In "Monster", the debut single off Starset's upcoming Vessels, singer Dustin Bates pleads "Can you change me from the monster you made me?" Where have I heard this exact sentiment before... Oh yeah, from Disturbed ("Monster"), Skillet ("Monster"), Pop Evil ("Monster You Made"), Three Days Grace ("Animal I Have Become") etc. and when I saw that the cover art for the single was ripped directly off Silverstein's 2003 When Broken Is Easily Fixed, my eye roll turned into an offended scoff. If this first single has such a cookie-cutter heart, I thought to myself, the rest of the album will surely recycle old ideas and sounds too. Thankfully, I was dead wrong.
Vessels, to be released on January 20th, represents what every sophomore album should be. It stays true to Starset's unique brand of hard rock, brooding and melodic like a cybernetic Breaking Benjamin, but it also showcases a band pushing itself into new territory.
Following an ominous intro, "Satellite" is a catchy track notable for its gorgeous keyboard and electronics in the background, plus some violin parts to boot. As with many other songs on the album, its multiple layers culminate in an unusual and deeply satisfying sound, bringing to mind Hands Like Houses' early work. "Frequency" introduces an EDM-style build and drop before launching into a bridge that can only be described as straight-up ferocious. Bates shocked me with his impressive screaming, a step up for a band that rarely used unclean vocals until now.
Much like previous album Transmissions the lyrics of Vessels focus on technology, the vast expanse of outer space, and the feeling of disconnection that comes with both. A yearning, isolated speaker casts his words out into galaxy like a message in a bottle, hoping that someone will hear. And in our increasingly technology-driven world, in which we shout blindly at each other from across cyberspace, somehow the desperate, determined need for human warmth feels true and right.
Second single "Ricochet" is a slower, (dare I say) more soulful track with some R&B-style beats mixed in, while "Into the Unknown" picks up the pace and the intensity with more unclean vocals, bringing to mind some of Red's best work. "Last to Fall" and "Telepathic" lean surprisingly far in the direction of pop, but without abandoning Starset's decidedly rock sound.
Overall, the range of styles and sounds on display here is staggering. The fact that Starset not only made them all sound good, but also made them sound like them, is a truly unique achievement. Checking out Vessels on January 20th is an absolute must and, by the end of 2017, you're gonna be looking back on it as one of the best rock albums of the year.
Vessels Track Listing:
01. The Order
04. Die For You
07. Into the Unknown
08. Gravity of You
09. Back to the Earth
10. Last to Fall
11. Bringing It Down