The second solo album by former Prayer for Cleansing member Will Goodyear, now using the moniker William, Surface the Vessel is a generally agreeable example of the poppier side of emo, failed by a peculiarly awful production job. The songs are too low-key and anguished to be considered truly poppy, but William's a clever songwriter with a keen sense of dynamics. There's a lot of open space in these arrangements, but William subverts the usual quiet-quiet-loud indie rock trick by preferring not to load up on decibels, but on tracks. As a result, when the skeletal verses in "Moderate" suddenly explode into a full-band chorus, there are suddenly harmony vocals, hand percussion and rhythm guitars on top of the expected big distorted lead guitar riffs, turning a fairly standard emo tune into a compelling pop song. The problem lies in William's production and mixing, which are both unnecessarily lo-fi and squashed, making the album sound dull and lifeless even on its best songs and forcing a boring uniformity of sound onto what should be a varied and engaging set of songs. Listen past the production and Surface the Vessel shows much promise, but at times, that can be hard to do.
AllMusic Review by Stewart Mason