I See Stars’ third album, Digital Renegade, kept the pit in motion this year with a new batch of 10 bursting hardcore tracks.
The band made its claim to fame with its debut album, 3D, in 2009. Unfortunately, their second album, The End of the World Party, was a setback as it lacked everything the band made themselves known for: screams, breakdowns and all-around intensity.
Digital Renegade is the comeback I See Stars needed, ranking so high that it’s just as good as3D, if not slightly improved and a pinch better. The opening track,“Gnars Attacks” takes a more electronic approach but still has the biting edge that will make a crowd lash out.
“Nzt48” is hardcore in every sense of the word. Devin Oliver’s voice is the calm before the storm, beautifully harmonizing in-between Johnson’s convulsing screams. While digitally in tune as well, “Digital Renegade” is a proclamation of hope and moving out of denial.
“Endless Sky” features Danny Worsnop, the vocalist from Asking Alexandria and is definitely the most forceful track on the album. It starts off very techno-based and then a sequence of screams ensues. The chorus of this song has striking similarities to You Me At Six’s “Bite Your Tongue,” featuring Oli Skyes, but the songs have blatant differences that need not be pointed out.
I See Stars have a common theme in all of their songs this time around—the truth. “Knowing the truth is like a different dimension: there’s no turning back once you hear the lies. I don’t know about you, I will rise,” Oliver sings.
I See Stars also features vocals from Hey Monday’s former front-woman, Cassadee Pope, on “Electric Forest”. It’s amusing because Devin Oliver’s voice is so high that it could almost be mistaken for Pope’s. Of course, the listener can tell the difference once the two stop harmonizing and Oliver yells.
Devin Oliver may say that he is “so sick of screaming my lungs out,”
but the next track, “Underneath Every Smile”, is loaded with Johnson’s straining shouts. “Mystery Wall” also uses screaming as a subject in the intro as Johnson bellows “Your scream it, your scream/ it makes me sick/ And I refuse to bow down to it/
Yes, I refuse to bow down to it/ Yes, I refuse.”
Just looking at “iBelieve” instantly reminds people of Apple, but this song is not the soundtrack to an innovative commercial for America’s favorite software and technology company. It’s a short and slow track that calms down the demeanor set by previous songs. No screams, just Devin Oliver’s smooth voice warped by electronic noise.
“Filth Friends Unite” closes the album with a cultural on how everyone is so caught up and sucked into a digital world. I have a feeling that even if the world were unplugged and the lights went out, I See Stars could still be heard from miles away.
I See Stars have earned back its rightful place in the music world. Digital Renegade is a physical representation of how the band has grown collectively and individually and it’s an album that they should be proud of, and one that fans deserve to hear.