Having worked for a couple of years on creating their debut release, it would make sense to think that Wilderness' follow-up a year later could potentially suffer from sophomore slump syndrome -- similarity of sounds and songs, a general sense of stasis after having figured out a general blueprint. Vessel States doesn't get stuck in that rut entirely, but it is a bit of a consolidation of an approach, with the band's extremely mannered (and very intentionally so) take on post-punk-inspired atmospherics sounding more familiar but no less gripping at its best. The fact that "The Blood Is on the Wall" opens with one of James Johnson's most melodramatic vocals yet, swooping over an initially calm first half, is as much a statement of purpose as anything else, making the introduction of Will Goode's drums that much more monumental in impact. As a whole, Vessel States succeeds best when the band's knack for swooning romanticism takes full hold -- songs like "Beautiful Alarms," with its descending verses and suddenly more upbeat chorus, may be showcasing familiar tricks in rock, but Wilderness' own self-enforced sense of stately theatricality gives it a richer feeling. Similar can be said about "Lost," with its slower pace making the guitars sound even stronger as a result, and "Gravity Bent Light," its slow, careful build into the album's strongest climax making it the standout track. In contrast, other songs such as "Emergency" are formal exercises of the band's approach that are pleasant but feel a bit like time killers more than anything else. It might be hard for Wilderness to make a strong mark on their next album if there isn't a clear step into different approaches, but for now they're still doing remarkably well.
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AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett