Review Summary: Sucked out of the airlock
I remember back in 2014 when I first listened to Starset’s debut album Transmissions
. My initial thoughts on the album were how cheesy, over-the-top, and pretentious it all was, but by the end it was an enjoyable experience despite its flaws. The Hollywood-Hans Zimmer-style interludes, overly polished production and its corny lyrics were somewhat of a saving grace for it. Think of it as like Independence Day
, where is so stupid and corny and yet you’re just along for the ride. Now fast forward to 2019, and Starset have now started to take the world by storm, topping Billboard charts and gaining a massive following. And yet despite this, they’ve done little to nothing to change or experiment with the sound they’ve established, and it definitely shows on their latest release, Divisions
. If anything, they’ve regressed into what seems to be nothing more than frontman/lead vocalist Dustin Bates’ personal solo project, and considering just how far up he is in his own ass when it comes to the songwriting, production and concept, that is definitely not a good sign.
is by far the biggest waste of 57 minutes that I have ever experienced this year. It’s literally nothing more than a giant slog of the most cliched and mind-numbing electronic rock that’s more focused on making Dustin Bates’ dumb concept as important and pretentious as possible. The only moments on here that have any significant interest is the opening djent-like riff in “Manifest” and the harsher, heavier bridge in “Telekinetic”. That’s literally it. Everything else consists of recycled elements that Starset have already used in the past, some of which were already recycled to begin with, from the electronic wank, conceptual interludes, and guitar riffs. They even go as far as to mimic Imagine Dragons in the songs “Faultline” and “Waking Up”. Almost none of the songwriting in Divisions
is remotely entertaining or original. Meanwhile, Dustin Bates’ is probably at his worst performance to date. Granted, his harsher vocals have generally given some variety to some songs previously such as in “Gravity of You” and “Into the Unknown” from their previous album Vessels
. However, they’re barely used in Divisions
, only incorporated in the aforementioned “Manifest” and “Telekinetic” and the horrendously mixed “Other Worlds Than These”. Bates’ clean vocals on the other hand never carried much weight or originality. He does have a few solid moments in the chorus of “Diving Bell” and the bridge on “Manifest”, but at this point he’s more or less relying on the insane amount of autotune and electronic effects that are stuffed into the album.
Even when there are fleeting moments of actual instrumentation in the album, the guitar riffs, bass lines, and drumming are all completely basic and lack any creativity. Brock Richards, Ron DeChant, and Adam Gilbert serve nothing more than the live backing band while Dustin Bates’ story and ego all take center stage. It also doesn’t help the fact that Bates himself is a terrible story teller, considering the fact that the supposed concept in Divisions
is about humanity’s over-reliance on technology (oh the irony). Despite the fact that the album is the band’s shortest to date, the pacing and unoriginality of the album all but make it feel like it’s twice as long as it really is. It represents just how much the band has regressed from a fun, corny electronic rock band to Dustin Bates’ pretentious solo project. At this point, Starset has shown just about all of their tricks, and any potential that they might’ve shown in their previous two records has completely disappeared. Sadly, considering the state of this album, it’s unlikely that any of that is about to change in the near future.