I See Stars
Digital Renegade


2.5
average

Review

by Davey Boy STAFF
March 17th, 2012 | 196 replies


Release Date: 2012 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Returning the balance of heaviness and catchiness to a 50-50 split.

Taking a leaf out of the Mayan's book and prophesizing that the end of the world was near, synth-core outfit I See Stars decided to throw a party... on the moon! 2011 album ('The End of the World Party') ruffled a few feathers with its poppier approach, and it therefore comes as no surprise that the band's third LP 'Digital Renegade' arrives barely a year later, returning the balance of heaviness and catchiness to a 50-50 split. Subtlety will never be an intrinsic ingredient of I See Stars or their chosen genre, with opener 'Gnars Attacks' showcasing all of their components within the first two minutes alone. A symphonic intro leads into Zach Johnson's aggressive screams and Devin Oliver's high-pitched melodic clean vocals, while musically your standard breakdown segues into trancey synth and a programmed beat. It really is a preview for the entire album, even if the transitions here are more erratic and forced than what is to come later.

Wisely, if not always successfully, the Michigan sextet often mix and match the order of the aforementioned components in an attempt to give the impression of variety. Despite a totally unnecessary cameo from Asking Alexandria's Danny Worsnop, a track such as 'Endless Sky' does a decent job of disguising what is essentially the same track over and over again. Unfortunately, this patchwork can only last so long, with a late album cut such as 'Summer Died in Connersville' coming off as redundant. The blame for this can mostly be put down to the musicianship and production, since it is rare for the music to technically impress... And even when it does, it either has to compete with other instruments or moves on too promptly. While it is crying out for a catchier refrain, energetic closer 'Filth Friends Unite' is the most musically striking tune here, with the lead single containing solid riffs, a nice melodic guitar lead and the album's best drumming.

While it pops up from time to time, the mind-numbing pitch correction technology that ran rampant on its predecessor, is thankfully not as prevalent on 'Digital Renegade'. It is wisely used to bring some diversity to Devin Oliver's divisive falsetto; a voice so high-pitched that one has to do a double-take during 'Electric Forest' in order to determine if it is Oliver singing, or Hey Monday's female vocalist Cassadee Pope! While solid enough, this penultimate track is far from the album's poppiest, with the catchy title track and 'Underneath Every Smile' contending for that honor... Even if neither is as infectious as the title track from 'The End of the World Party'. On the flip-side, those listeners favoring the heavier end of the musical spectrum will at the very least be satisfied with Johnson's more prominent role here, a task he relishes with admirable improvement.

To give credit where it is due, there is a sense of such improvement, refinement and progression apparent throughout 'Digital Renegade'. Ultimately, however, the way one views this relatively consistent album will depend on a combination of what they have thought of the band's past two LPs, and the ceiling which they place on the genre as a whole. As is once more proven here, the balance of seamless transitions and imaginative song structures is practically impossible to achieve, with anything bordering on conventional seeming well beyond the capabilities of I See Stars. Take, for example, moody electro-ballad 'iBelieve', which has next to no redeeming qualities whatsoever! Maybe a left-field producer would help to flesh out their sound, or could it be better lyrics that will send the band to the next level? It really is difficult to tell, but we may just have to come to the conclusion that this is as good as I See Stars and synth-core will get.

Recommended Tracks: Filth Friends Unite, Digital Renegade & Underneath Every Smile.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
March 16th 2012


20857 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Reviewed by, umm, popular demand.

bloc
March 16th 2012


34872 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Album rules fucker

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
March 16th 2012


20857 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

I knew you would be first to comment. You rated '...Party' higher, didn't you?

bloc
March 16th 2012


34872 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I did, but I will probably give this a 4 eventually as well.

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
March 16th 2012


20857 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

As you could probably tell, there are parts of this that I like, but it's so all over the place. Pretty much like their 1st 2 LPs, even though none of them sound exactly identical.

TooLateToGoBack
March 16th 2012


1767 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Great review, Davey.

I enjoyed Filth Friends and the breakdown in NZT48, but eh, thought they'd progress a bit better. Considering their debut was much better than both of their last albums.

pizzamachine
March 16th 2012


12571 Comments


This has potential but the song writing is rubbish! I totes agree with your review. :/

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
March 16th 2012


20857 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Thanks guys.

As I prefer the poppier end of the spectrum, I actually think they're heading in the right direction here. But when all is said & done, all 3 albums are roughly the same in terms of quality imo.

Agreed pizza. I just wonder if its inherent in the genre.

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
March 16th 2012


10209 Comments


Aww Davey I wuv yew and yer writins

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
March 16th 2012


20857 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

I'm here to please... Even when I'm unsure that I really want to.

MarkTheDead
March 16th 2012


650 Comments


I don't hate this album, but I do at the same time... I don't like that. >:o

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
March 16th 2012


20857 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

As contradictory as that comment is, I think I agree.

Aphrodisiac
March 16th 2012


1739 Comments


album is p bad

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
March 17th 2012


20857 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Not as bad as the album art & track titles.

00mee
March 17th 2012


208 Comments


is the vocalist on 3D the same as on this album? that song was enjoyable at least, but this sounds different.

BallsToTheWall
March 17th 2012


44473 Comments


yeah that song with Cassadee is catchy as fuck.

Digging: Tove Lo - Queen of the Clouds

BallsToTheWall
March 17th 2012


44473 Comments


whens the Warrior Show episode gonna post? Shitt im tired of waitin.

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
March 17th 2012


20857 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Yeah, it's the same 2 vocalists... They don't sound exactly the same though.

andcas, I had the chance to see them live at a festival a few years back. Didn't really want to.

Personally balls, I think it should be catchier... I reckon it was a bit of a missed opportunity.

LOL... One Warrior Nation.

TomAkaVeto
March 17th 2012


1650 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Great review. Album is the definition of mediocre. The worst thing about this band is Devin's obnoxiously high voice.

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
March 17th 2012


20857 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Ta. I prefer "average" over "mediocre". The high-pitched singing is suited to some songs, but not others imo. That's the thing, it's so difficult to get the balance right with this kind of music.



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