Unpolished stone/Built this city,” becoming a landmark hook — “Existential Risk” which seems to deconstruct as it hypnotically follows the guitar into oblivion, “Irish Goodbye,” which touches on classic Queens of the Stone Age-style thrust, or the slower, more open finale of “A Stubborn Hem,” but all manage to flow together smoothly as well, and while Our Vessel’s in Need is definitely an EP in the sense of not trying to come across as a single work but a collection of individual pieces, there’s no ignoring the tact with which The Proselyte execute their material. That’s particularly evident in the vocals, and the timing of the harsh/clean tradeoffs in “End Regions” and “Log Computer” and the times when both come together — “Log Computer” is about as close as they come to falling in the modern metal trap of the growled-verse/sung-chorus, but they avoid it successfully precisely because the arrangement is more complex — but no less true ultimately of the guitar, bass or drums. On the most general level, they sound more focused, but how that specifically manifests in the EP is with the impact each cut seems to have on its landing, even “Existential Risk,” which is the longer than all but the closer here at 4:44 and the moment at which they most depart from their structural base and build a near-abrasive wash of noise.
Though, to be fair, that wash comes more or less after the song itself is done, and thinking in terms of the flow between one song and the next, feels as much about launching “Irish Goodbye” as closing “Existential Risk.” All the more, then, it’s a point at which The Proselyte branch out sonically but maintain their focus on the task at hand. “Irish Goodbye” has a compressed runthrough of the riff before Rodriguez kicks in on the drums and is soon joined by Wolf and Macomber for the progression that most rivals the memorability of “Log Computer,” a Songs for the Deaf vibe and dual-clean vocal interplay/layering taking hold in stark contrast to “Existential Risk” prior, which in terms of the vocals is as rough as Our Vessel’s in Need gets. Fitting that the two tracks should be next to each other and placed such that the latter slams into the feedback beginning of “A Stubborn Hem,” which rounds out the EP with its most doomed moment but shows off some of the progressive tendencies that had appeared on Sunshine in its second half, albeit only en route to the dual-vocal, slow-marching apex of the release which also serves as its leadout. At 6:36, it’s easily the longest track present — “End Regions,” “Log Computer” and “Irish Goodbye” hover at just under four minutes apiece — but its time is efficiently spent, and ultimately, the stylistic branching out it does in relation to the surrounding tracks makes Our Vessel’s in Need a much richer release. I wouldn’t speculate about how the band may have grown or come more into their own as a three-piece in the year and a half since the EP was recorded, but their progression since Sunshine is evident in every second of these songs and the force with which they’re delivered, and if Our Vessel’s in Need is a step en route to someplace even more definitive of where The Proselyte are as a band, it will be well worth seeing this potential further realized. Bring on the next blizzard.