It's been a long three years since Vessels released their stunningly diverse debut album White Fields And Open Devices. The band may have been together for the best part of eight years, but remarkably Helioscope is only their second full-length release. Yet cliche aside, good things come to those who wait, and despite the prolonged gap between the two releases, Vessels' waves of fans who have been eagerly awaiting the band's next instrumental installment are sure to be conciliated by the result of the band's painstaking, yet prolific body of work.

The Leeds-based quintet are often cast beneath the ever-unfolding umbrella of the post-rock genre, yet as made evident from the bestial instrumental narratives of their debut, their plentiful frenetic live shows over the years and now on their second album, Vessels are clearly championing a new breed of industrial music.

Perhaps this is one reason behind the band's decision to release 'Meatman, Piano Tuner, Prostitute' as the first single from Helioscope. Placed in the centre of the album's tracklisting, the soft glockenspiel and piano introduction that continues to glide through the song's entirety couldn't be further away from the post-rock category that they're chained to. With the beautifully voiced Stuart Warwick of Jacobs Stories on vocal duties Vessels strive to subvert their post-rock tag with the inclusion of lyrics that run throughout the song. It is soft and it is beautiful, and most of all it's unexpected. Yet the track is turned on its head when Vessels quicken the pace and escalate the volume just before the song's ending, creating a harmonious climax of instrumentation that complements the song's structure rather than implementing it for their own self-indulgence. This is Vessels at their very best, proving that when it comes to changes in momentum and sonority, they've got contrast down to an art form.

While Vessels may have been attempting to suppress their pigeonholed musical sound through 'Meatman, Piano Tuner, Prostitute', the first two tracks on Helioscope show Vessels at their full-blown, explosive best. 'Monoform' begins with the soft syncopation of electronic keys tinkling until the drums and a thumping bass line kick in almost immediately. The pace is established rapidly, layers of instruments are gradually added a glockenspiel here and an additional guitar there, serving to progress before the prolonged, yet inevitable swell of sounds that the listener hungrily waits for pushes through at the five-minute mark. Second single and the album's second track 'The Trap' follows a similar pattern of progression, yet manages to sound completely different. With both songs electronic edges are also apparent, and it very much appears that, although perhaps unwittingly, Vessels are striving to reclaim the industrial electronic rock torch from the likes of 65daysofstatic who have evolved into the more dance-based dimensions of the genre.

Helioscope may be scattered with more lyrics and vocals than their last album, with four out of nine songs containing voices, but when they are used it is with a deep sense of purpose rather than for narrative effect. Occasionally, on songs such as 'Monoform', lyricless 'ahs' blend in with the other orchestration and take on a new lease of life as an additional instrument rather than projecting meaning through words. At other times vocals form the basis of the song, such as on Vessels' uplifting and most recent single 'Recur'. 'All Our Ends' is another vocal-led track, its calm repetitive guitar picking signally its start. The uplifting dual harmonies of Tom Evans and Lee J. Malcolm blend together and drive the track forward, while its folk riff and its occasionally acoustic melodies swirl around the song and add contrast to much of their older material.

Closing track 'Spun Infinite' rounds off the album in a slower, subtle manner, in much of a similar vein to that of the heartbreaking 'Heal' earlier on the album. With its choral vocals and almost church-like echoing reverberation the final track fades throughout until the album's demise, yet it stops in such an abrupt way that you are left expecting more, and are disappointed when what you assume is a pause for breath is actually the album's end.

Helioscope balances perfectly between the breaking and the beautiful. With John Congleton, the man responsible for This Will Destroy You and Explosion In The Sky's epic sounds, back on production duties Helioscope not only ripples with its luscious production, but it also takes off where White Fields And Open Devices ended, ascending the next step in the band’s evolution while staying true to their own sound that has carried them thus far. Whether it's 'All Our Ends' folky riffs and whistling, sample-laden outro, the electronic club beats of 'Monoform', 'Later Than You Think's' menacing foghorn signals or the hammering, chunky bass line of 'Art/Choke' the attention to detail and blend of sounds on Helioscope is astonishing.

While layers upon layers of instruments, samples, loops and vocals envelope the entirety of Helioscope, it is the progressive production that allows each component to shine through individually that makes the album truly spectacular, and each listen illuminates another hidden melody or an additional overlay of sound. Yet for all its technicality and the band's interchanging time signatures, Helioscope never alienates its audience or feels unapproachable. Helioscope is an incredible achievement for a band's second release, but then the years of ripping up stages and perfecting their performances are probably the secret behind the album's own faultless recordings. One thing's for certain, when Vessels take Helioscope out on the road, it is going to be absolutely mind-blowing.

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