I See Stars - Digital Renegade
Record Label: Sumerian Records
Release Date: March 13, 2012
I love these controversial electrocore bands, but not because of music. It's hilarious how worked up people get with these types of groups, and I See Stars is one of the most popular in this genre. It's a complete hate/love thing with them, and this new album won't change any perceptions. I remember when 3D was first released, and I loved every song off it (yes, even "Sing It" because my musical tastes are very questionable sometimes). Then The End of the World Party came out, and I emphatically said, "Meh?" It was a complete bore; and the only songs I really LIKED off it were "Wonderland," "The Common Hours Part 2" and "Home for the Weekend" (the latter of which sounds like something I used to write when I wrote poppy tunes). Still, though, their sophomore effort really didn't help the band's credibility, so they decided to pull a complete 180 with their new record, [i]Digital Renegade[/I.
It's safe to say that if you already dislike this band, you'll probably hate them even more. If you like them, you'll probably like them even more. As for me, someone in the middle with them, it's exactly that: Objectively, I see it as it a huge improvement musically over the first two albums, but there are several flaws with it. The first track "Gnars Attacks" starts off pretty epic-like, and the instrumentation sounds better. Even vocalist Devin Oliver's voice isn't overwhelming. The lyrics are pedestrian at best, but it's a fun song to listen to. You get that whole "technocore" thing that they're pushing towards, but speaking as a fan of techno, they do it well. The next track (and second single) "NZT48" goes on a similar, but poppier direction. The star of the show in this song is unclean vocalist/keyboardist Zach Johnson, who really makes this track bearable. Otherwise, it's a decent track, but nothing special.
You're probably wondering why my opinions are so inconsistent; it's because this band is the same way! I can't pinpoint exactly what my problem is with it. I can blame the electronics, but in "Digital Renegade," the title track, they really shine through. The synth sounds great, vocals are good, and let's face it, the band members don't do much anyways. It's pretty much become an electronic show that happens to have guitars and drums in it, but in "Digital Renegade" they surprisingly hold their own... That is until the mess of the next song "Endless Sky" featuring Danny Worsnop, the ever-pretentious and irritating vocalist of Asking Alexandria. I hate AA, and even though his cameo is thankfully short, it's still an awful song. It's just a scrambled mess, and the "death growl/high pitch scream" ISS likes doing really annoys me.
The next few songs return to form, though, in typical I See Stars fashion, with "Underneath Every Smile" and "Mystery Wall." The former sounds like a combination of their first two albums, and it sounds great. Oliver doesn't try too hard, and it sounds pretty natural. You can ACTUALLY hear the guitars in this song, which is nice. The latter of the two isn't as good, but follows the same framework, minus a synth-led breakdown (groans). Actually, it's really not that bad. Johnson's melody on the synth is pretty cool, and the ending is awesome. "iBelieve" is just silly, and sounds like it should be an outtake, so I'll be curt with it: it's mediocre at best.
"Summer Died in Connersville" is a decent track, but at this point the album is starting to get repetitive: weird ass intro, verse, chorus, breakdown, something synthy, slowed down tempo, then cookie monster "nom nom nom" vocals. It's not terrible, though, but I'd skip it. Now people are sure to get fired up over the next track, and probable future single, "Electric Forest," which features Cassadee Pope of Hey Monday. It's such a different take than the rest of the 9 songs, and to be frank, I love it. I don't know if it's because Devin's voice is stupidly high, but his and Pope's voice seem to mesh very well. The synth/keys seem to add a never seen before atmosphere, and the drums are surprisingly excellent. This was my favorite on the album. I would have preferred this as the closer over "Filth Friends Unite," which is the lead single. The opening synth line is intriguing, and the build up to Johnson's screams build some adrenaline. The synthesizers are a little distracting sometimes, but the tempo changes flow pretty well. It's a good song, but it sounds better as an opener than a closer.
After reading this you probably are saying, "This is about what I expected." Yes, the sound is very different, but it still has that I See Stars' quips that make them a hate-love sort of band. My final diagnosis? It suffers from what the other two albums suffer from: a lack of clarity from songs to songs. It gets repetitive and boring at times. Synth is a nice addition, but should be used subtly. If you're going to make it the focal point of your song, at least make it so it's not obnoxious. That being said, the vocals have DEFINITELY improved, the drumwork is impressive at times, and on tracks like "Digital Renegade" and "Electric Forest" you can see the band's true potential. Decent album, and it's sure to stir up a lot of controversy. Look forward to seeing what the reaction from the general public is.
Gnars Attacks: 7.5/10
Digital Renegade: 8.5/10
Endless Sky: 3/10
Underneath Every Smile: 8/10
Mystery Wall: 7.5/10
Summer Died In Connersville: 6/10
Electric Forest: 9/10
Filth Friends Unite: 8/10
I feel like this review is overflowing with details and footnotes that don't directly pertain to whichever points you are trying to get across. I don't want to say it is a bad review, because you did touch on most everything a review should contain, I just feel it was a little clouded and that that took away from the critique in a negative way. The ratings are fair though, but I do disagree with your thoughts on "Endless Sky", as I think it was one of the album's stronger tracks.
this album certainly took me by surprise. i was expecting mediocrity but it surprisingly surpassed expectations. maybe it's how that first breakdown in Gnars Attacks sounds EERILY similar to TDWP's last breakdown in Html Rulez D00d? almost too close for comfort. but Digital Renegade is easily the strongest track, while Endless Sky is right behind it. Oliver's voice in the chorus is actually fantastic, he literally croons and it rivals the capabilities of singers like Craig Owens. the album's far from perfect, but tastefully enjoyable. it's got the right amount of pop and the right amount of (somewhat?) heaviness.