Starset – Horizons

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Starset - Horizons Album Cover Artwork

Overall Score: 10/10
Standout Tracks: 10/10
Cinematic Elements: 10/10
Concept: 10/10
Pros: Their best yet | Otherworldly | Stratospheric-ly unique | Captivating | Cinematically stunning | Pushing the band quite literally to new horizons and new frontiers
Cons: Very little however the stage shows and visuals to accompany this in the live arena will need to be equally as massive as the music

Since their formation in 2013, it’s fair to say that it feels like Starset has been flying somewhat under the radar on this side of the pond despite racking up over a billion streams. However, with the rocket ride that is Horizons, the band look set to enter new frontiers with their genre-defying, space-fused, new age concept-driven unique fusion of cinematic rock. 

As with previous releases, Horizons continues the intriguing and thought-provoking sci-fi inspired narrative of The Starset Society. The society is a group from the future whose goal it is to inform people about the meaning of “the message” it received from a signal originating in outer space. Now four albums in, the focus is centred on the world being consumed by synthetic methods of escaping reality and how through this technology we can explore life through the experiences of others, giving us the ability to be someone else.

And so, our voyage into the Starset universe begins with Unveiling the Architecture, an eerily tense instrumental builds up that literally feels like you’ve woken up in mission control on the death star. It’s akin to the suspense and tension seen in Holst’s Mars, The Bringer of War intro. There’s a sense of impending doom like you’ve been spun into another dimension as it smashes seamlessly straight into the opening track The Breach with vocalist Dustin Bates beckoning you to follow him. It’s a monumental song, pummelling you headfirst into what can only be described as a perfect fusion of cinematic rock with classical elements dancing in perfect harmony with crunchy riffs with neither outshining the other. It’s huge and certainly feels like the way to destiny.

Then we’re flung into the celestial beauty of Otherworldly. In contrast to the opener, it’s a slower but equally as surreal and ethereal affair. It transitions straight into Icarus which sees things get huge and bombastic again. And yes, as the name depicts, this track draws inspiration (at least metaphorically) from the tale of the same Icarus that ignores Daedalus’ instructions not to fly too close to the sun, causing the wax in his wings to melt. It soars to mega epic cinematic heights before fading out to a sea of melancholic and atmospheric piano work and will surely end up as a staple in the bands’ live setlist. 

Next, we’re falling like suns do for skies with the earth-shattering, gravity-defying Earthrise. Trust us when we say it’s best listened to before sunrise if you truly want all the feels. Released as a single ahead of the album in early October 2021, it firmly stacks up among the best tracks of the album. It has everything we’ve come to know and love from Starset and really embodies the multidimensional approach the band takes with its songwriting – truly eliciting emotions in listeners on a human level through a perfectly crafted narrative. 

And then, we’re burning through space with Leaving This World Behind which more than lives up to its name. It’s among the absolute standouts of the entire record. It brings atmosphere in buckets and the chorus will lift you light years away before landing you straight amongst the stars for a heavy as hell breakdown. It ends with a series of cryptic messaging amongst white noise concluding with the proclamation that “Now is your time.” before soaring off into stunning film score wonderland territory. 

Devolution thrusts us towards the heavier end of the musical spectrum with a disco riff entry to rival Trivium’s ‘Throes of Perdition’. It’s a fairly standard Starset affair until you’re greeted by a spoken-word interlude about complacency and then thrust around Saturn’s rings into raw and pure aggressive territory with harsher than hell vocals before meandering back into the chorus and disco riffage. It’s exceptionally well done but you can’t help but wish there were more harsh vocal moments sprinkled across the album because they’re so damn good here. 

But Horizons isn’t just about full-on showy orchestral’s and heavy breakdowns. There are beautiful slower moments perfectly placed throughout the journey too. Disappear provides one of these moments, really showing off the versatility of musical craft within the band as well as the depth of Bates’ expressive and emotive Chester Bennington-esq tones. The immense film score outro, with flavours of Zimmer and Holst, is simply earth-shattering. But it’s This Endless Endeavor that truly epitomises the albums’ themes of pain, love, descent and triumph in one otherworldly ascent of powerful cinematic rock at its absolute best. What’s great about the orchestral work woven throughout Horizons is how they’re truly at one with the music. Not over the top cinematic for cinematics’ sake, but weaved beautifully within songs, to really light up the imagination of the listener with the soundscapes and layers they add to the overall theme and vibe of the album.

Starset’s 75-minute epic transmission ends with the solitary Something Wicked. Here Bates is accompanied by a piano and a solemn procession of strings. It’s a raw and melancholic affair lyrically filled with moments of vulnerability and doubt with piecing harsh vocals that truly embody the line ‘Dark where the light had been’. Then the piano enters again as whispers echo, ‘something wicked this way comes’ and the final transmission exits into darkness.

All in all, Horizons is a true work of musical art. This isn’t just another album, it’s a full-on trip to the moon and back immersive experience. An absolute masterpiece from launch to re-entry. 

As an entity, it provides a seamless transition between the bands three previous concept albums particularly well and that’s no mean feat. When you’re bound to a concept or specific theme, keeping it tightly knit together whilst also moving the storyline and soundscapes forward can be tricky waters to navigate especially over multiple albums. Starset, however, has made it look remarkably easy and authentic without any miss-steps. Equally though, for the more casual listener, it’s also an album that stands tall in its own right. So, if you’re not wanting to get stuck into the back story and concept the band has created, you’ll still enjoy the musical ride that Horizons will take you on. 

Because the music is huge, the live stage show that accompanies Horizons will need to be equally as massive and it will certainly be interesting to see how they augment this for their upcoming demonstrations. The album concept feels like a film score and you can already picture the sky is the limit type of visuals that could accompany it. There are truly no limits on where they can take this and the band will surely ricochet from the solid launch pad, they’ve already brought to the stage with space suits, dystopian futures and post-apocalyptic staging already within their armoury. They just might need to bring an entire orchestra with them because this is practically Starset’s very own Planets Suite

Where the mysterious voyage will take us next is your best guess but until the next transmission lands, you’ll find us falling through space and time as we follow Starset once more into the breach… 

Horizons is out now through Fearless Records. UK Demonstrations are on course to land on our shores in February 2022. For dates and tickets visit
https://starsetonline.com/.

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