There is a theory that "Vessel" is about John of Boston. In the transcript of his discussion with the facility member he mentions that he is a vessel for the truth. Another theory is that the song is about pills given to US soldiers to counteract the effects of Parepin or Opal. ("When I put you inside of me, none of that matters anymore" and "I am turning into God" suggests this.)
This is the original album version. It consists of heavily distorted drum loops, a wall of percussive synthesized sound, and ending improvization using a set batch of synthesized loops that distort and glitch. Its danceable rhythms and highly synthesized nature are somewhat reminiscent of "Closer."
This unmastered vocal-less mix was released by Trent Reznor through his remix.nin.com account.
Vessel: Bill Laswell
This official remix appears on the CD and digital releases of Y34RZ3R0R3M1X3D. The intro mixes the glockenspiel melody and "alarm" sound with percussion elements found within the song. A guitar can be heard playing along to the percussion beat, along with an echo effect on the vocals, making it sound as though a voice is whispering underneath the vocal melody. A percussion breakdown comes in after the first chorus and other sound elements come in over the beat. Many of these elements drop out before the second verse, leaving only a rhythmic percussion loop. As the second verse progresses, sound elements from the original version are added. The outro is similar to the original version as well, with the exception of a couple of new noise elements added.
Vessel (Mix 1): Bill Laswell
This remix appears on the vinyl edition of Y34RZ3R0R3M1X3D. It begins with an extended instrumental introduction, incorporating many sound elements from the original Year Zero version. Lyrics are very sparse in the first half of this mix, making it seem more like a dub mix. At almost 4 minutes in, the regular lyrics enter into the mix as many of the sound elements drop out, before gradually coming back in. The vocals contain some distortion which makes them sound far less organic than those in the original version.
Vessel (Mix 2): Bill Laswell
This remix is on the vinyl edition of Y34RZ3R0R3M1X3D. It is exactly the same as the CD remix, but with an extended ending or "appendage" with a running time of about seven minutes, bringing the total length of this version to 13+ minutes.
I let you put it in my mouth I let it get under my skin I let you pump it through my veins I let you take me from within They tell us what we can and cannot do Same thing we've heard a hundred times before When I put you inside of me None of that matters anymore My God Can it go any faster? Oh my God I don't think I can last here I am you and you are me We will never be alone I have finally found my place in everything I have finally found my home I can leave all of this flesh behind I can see right through this whole façade I am becoming something else I am a turning into God My God Can it go any faster? Oh my God I don't think I can last here