Transmission received. Starset’s new sonic codex, Vessels, builds upon a schema where futurism has become fact and imagination is opportunity. The sophomore release from Starset’s aural architect, Dustin Bates, is a data-stream-rendered-in-sound where Bates’ plaintive howl becomes the deus-ex-machina in an age of information overload - the wail of a ghost in an increasingly complex yet ultimately human machine.
Starset’s 2014 Razor & Tie debut, Transmissions introduced not only Starset but also The Starset Society, a shadowy, anonymous-like group of real-world rooted scientists admonishing the dangers of technology and dystopia gone amuck. Now, just a mere two years later, we are seeing Bates’ scientific speculation become science fact. While fully fleshed-out in his recently self-published novel, The Prox Transmissions, Bates’ lyrical themes of exo-planet discovery and colonization, coupled with the impact of rapid advances in technology including 3-D printing, are proving Starset a truly visionary multi-media collective.
While Transmissions was indeed a landmark album, selling in excess of a quarter million combined albums, streams and downloads, and propelled by singles including the unforgettable “My Demons” (which spent an unprecedented 43 weeks scaling rock charts), Bates approached Vessels with a singular intent on pushing boundaries.
Once again produced by Rob Graves (Halestorm, Red) and mixed by Ben Grosse (Breaking Benjamin, Filter) the results speak for themselves. From atmospheric opener, “Back To The Earth” to the driving hooks of the album’s first single, “Monster” to the catchy, nearly progressive moments of “Frequency,” Bates has succeeded in escaping the gravity of formula radio rock. Instead, he has reimagined his genre-defying vision as an arena where Hans Zimmer interfaces with Radiohead and Trent Reznor.
Where Transmissions’ over-arching concept focused on a message from the planet Prox a future haven from a dying Earth, Vessels splits its narrative into an interconnected interzone of four separate dangerous visions. From a return to Prox to an admonishment of the dangers of genetic engineering to a near future where advances in artificial intelligence defy convenient notions of
love, life and death, Bates (who is a PhD candidate in electrical engineering and has done research for the US Air Force) has engineered an aural anthology that will challenge the Starset faithful while delivering on the first album’s powerful promise.
In addition to shattering convention on record, Starset’s live “demonstrations” are slaked on that same alloy of ambition, technology and raw emotion. With over 300 shows logged to date, Bates and his helmeted-and-pressure-suited crew (bassist Ron DeChant, guitarist Brock Richards and drummer Adam Gilbert) have distinguished themselves touring with the likes of Breaking Benjamin and In This Moment, while igniting audiences on major US festivals including Rock On The Range. However, it was four planetarium performances in 2015 including Boulder, Colorado’s Fiske Planetarium and Long Island, New York’s Vanderbilt Museum Planetarium that brought Starset’s live promise into laser-enhanced, telescopic focus.
What began as a near-planetary collision of sound, vision and iconoclastic ideologies inspired by the likes of Nikola Tesla and Ray Kurzweil (AKA: The Father of Singularity) has taken a bold step forward with Vessels. Starset’s message has been received and downloaded. Transmission complete.
Experimentation precedes evolution. In chemistry, disparate elements clash, collide,
collate, and combine into new formulations. The same goes for music. The most
influential artists push the envelope by burning boundaries and fusing styles in ways
the world has yet to hear.
Palisades perfect that approach on their self-titled third full-length album [Rise
Records]. Igniting the nexus of rock, electronic, and alternative music, the New
Jersey five-piece —Louis Miceli [lead vocals], Xavier Adames [lead guitar, backing
vocals], Matthew Marshall [rhythm guitar], Brandon Elgar [bass], and Aaron Rosa
[drums]—summon an aural palette akin to Skrillex and Hans Zimmer teaming to reproduce
Hybrid Theory for the 22nd century.
This signature sonic science opens up a gateway into Palisades…
“We were going through a lot of hardships, and we wrote something deeply
emotional and, above all, real,” Lou admits. “It’s our more mature side. We may have
flirted with that aspect in the past, but it was time to finally dig in. We tried to find out
who we are. We didn’t pull any punches. We were true to ourselves and held nothing
back. It’s a coming-of-age moment.”
“There were a lot of changes in our lives,” Xavier elaborates. “We chose to create
songs that defined our sound in the future. It’s big, dark, powerful, and moving.”
“This is our statement to the world,” adds Matt. “It’s a genuine reflection of who we
are; it’s just us.”
