In a world where even betraying the slightest glimpse of general knowledge outside of the general celebrity/sports arena has someone running the risk of being labelled a freak or, perhaps worse, a nerd, the rise of Starset’s Dustin Bates – a true polymath if ever there was one – has the potential to really capture the imagination of anyone sick of the constant need to dumb down to belong.
Bates, you see, as well as being the guiding light behind Starset, is an egg-head boffin of the old school; A PhD candidate in electrical engineering from Ohio University, he has done research for the U.S. Air Force and taught at the International Space University in France. Which perhaps makes it all the more surprising that he’s released a record like Vessels.
It’s surprising because you just don’t see a man of Bates’ obviously vast intellect releasing something that so obviously panders to the lowest common denominator like this record. Save a few memorable exceptions – the epic, cinematically orchestrated end to closing track Everglow, the Townsendesque quirky heaviness of Last to Fall and the album’s admittedly epic centrepiece/tour de force, Back to the Earth, Vessels is rammed full of very de jour post-hardcore anthems, the proliferation of which in close proximity to one another actually renders them an amorphous mass of meh! rather than the obviously hoped for conveyor belt of brainworm goodness.
Hit single Monster – and by today’s standards that’s just what it is, with 1.2 million streams on Spotify and 2.3 million views on YouTube – comes and goes, buried at thirteenth spot on the album’s running order, it’s chiming keyboard refrain just about elevating it from the swamp for as long as it takes to listen to the track but for no longer (which of course, in today’s time-poor, attention deficited world is all it needs to do), and that really could be said about just about every track here. If you love autotuned choruses and big breakdowns you’ll love Vessels, and whilst there’s nothing here that could actually be labelled horrible there just isn’t enough to recommend the record to discerning rockers anywhere.
Vessels is out now.