Rock band. Cinematic rock. Electronic rock. Each term could be used to define the genre that people want to place Starset firmly into. However you decide to classify Starset’s sound, you cannot deny the band’s futuristic style.
How does Divisons, their third album and first released on Fearless Records, compare to their previous releases though? If I had to pick, Divisions is now my favorite. The depth and sound on this album is immense. You can’t play this one quietly. Nor can you just listen to it as background noise. Each track really draws you into the sonic landscape that vocalist and founder Dustin Bates created. Divisions is just as heavy as Vessels and Transmissions, but it’s a whole new type of heavy. Even though the same electronic techniques were used during the recording process, Divisions feels much more organic than its predecessors. Bates’ voice sounds much stronger and more controlled.The lyrical content of Divisions is also more visceral than on previous releases, while still being relatable enough for each person to take away their own insights with each track.
I wouldn’t consider Divisions to be a new style for Starset. It is more of a progression instead of a musical evolution. If you’re expecting a stylistic change like Bring Me the Horizon took with AMO, you’ll be disappointed. Divisions feels more like Starset’s three albums were written one right after the other, and the story of each is expertly executed and continues into the next. This is exactly the way a trilogy should be, and the mythos surrounding The Starset Society is progressing in a stellar way.
What is most impressive for me is that each album stands strong on its own while continuing the Society’s message and their story as a complete body of work. I like concept albums, and concept bands are even better.
The album’s introduction track immediately pulls you in. Like the band’s previous introduction songs, “A Brief History of the Future” gives an insight as to the message presented within the album. Where “First Light” melted into “Down with the Fallen”, and “The Order” transitioned into “Satellite”, those tracks with the intro both feel more like one song to me. Bates’ monologue in “A Brief History of the Future” sounds more like an ominous warning than an intro that leads into “Manifest”. Where “First Light”, and “The Order” each gives me excitement chills, there’s something about Bates’ voice in “A Brief History of the Future” gives me the “you’re in danger and you don’t know it” kind of chills.
“Solstice” starts off with an incredible bass line before gut punching the listener’s ears. It’s a very upbeat and heavy song but contains an emotionally dark subject matter. Bates’ pleads “Don’t let me let go. Don’t let me let the dark take over” during the song’s chorus.
“Faultline” starts with a slow burn, then boils over mercilessly. It’s a regretful love song. Painfully dealing with emotional scars is a major theme among many of the album’s tracks.
Divisions also features some of Bates’ most sophisticated lyrical compositions, specifically in “Trials” and “Echo”. “Trials” touches on a few biblical analogies. How many scientific rock bands sing about Lazarus? Bates again touches on the emotional damage that can be inflicted with “We’re motivated by the scars we’re made of.” In “Echo” hear an incredible amount lost love, and Bates is a master of crafting stories around heartbreak. “Telekinetic” features Bates’ signature guttural screams. Without a doubt the frustration in his voice is palpable. “Stratosphere” starts off with an electronic trippy effect before the drums kick in and then its balls-to-the-wall.
Divisions is very heavy with cello and violins. Violinist Siobhán Cronin and cellist Mariko Muranaka are going to absolutely rock during this next cycle of Demonstrations. I imagine they will thrash around the stage just as much as bassist Ron Dechant, and Guitarist Brock Richards. You can expect drummer Adam Gilbert to break more than a few sticks during the band’s Demonstrations.
If there’s one thing that can be expected from a Starset release, it’s that the album will be a rollercoaster of emotions with very few breaks to catch your breath. Each of the tracks is heavy in its own right but it is the story told as a whole that inspires the listener.
There’s also no hint of MNQN or Downplay, Bates’ other musical projects, on any of Divisions tracks. Bates, unlike other vocalists with side-projects, has maintained a separation between his three bodies of work. Mark my words, with the release of Divisions, Starset are now poised to become a cinematic ARENA rock band