An album review looking at interstellar communicators Starset and their sophomore release Vessels.
Back in 2014 we were given a debut album entitled Transmissions by a group of spacemen. Now two and a half years later and a huge amount of radio play from the singles “My Demons”, “Carnivore” and “Halo” ALONG with the novel “The Prox Transmissions” and an upcoming graphic novel from Marvel, we are once again heading to space with Starset’s sophomore album Vessels. Produced by Rob Graves who also helped with big names like Halestorm and Red, Vessels is a strong continuation from a well-mixed and absorbing debut. Through static and electronic backgrounds under deep riffs and extremely heavy bass, Starset are now one of the strongest forces in a style that perfectly combines hard rock with electronic fury and an actual narrative in writing.
While Starset isn’t the first to combine an overarching story like future planets and transmissions to Earth, this time it comes from people who KNOW how to write about space and have more than just the music to back them up with so much involved from novels and comics to a full stage show including band members who look like they are begging to have their jet packs launch them to Mars mid-song. Now in the beginning of 2017 Vessels was made with the singular intent to push boundaries, according to the albums press release. And in 15 tracks running well over an hour that include separate stories all reaching together through interstellar communication, it’s easy to understand how Starset’s intention to push boundaries is easily achieved.
Before Vessels’ release we were given three songs from the upcoming album that prove Starset are continuing the standard that Transmissions set. The main single “Monster” released back in October of 2016 instantly gained massive radio play and for good reason. It included everything fans loved about Starset and demonstrated the dynamic that the band can create through a build up to an enormous chorus.
I love this song. The lyric writing is solid, the verses lead into the chorus beautifully and the chorus itself is loud and memorable. The rhythm along with the light piano keys and electronic effects all prove my earlier description about Starset’s combination of hard rock with electronic intensity. This is what everyone who enjoyed the debut Transmissions was hoping for in the next new song from an upcoming album.
On top of what I just said, one factor that is noticeable in “Monster” and throughout Vessels is the improved singing of Dustin Bates. His delivery sounds cleaner and a smoother range is delivered throughout the album and this song helps prove that. So along with pushing boundaries in writing and progression it appears that the band has also been practicing to improve as well. As with many thematic and multinarrative albums, there is a lot to take in from the very beginning. It was listening to the opening tracks “The Order” and “Satellite” that made me realize just how much Starset are capable of. While I loved the song “Monster” it was listening to the beginning of Vessels that I realized that this band has a world of talent and creativity ready to be explored.
The bouncing bass that leads to some great drum work by Adam Gilbert make “Satellite” stand out for both the impact it has as the true opening song and how memorable the chorus is. You want to sing along even if it’s the first time you’ve ever heard the song. Tracks like “Starlight” and “Back To Earth” also have that instant connection featuring a deep rhythm and memorable high points. There may be some listeners who are new to Starset after hearing them on FM or Sirius rock stations. While Vessels still combines hard rock and the electronic side beautifully, there are a few tracks you should be made aware of. Songs like “Into The Unknown”, “Gravity Of You” and “Telepathic” have enough effects to qualify it as future EDM with undoubted future remixes, but the rock side still comes out in the delivery. As a whole, it’s hard not go get sucked into the gravity of this album.
Young bands getting a debut album to reach a big audience is a monumental task and for the same band to survive their first few years AND continue with a solid sophomore release is even more impressive. Doing so while writing novels and comics AND creating an intergalactic stage show only adds to the impressive spectacle that Starset is quickly becoming. Overall, Vessels amplifies the electric style while diving further into space. You may blow a subwoofer out while playing it at full volume with the massive amounts of bass and deep riffs, but you will enjoy almost every second of music that Starset has created. The band’s second transmission has been received and it’s one worth getting excited about.