Recently, I declared the main saving grace of Jacob Sartorius’ Last Text EP to be its brief running time. Vessels is the complete antithesis to this, weighing in at a colossal 1 hour and 10 minutes. This would not be a problem if there were a great deal of variety or innovation on the album – but these are two qualities that Vessels does not possess.
Every song on this album is pretty rote, following the same formula of riff, verse, buildup, chorus, etc etc. This isn’t a bad thing in itself – plenty of albums do little to experiment with standard musical formulae – but Vessels is also surprisingly low-quality for an album that attempts so little that is new. With the genre handle of “space rock”, Starset should have a veritable galaxy of tools to play with, but instead they stick almost entirely to driving distorted guitars, overbearing electronic bass, and a selection of spacey synths.
The synths are one of the weakest parts of this album. They’re almost ever-present in the background of this album, yet add barely anything – no clear melodies, no hooks, nothing. In fact, they often actively detract from the album, making it harder to hear a vocal progression or a guitar lick – at points there are so many layers that songs become an unpleasant and unassailable wall of noise.
The one place where the synths do come into their own is the use of orchestral synths. Songs like Monster are really elevated by the use of orchestral sections, and even when used more subtly in the background they still provide a more rounded atmosphere than the more spacey synths.
Another point of contention is Dustin Bates’ vocals. While he is clearly a proficient vocalist, his range of melodic forms on this album seems pretty limited, and the chosen points for his voice to be distorted by synth-style effects suggests that he cannot quite hit the range that he is aiming for. His alternation between screaming and singing is often pretty generically done, but can come across well at times – the breakdown to Bringing It Down is simply superb.
There are good points on this album, but the band doesn’t help itself with its overindulgence – every song bar the introduction on this album is over 4 minutes long, and many of them contain excessive repeats of dull riffs or phrases that make the running time excessive. The band also seems to love putting instrumentals on the ends of songs, which would not be such a problem if it were not for the overly long running time, and the sheer tedium of every single one of them. At least 5 songs on this album have instrumentals at the end, sometimes of up to 2 minutes long, yet barely containing 3 movements or phrases.
There are two songs I would actively recommend from this album: Into The Unknown and Monster. The other 13 songs from this 15 track long sedative of an album should be avoided if at all possible – it is genuinely one of the most painfully boring experiences I have had in a while. The promise of this album was completely diluted with poor lyrics, uninteresting musicality, and offensive use of synths – each song overstayed its welcome, let alone the album itself. Give this one a miss folks, unless you’re looking for an alternative to sleeping pills.
Best Songs: Into The Unknown, Gravity Of You, Bringing It Down, Monster, Telepathic