Starset - 'Transmissions'

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Starset - 'Transmissions'

Always accessible and occasionally edgy.

'Transmissions' is the curious debut album from the Columbus, Ohio-based band Starset, who appears to be making a bit of a splash Stateside. The band is led by Dustin Bates who, it seems, has some kind of science background. This apparently includes PhD study in electrical engineering, research for the U.S. Air Force and teaching at the International Space University.

This is not incidental information, as according to the press release "Dustin formed Starset after being contacted by an organization called The Starset Society and its President, Dr. Aston Wise" and "asked if he was interested in forming a band to promote the organization's message. At its core, the message is a warning that involves a scientific discovery that is currently being controlled and manipulated by an elite few."

Fact-driven or just a clever and playful concept? Well, both band and Society have websites you can peruse at your leisure to make your own mind up; Tesla, alien intelligence, Kepler, twin earths, Phillip K. Dick, "humanity's highest aspirations and utter ruin". Does it sound like your kind of thing? Either way, it's all very well done and gives those who like a good concept album plenty to get their teeth into.

Musically, the album is something of a surprise and, occasionally, even a delight. One might expect something heavy and Prog-based, but actually 'Transmission' is an unusual blend of AOR accessibility and 'War Of The Worlds' style drama, with smatterings of spacey sounds and occasional voiceovers ensuring that the listener is never taken too far from the science fiction theme.

Both quality and vibe are maintained throughout and the highlights are numerous. 'Down With The Fallen' opens with a kind of tribal rhythm amid the aforementioned spacey sounds, before exploding into a modern sounding track which features a melodic verse, a part-chanted chorus, and (briefly) abrasive "shouty" vocals. Tracks like 'Halo', 'My Demons' (the U.S. hit and lead U.K. single) and 'Carnivore' show off the album's brighter, catchier side with the latter benefitting from a moody and meandering outro. 'Dark On Me' manages to weave a love song into proceedings ("I found in you, what was lost in me, in a world so cold"), while the album ends with a run of increasingly powerful tracks ('The Future Is Now', 'Point Of No Return' and 'Rise And Fall') which up the ante in terms of drama and aggression.

'Transmission', then, is always accessible and occasionally edgy. The live shows, promised in 2015 will certainly be interesting. And if you like a good sci-fi yarn and have patience with the concept, you might like to check out The Starset Society website. Nanu nanu.

Michael Anthony

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