September 9, 2019 Starset – Divisions (Album Review)
Are we just flecks of empty dust spinning on a ball of rust? Maybe. But the highly-anticipated Divisions from conceptual rockers Starset is apt to make our time on that ball of rust quite a bit more enjoyable. Fearless Records deliver the transmission on Friday, September 13th, 2019.
It’s true: some people are brilliant at absolutely everything they do, and everything they touch seems to turn into a golden asteroid nugget. Enter Vocalist, Multi-Instrumentalist and conceptual mastermind Dustin Bates, a rocker who, in his spare time, is a PhD candidate who has worked with the U.S. AirForce and taught at the International Space University.
So if it’s nearly impossible to categorize Columbus, OH’s Starset, they are merely a reflection of their enigmatic leader. A visionary media collective that have carved out a distinctive path as part Cinematic Rock band and part conceptual storytellers, their previous two narratives—2014’s Transmissions and 2017’s Vessels—stand as a testament to their ability to blur the lines between science, fact, and fiction in order to redefine the notion of a truly immersive entertainment experience.
Prepped and ready to issue their debut transmission for Fearless Records, Starset—Vocalist/Keyboardist Bates, Guitarist Brock Richards, Bassist Ron DeChant, and Drummer Adam Gilbert—offer you Divisions. Their third full-length studio album was self-produced by the multi-talented Bates, and offers up 13 genre-bending tracks that will serve as a reminder that Starset are truly—pardon the pun—out of this world.
Divisions opens to the futuristic introduction “A Brief History of the Future,” a thought-provoking moment that could easily be presenting the latest Ridley Scott film. An observation of synthetic stimulation’s ability to alter how we perceive reality and to depress our grasp on that actuality as our minds atrophy from lack of use—is this a judgement pertaining to an apocalyptic hereafter or our modern wasteland? Whatever the individual conclusion, this exemplary beginning allows listeners to stop and ask themselves if a dystopian future is already upon us.
Love is in retrograde as Bates’ initially angelic vocals introduce “Manifest” before the bass explodes and the band launch into thrumming, gritty choruses that perfectly contrast heavenly verses. Delicately dusted with their signature use of synths, the track presents the dichotomy that Starset always so ingeniously embrace: crunchy, biting moments against enticing infectiousness all with an intergalactic intelligence.
For third track “Echo,” piano complements the vocal performance before the chorus dips in with a catchy beat. The truth is that Starset experiment more within the frame of one singular track than most bands do across an entire album, blending a million myriad sounds fluidly and easily defying simple explanation. This fact of the band continues joyfully throughout Divisions—case in point, “Where the Skies End.” Opening with a sound bite that builds into undeniably delicious synths that weave throughout exceptional guitar work, the end result is an over six-minute, epic journey across the sonisphere.
Next, you’re implored to share your secrets on “Perfect Machine,” which melds funky Hip-Hop worthy studio accouterments and beats into something that is still wholly Starset, and perfectly enchanting in its eccentricity. Meanwhile, “Telekinetic” initially contrasts fat bass with soaring strings, melding a thousand different sounds into one track that feels cinematic in its approach to Rock-n-Roll. With moments that display the heaviest side of Starset that we have seen to date, this is apt to be a stand-out for fans looking to see how the band have pushed their boundaries this go-round.
“Stratosphere” goes for an sing-along choruses, paving the way for the very Earthy topic of “Faultline,” which plays with pacing, drawing an analogy between a faulty (pun very much intended) relationship and shaking Tectonic plates. Next up, electronic blips twinkle across the surface of “Solstice,” a plea for help to evade the dark that culminates in beautifully soaring, cinematic atmospherics that segue into the struggles of rocker “Trials.”
Delicate, dream-adaisical bop of “Waking Up” allows a respite that is turned onto its head when demons and monsters swim throughout “Other Worlds Than These,” a grooving rocker with some of the album’s most poetic lyrics. Ultimately, they end with “Diving Bell,” a filmic look back at all the myriad sounds that have peppered the sonisphere throughout the course of Divisions.
Just as there are seemingly a million stars in the sky, there are endless possibilities, musically speaking, if you are willing to burn down all the walls and love openly. Obliterating boundaries, Starset craft songs that explode into a wall-of-sound that you can’t comfortably place into any box. With each successive release, Starset branch out further, aiming beyond the heavens as they amalgamate an endless list of influences into a sound that, sure, you can categorize as Rock—but it’s so much more.
Divisions is not just a collection of songs but an experience: a perfectly-crafted journey across a varying sonic landscape of multi-layered textures, universal emotions, and catchy, sing-along beats. Whether you love the end result or not, you certainly have to give Starset credit for their never-ending pursuit of experimentation. For this, Cryptic Rock give Divisions 5 of 5 stars.