Starset – Horizons (Album Review)

Starset – Horizons
Released: October 22, 2021

Line-up:

Dustin Bates // Vocals/Keyboard
Ron DeChant // Bass/Backing Vocals
Brock Richards // Guitar/Backing Vocals
Adam Gilbert // Drums/Backing Vocals

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It’s been two years since Starset released their last record Divisions and I have been eagerly awaiting this release! Horizons is the latest offering from the Ohio based band, formed and fronted by electrical engineering PhD holder, Dustin Bates. When I reviewed Divisions, I called it fanbloodytastic, so I came into Horizons with high expectations. 

Starset have always prided themselves on creating a world in which their records exists, ‘UNVEILING THE ARCHITECTURE’ is the opening track on the record that does exactly this. It introduces you to the world of the record and is very much like the music at the beginning of a movie. This follows directly into ‘THE BREACH’, where you’re hit with heavy drums and guitars with Bates at times otherworldly, vocals. Bates encourages us to ‘follow him once more into the breach’, and asks ‘can you see how this is the way to destiny?’ and it’s a call to action for the listener that draws you in. 

‘OTHERWORLDLY’ is next and is a fine example of how Starset do a great job of having light and shade within their records, as it’s very different musically from ‘THE BREACH’ and is definitely softer. It’s probably my favourite track on Horizons both lyrically and musically and I really felt something whilst listening to it. ‘ICARUS’ is the hard-hitting track that gets in your ears next and the breakdown is 11/10. I wasn’t ready for it, but popped so hard when it hit. The beautiful piano outro is a great contrast to the heavier parts of the song too. ‘EARTHRISE’ definitely struck me as being quite ‘poppy’ when it started and would feel right at home on the radio, but at least for me, it’s probably the most ‘skippable’ track. The chorus is catchy, but I just couldn’t get into it. 

‘LEAVING THIS WORLD BEHIND’ has some of the best guitar work I’ve heard in a while, and Brock Richards brings his A Game with it! I’m a sucker for rhythmic guitar parts that get in your ear, and then hard distortion that just makes you feel and that’s what this track is for me. ‘DEVOLUTION’ is another hard, heavy-hitting track, but it also incorporates some great synth features throughout that give it some really nice balance. Adam Gilbert is also giving us some quite epic double kick blast beats that punch you in the gut in the best way. 

‘ANNIHILATED LOVE’ kicks off the second half of Horizons and has a lot of light and shade, meaning it’s heavy in some parts, and super melodic in others. I also really enjoyed the spoken vocal at the end and it’s a really nice way of tying in the story being told. When I listened to Divisions, I made a comparison of some tracks being like ‘Follow You’ by Bring Me The Horizon, and on Horizons I think it would be appropriate to say that ‘ALCHEMY’ fits into that category, which is definitely not a complaint. I also really appreciate the use of the word ‘chloroform’ in the choruses and as the closing line of the track, which ends like you’re on some sort of trip, or like you’ve had your mouth covered with a chloroform covered cloth and are slowly losing consciousness.  

At just under minutes long, ‘DISAPPEAR’ is the lengthiest track on the record and the simplicity of strings, and Bates’ vocals in the track is really beautiful. The raw emotion of his voice really gets a chance to come through and you can feel just how much he cares about telling a story and immersing the listener. This song is the equivalent of the mini-victory halfway through a really good action film, and you forget for a second you listening to a record and not a movie score.

‘ENDLESS ENDEAVOUR’ lyrically tells the story of loss and perfectly describes the feeling of trying to move on. I definitely shed a tear whilst listening to it, and if you’ve ever suffered a loss and tried to put into words how it feels to cope, this track feels a lot like that. ‘SYMBIOTIC’ is one of my favourite words in the English language (because it’s fun to say!), and it’s also my second favourite track on the album. I have always been a fan of a great bassline, and that’s really a huge contributing factor into why I like this song so much. Big ups to DeChant for his skills with his instrument, and for writing a part that’s as perfect as it is. It’s also just got a really good groove to it and I look forward to driving around in summer blasting it. 

‘DREAMCATCHER’ is just under 5 minutes long, but it feels very quick and fast and dirty in the best way. Usually the longer a record goes, the quality of the songs really decreases. This is definitely not the case with Starset as quality is still there, despite there being a high quantity of songs. Third to last is ‘TUNNELVISION’ and it’s super electronic sounding compared to the rest of the record, and is dancey in some parts too. Dustin has a great ability with his vocals, and can sing fast without it sounding like he’s trying to rap. This song is probably the most different in comparison to the rest of the record, but it still fits in really nicely. 

‘INFECTED’ and ‘SOMETHING WICKED’ are the final two tracks on HORIZONS and aside from the introductory track, are the shortest songs on the record. They really do have the feel that they are the closing parts of a story. ‘INFECTED’ has a real pop-rock feel to it in my opinion, but it’s still a great song. It also felt as if it was over too quickly. ‘SOMETHING WICKED’ does its job perfectly as the final track, and really rounds out the album quite nicely. It’s not a sad song exactly, but it does have a lot of raw and pure emotion to it. 

I came into HORIZONS with high expectations, and I was certainly not disappointed. Starset do a fantastic job of creating a world for their records, and immersing the listener in that world from start to finish. This record is roughly 72 minutes of an adventure that will leave you feeling something, but what the something is, is entirely up to you and your interpretation. 

STARSET – HORIZONS tracklisting:

1. UNVEILING THE ARCHITECTURE
2. THE BREACH
3. OTHERWORLDLY
4. ICARUS
5. EARTHRISE
6. LEAVING THIS WORLD BEHIND
7. DEVOLUTION
8. ANNIHILATED LOVE
9. ALCHEMY
10. DISAPPEAR
11. ENDLESS ENDEVOUR
12. SYMBIOTIC
13. DREAMCATCHER
14. TUNNELVISION
15. INFECTED
16. SOMETHING WICKED

Rating: 8.5/10
HORIZONS is out now via Fearless Records. Purchase here
Review by Kelsey Trevan. @kelsey_139

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