Starset – Transmissions

Starset Transmissions

Starset – Transmissions album cover
[source: International Solutions]

I was driven by friends to listen to Starset’s Transmissions back in August. However, I had some other music to get through. I also wanted to be in a “new music” type of mood. I listened to it a few times, and it really didn’t stand out to me. Then I started picking lyrics here and there, and I started piecing together the album as a whole. This is when everything snapped into place, and my ears fell in love with it. I decided to give it a proper examination with this blog post.

Transmissions is very much a concept album. Actually, Starset describes themselves as cinematic rock. Transmissions feels like a movie. A common theme runs through its core. There are musical transitions, as well as something I like to call “science talk.” “Science talk,” to me anyways, is the explanation of scientific subjects. In Transmissions this comes in the form of a scientist explaining satellite orbit, for example.

Each song can be interpreted several ways, depending on the person. That is an attribute of art, after all. The lyrics within Transmissions tell a story if you put all the songs together. “First Light” serves as a preface for the album; the subjects that will be covered over the course of the album are introduced here. The album follows the rise and fall (also the title of the ending track) of a journey. It was a joy to relate each song to the previous song. “Rise and Fall” is satisfying because it concludes the fall. The album restarts with “First Light” the story begins the rise again. Although a thorough examination of the lyrics isn’t necessary to enjoy Transmission, I do encourage you to do so.

Musically, Startset can be interesting. Starset has your standard rock guitars and drums. However, they throw in some stringed instruments, piano, and SciFi synthesized instruments. They may even throw in some sounds, such as life support machines, to add to the music. “Down With the Fallen” utilizes most of these sounds, and it’s a freaking awesome start to the album!

The music also carries around an instrumental theme. There is definitely a space theme going on. The SciFi, synthesized, instruments, as well as piano and stringed instruments, reenforce this theme. “My Demons” preys on these sounds to create a space feel, and creates one of the best songs I have ever heard. One of my favorite uses of the music to collaborate with the lyrics is “Point of No Return.” The song actually sounds like it is disintegrating, while the lyrics are about burning the past. I could list more examples; the music lines up thematically with the lyrics in every song.

Many of the songs will have outros that utilize stringed instruments and horns; this creates a movie-like feeling to the album. Some outros serve as an intro to the next song, such is the case of “My Demons” short piano outro. The next song, “Antigravity” is very piano heavy. I love me some piano. Some songs use the outro to have you fill in the blanks. The outro to “Antigravity” has a very epic movie like quality to it. During this instrumental, you can almost see some action happening. This action bridges the story to the next song, “Dark On Me.” Some songs use the “science talk” I mentioned earlier. “It Has Begun” does this. The “science talk” is describing how GPS navigation works. I’ll be honest; I don’t know exactly how it fits with the story I created, but it does fit with the space theme.

I think the biggest thing I like about the album is the vocalist. He’s able to drive the lyrics with powerful emotion. He can scream when there’s anger. He can be soft during a hopeful verse. He doesn’t have an outstanding voice, but his performance is outstanding, because of that emotion he carries.

There’s a lot to like about Starset’s debut album. You don’t see too many SciFi themes used in albums, and Transmissions delivers on that front. The music and vocals carry an emotional punch to them. The entire album just has a solid theme. My favorite song is more of a grouping of songs. “It Has Begun,” “My Demons,” and “Antigravity” tell the action of the story, and I absolutely love it. I couldn’t imagine any of those songs without the others. I recommend you listen to the album, and I encourage you to study it. It is well worth your time.

Oh, and the lead singer has this on stage when he performs.

Thanks for reading.