This collective identity has quietly crystallized since the group’s emergence in 2011
with the fan favorite I’m Not Dying Today EP. Along the way, they released their 2013
full-length debut Outcasts followed by Mind Games in 2015. On the latter, Palisades
teamed with chart-dominating underground hip-hop sensation blackbear for “Player
Haters’ Ball,” which eventually amassed over 1.8 million Spotify streams and
counting. “Bad Girls” clocked over 1.4 million as the 2016 single “Fall” closed in on 3
million. Simultaneously, they earned praise from the likes of Alternative Press, New
Noise Magazine, and many others between joining Warped Tour and crisscrossing
North America on treks with The Color Morale, Like Moths to Flames, Famous Last
Words, and Letters From The Fire, to name a few.
However, the musicians collectively decided to up the ante for record number three.
“Everything had to flow like one movement,” explains Matt. “We tried our best to
combine all of our emotions, conflicts, and tastes. We didn’t just want a bunch of
songs we liked, we wanted a collection of music we loved.”
“Ever since we were younger, we always strived to make an album of this caliber,”
agrees Aaron. “We really found what we wanted to do with our influences of hip-hop,
electronic, and rock. We fine-tuned everything we were adept at, pushed ourselves
even more, and realized not only what, but who we could be as a unit. It’s the
personification of everything we’ve gone through together and as individuals.”
After demoing a host of ideas at Xavier’s attic studio, the boys retreated to Los
Angeles in late 2016 to record in Hollywood with “Fall” producer Brandon Paddock
[The Used, Set It Off, Volumes]. It would also mark their first collaboration with new
member Brandon Elgar.
“Brandon’s attitude, vision, and voice are amazing assets,” continues the drummer.
In just two months, they emerged with the 11 anthems comprising the album. Among
those, the single “Let Down” amassed 1 million Spotify streams in a few months’
time, while impacting regular rotation on SiriusXM OCTANE, taking the #1 position
for five weeks. A mélange of swirling electronics, dancefloor grooves, and jagged
riffs, the track drops from a wild crescendo into an undeniable chant, “Cuz you’re a
let down, let down.”
“We tried to write a Flume-inspired rock song,” exclaims Matt. “That sort of
production comes in so big and aggressive, but no one ever puts guitar chords to it.
That’s what we did while calling out everyone who had left us high and dry at the
“There was a lot of darkness around us during this record,” says Lou. “Many people
that we thought we could count on ended up letting us down. You move on, but it
definitely cast a shadow on the way we felt. Those lyrics were written in that
headspace. It’s something identifiable and real.”
From the ominous glitch snap, driving percussion, and schizophrenic “serenity and
rage” delivery of “Through Hell" to “Hard Feelings,” which showcases the interplay
between Brandon and Lou as “Aggression” carries a corrosively catchy balance of
haunting instrumentation and hypnotic melodies. It snaps into a rapid fire attack with
a barrage of distortion and energy that’s as overpowering as it is otherworldly.
Ultimately, Palisades encase an uplifting message within this aural alchemy.
“No matter where you are in life or what hardships you’ve gone through, you can
overcome anything,” Matt leaves off. “If you give your all and try your hardest, you
can be whoever you want to be. That’s a big thing for us. We took a leap of faith and
trusted ourselves here. We’ve heard it all. We’re letting fans know they’re not alone
in the struggle. They can overcome too. If you listen to our music and it helps you,
we have already succeeded on levels that we never imagined.”
“When people listen to Palisades, I hope they walk away with a connection,”
concludes Lou. “This is every side of who we are.”
GRABBITZ is a one-man production powerhouse and rock band with an electronic heartbeart, loyal to no genre and inspired by all. He’s lived many lives in his 24 years on this planet and each GRABBITZ song is a piece of his soul, his experiences and emotions wrung out like a wet rag. The result is stunningly authentic, the sort of music that brings universality to the individual’s experience of love and loss while miraculously managing to have a sense of humor.
The debut GRABBITZ album THINGS CHANGE is an alchemic and visceral reaction to the loss of the most important person in his life, a trip into the belly of the beast on his personal hero’s journey. He’s the sort of artist who’s creating all the time, so the temptation to stay in the woods of western New York and make music just for himself was great. GRABBITZ made the choice to “Play This Game.” You can hear his frustration in the grindy guitar riff and fat bassline that opens the track and his desperation to cling to love of any sort on the hybrid pulsating drumstep ballad “Don’t Let Me Go.” He finally loosens his grip on reality and surrenders to the certainty of a pop progression on “i think that i might be going crazy” – and those are just the first few songs of a twelve track album.
It’s a good thing music is therapy for GRABBITZ because he’s responsible for every single aspect of his songs, from writing to production to performance. Hot off the release of his track with deadmau5 “Let Go,” his live show will be debuting in his hometown Buffalo, NY with a guitarist (Sullivan King) and drummer (Morillo) in May. He’s probably the only artist to ever be compared to both Trent Reznor and Eminem in the same breath (by Billboard) so the unleashing of his highly anticipated full live performance means the pressure is on. His delivery is about to be the most rock ‘n roll electronic show you’ll see all year.