Living With Eyes Wide Open: A Review of STARSET’s “HORIZONS”

Written by: Eileen Sholomicky

Source: NASA

STARSET’s latest album, HORIZONS, dropped when I needed it most.

Think mid-midterm season, the crush of exams, papers, and deadlines that starts at the beginning of October and doesn’t pause until Thanksgiving break. I’d been aware a new album, the band’s fourth, was coming, but I hadn’t been prepared for it to launch so soon.

The official album announcement came in early September, along with “THE BREACH,” a track accompanied by a devastating music video that left me reeling from its tragic ending. However, “INFECTED,” the penultimate track, was remastered after being released in April to celebrate the two-year anniversary of the Arknights video game. Three other singles—”LEAVING THIS WORLD BEHIND,” “EARTHRISE,” and “DEVOLUTION”—dropped in the weeks and even hours leading up to the album’s release on October 22nd. 

Source: NASA

HORIZONS continues the fictional story of the Starset Society, which created STARSET the band as a public outreach program to inform the masses about a mysterious signal from space. Each album functions as an installment of this story, which is supplemented by The Prox Transmissions, a novel-turned-Marvel-illustrated-comic. 

Each album is a fusion of science fiction and a warning about the state of our world, a blend of darkness against uplifting hope. This album is no exception, and is perhaps one of their strongest in this regard. Each song is a push and pull of love and trust against betrayal and heartbreak, set to heavy guitar riffs and electronic breaks. 

The focus on love as a means of survival has always been a theme in their albums, and in this one especially. “THE BREACH”‘s music video focuses on a married couple escaping their oppressive society with their son, followed shortly thereafter with more upbeat songs like “OTHERWORLDLY” and “LEAVING THIS WORLD BEHIND,” which describe all-encompassing love and a journey with a companion, though the latter ends on the ominous note that “all good things must come to pass.” Other songs on the album juxtapose this notion, including “ANNIHILATED LOVE,” ostensibly about a toxic relationship or betrayal.

Source: NASA

One of my favorite things about this album is the final song, which is much quieter than most on the album and thus is jarring when it finally arrives. Its last words quote Macbeth, which I’d been reading for my advanced Shakespeare class the week the album dropped. Talk about things being meant to be.

My favorite song, though, is “DREAMCATCHER,” which breaks away from the theme of attachment to another person. Instead, the narrator chooses to focus on themselves, their goals and ambitions. As someone about to start all over at grad school in the fall, this song is deeply personal to me.

HORIZONS follows STARSET’s themes of moving forward, perseverance through connection and community, and fighting for yourself and what you believe. And I believe that everyone should listen to this album, available on most streaming platforms!

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