Ohio-bred Starset enters the rock world like a meteor to Earth. Lead singer Dustin Bates not only has strong musical credentials (he was the former lead singer for the band Downplay), but he is also well-educated in the field of science (which is very apparent in the band’s musical style). The band was formed in 2013 after Bates came in contact with The Starset Society, an organization that warns of a higher power trying to control any scientific work. The band’s debut album Transmissions is lyrically and instrumentally strong and succeeds in incorporating an intergalactic theme to each of its songs.
Don’t let their Daft Punk appearance fool you – their sound is definitely far from the electronic dubstep club tracks you’d think that they would be producing. They’ve got the untapped potential that rivals that of Framing Hanley (which is ironic because they’re going on tour with them soon), the musicality of an early and less mainstream Linkin Park, and the emotional appeal of Three Days Grace‘s One-X days. While first and foremost they are an alternative rock band, their music consists of epic strings, heavy drums and freakin out-of-this-world guitar riffs, but still adds in a very minuscule hint of electronica for the sake of adding some space-like attributes.
Transmissions opens up with a robotic ‘prepare for takeoff’ instrumental “First Light” that opens the door to a Space Mountain-like adventure through what can be seen as the story of an intergalactic war. Of course it has the overly niche-y tracks like “It Has Begun” and “Antigravity”, but the rest of its tracks absolutely strong enough to hold their own. Its single “My Demons” and “Carnivore” are both anthem-like with lyrics that you can’t help but feel with every ounce of your being. It even has a few gloomy love songs in the mix (“Telescope” and “Let It Die”).
Going along with its musical space saga, “Down With the Fallen” is a pure alternative track that starts off the entire story (in which it’s technically the first song on the album). It absolutely makes you hungry for what’s to come in the rest of the album with its heartbeat monitor and a hint of bells weaved in the background and melodic screams that add to the track’s intensity. “The Future Is Now” is another track that features melodic screaming as a means of getting the song’s idea of a hope that the ‘war’ will come to an end. Its ending song (apart from a remix of “Let It Die”) “Rise and Fall” is a harder, dangerous-sounding finale to the story. It’s a longer track whose last two minutes embody what a haunting wasteland would sound like after a destructive war (pianos and winds howling).
There’s seriously a three-way tie between three similar yet different songs. One gets recognized by its emotional appeal, another gets points for incorporating their niche into a common lyrical theme, and the last is filled with so much raw passion that it would’ve been an injustice if it wasn’t a spotlight track.
“Dark On Me” is a very Linkin Park “Leave Out All the Rest”-esque track that focuses its music on solemn pianos until electronic keyboards, strings, and drums kick in after its first chorus. It paints a heartbreakingly beautiful picture of that sense of feeling lost after someone you care about flips a switch out of nowhere through lines such as “you led my way/then disappeared” and “in the dead of night/you went dark on me.”
It’s easy to figure out what “Halo” is going to be about purely based on its beginning verses “I can see you running/running/from the same darkness.” You guessed it – it’s a positive ‘you’re not alone’ song that many an artist has found themselves writing a few songs about throughout their career. However, with their creative sci-fi-ish musical style and many walkie talkie-like vocal moments, this song showcases its strength and brings attention to its chorus (“if you need me to/I will save you/…if it means the death of me/if you won’t let go”) in a way where it pushes the phrase ‘don’t be afraid to ask for help’ instead of the typical ‘I’ll be here no matter what’ trend.
“Point of No Return” is a passionate work of musical genius consisting of hypnotizing drum beats and guitar riffs and lyrics that literally want to get up to do something ambitious. Its chorus of “pouring the fuel/fanning the flames/breaking the habit/amounting the change/embracing the fear/chasing the fight/crawl out the fire/we’ll light up the night…pouring the fuel/fanning the flames/I know/this is the point of no return” inspires you to go all-in for the thing you want. It’s different from the rest of the album in every possible way and it’s pretty freakin’ fantastic.
Starset successfully weaves in space/galaxy elements throughout every song without it being cheesy and they should absolutely stick with this niche. Each track on Transmissions is followed by a minute or so of pure instrumentals as if we were traveling through time and space itself, an awesome way of transitioning that really pulls the album together in a natural flow. Constant radio frequency sounds paired with pure rock elements and elegant string/piano combos turn Starset into a force to be reckoned with. Each song is so musically epic that I wouldn’t be surprised if a few of them get picked up for the next handful of Marvel Universe films (*crosses fingers*). Overall, Starset has invaded our eardrums by producing a debut album to be praised from here to the moon.
Alternative | Razor & Tie Recordings