Review Summary: An incredible album that just steers shy of being one of the best for 2013. If you get sick of it, you should seek help.
If you're looking for an album that you won't get sick of (at least, not right away), then New Demons is for you. After releasing their previous LP Digital Renegade, I See Stars went in a direction for New Demons that proved their maturity and growth as a musicians. In order to pick this album apart, I felt that a pro's and con's list would be easier to describe the aspects that will make you keep your headphones on and parts that may make you want to keep your finger on that skip button. I'll let you be the judge:
1) The vocals have improved drastically. Devin Oliver is (and has been) a very impressive clean vocalist. However, in their previous work, I See Stars seemed to rely mainly on him rather than their unclean vocalist, Zach Johnson. Can Zach Johnson be compared to the heavy-hitting vocalists of today? Not exactly. But on New Demons, he adds emotion and intensity to songs (check out "New Demons", "Violent Bounce (People Like You)", "We're Not In Kansas Anymore"). The vocalist duties between Oliver and Johnson are evenly divided, and I think they did a phenomenal job adding those touches of emotion to their singing and screaming styles.
2) The programming on the album tells more of a story than they did on Digital Renegade. On DR, the programming was done more to give teens and "club kids" that techno feel that actually made the album less enjoyable, in my opinion. On New Demons, Andrew Oliver puts the right amount of programming and "dance beats" in songs that deserve them ("Murder Mitten", "New Demons"). In other words, this album is still heavy while using dabs of dubstep and club beats to give that extra shot of aggression or anguish. Well done!
3) The feel for New Demons is more personal to each of the band members. Most bands these days write their music based on the theme of brotherhood and standing up for yourself and friends. While this dish is a tasty treat, it's becoming a bit overcooked the more you prepare it. After listening to this album countless times, New Demons is mainly a venting session for each of the members. For example, "Violent Bounce" is a simple ***-you directed towards a certain member of Falling in Reverse for kicking them off of a tour. "Murder Mitten" is Devin and Andrew Oliver's therapeutic session to vent their frustration over their mother's alcoholism. "Boris the Animal" is a trip inside Zach Johnson's mind over his struggle with alcoholism and the demons that force him to keep drinking. I could go on and on; but the point is that each song is similar to a journal entry for each of the guys in the band.
1) While the sound is crunchy and heavy, the guitars are pretty underwhelming. True, you can't do much when a band relies much on programming and synthesizers. But the album mainly consists of repetitive, chugging breakdowns or guitar parts that the boys on strings figured sound badass played more than once or twice in a song (I'm looking at you "Ten Thousand Feet"). I was hoping for more lead parts from lead guitarist Brent Allen that lasted for more than five seconds, but beggars can't be choosers.
2) I'll come out and say this: I absolutely HATE when albums have intro's or "interludes" of tracks that consist of absolutely no music. I consider it to be a waste of a perfectly good song that the band could show off. The opening track of the album ("Initializing Sequence") is literally only meant to kickstart the following track "Ten Thousand Feet". My suggestion? Use it specifically for live performances. If not that, blend it into the actual song for which it's trying to jazz up the listeners. Sure, "Ten Thousand Feet" is over five minutes long; but it beats having a minute-long song of nothing but computerized babble and blaring alert sirens. To each their own, I guess.
I suggest that if you are looking for a hard-driven, emotional rollercoaster of an album, you should pick up New Demons. I haven't stopped listening to this album - and I picked it up in October of 2013. It makes me crave more and hope for something even better for their upcoming album. That is, if they can do better than this wonderful album.