Other Stuff · Sci-Fi · Writing

Music Review: Transmissions by Starset

Starset Transmissions cover

In the early hours of New Years Day 2013, a radio astronomer at the Allen Telescope Array in northern California discovered a mysterious signal emanating from a star within the Ophiuchus Constellation.

Contained within the signal was a Message–of human origin–foretelling the details of man’s imminent demise. The Message was brought to The Starset Society, who quickly realized the importance of its immediate publication.

Risking extreme danger, The Starset Society commissioned a group of musicians and scientists to assist them in spreading the knowledge to a broader audience. This group became known simply as STARSET.

Please hold. STARSET will begin the TRANSMISSION of the Message to the public shortly.

ignorance : slavery :: knowledge : power

END TRANSMISSION

I know I’ve never reviewed music before, but with a CD description like that, how could I not? I have no idea how I’m going to talk about this thing, but let’s just start with “It’s crazy good.”

The Songs

This album came out last July, but I just started hearing the main single “My Demons” on the radio recently. It’s the most radio-friendly of the songs, but also one of the best, and if you like it, you’ll probably like the rest of the CD.

The other single, “Carnivore,” is also good. At first glance the lyrics aren’t as complex as in the rest of the songs, but the more I listen to it, the more I like it.

My favorite song is “Let it Die,” which always makes me sniffle and puts me a bit in mind of Frankenstein (but could also be understood purely metaphorically).

I’ve been looking for a way
To bring you back to life,
And if I could find a way,
Then I would bring you back tonight …
But you told me, “If you love me,
Let it die.”

“Let it Die” is on the quiet side, along with most of the other songs. “Telescope” and “Dark on Me” in particular evoke a lonely space traveler sending soft messages into the void, hoping someone will receive them. Other songs like “Down with the Fallen” and “Halo” are more aggressive and dynamic, respectively. There are thirteen songs, plus a surprisingly good remix of “Let it Die.” On the CD, most of them are linked with radio sounds and astronomy voiceovers.

The sound puts me in mind of a softer Breaking Benjamin, a harder Angels & Airwaves, a more modern Hawthorne Heights, or most recently and accurately, Imagine Dragons. There’s an amazing cinematic tone to it, hinting at a sweeping space opera just out of sight. I love it.

The Album

What does it mean? Is there a storyline? I’ve listened to the whole album about seven times through now, and poked through all their online material, and I have no idea. There’s some kind of story involving Nikola Tesla and the Starset Society, which is relatively straightforward, but I don’t know what that story really has to do with the songs themselves. What I can tell you is that trying to figure it out is a lot of fun, and contemplating how the songs might relate to each other is part of why I’m enjoying it. I write sci-fi, and I like songs that use space-related metaphors. It’s great writing music. It’s also one of those albums where every single song could’ve been written with my story in mind. However, it’s just sci-fi enough, it doesn’t come off super-niche and it’s not full of weird space-age sound effects. I love the sci-fi presentation, but you can dig the songs without paying attention to that stuff. Highly recommended!

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