March 13, 2012 - Sumerian
There’s an old saying that (roughly) goes, “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.” In band terms, that translates as: If you make the same album over and over again, you’ll draw the same fanbase and never rise above a certain level of fame. Electro-shocked post-hardcore sextet I See Stars seem well aware of this fact: Their third album, Digital Renegade, is an obvious progression from 2011’s The End Of The World Party. Everything about the music sounds heavier—from the stinging guitars and wicked-witch scowls of “Mystery Wall” to the piledriving metal riffs and stuttering rave beats on “Filth Friends Unite.” More impressive, frontman Devin Oliver shows remarkable growth as a vocalist; on the title track and “Endless Sky,” he adjusts to the aggression by stretching his voice into sustained upper-register wails which recall ex-Saosin vocalist Cove Reber.
However, I See Stars’ willingness to push genre boundaries—and challenge themselves—is most evident by the deft electronic elements flitting through Digital Renegade. The growling metalcore of “Summer Died In Connersville” veers into a danceable bridge full of scrambled digital effects; “Gnars Attacks” and the pulsating beats slamming through it would fit right in on Breathe Carolina’s Hell Is What You Make It; and the gruff guitars chugging through “NZT48” give way to wicked electro-industrial grooves. Even the poppier moments on Digital Renegade attempt to break away from convention: “This Isn’t A Gameboy” boasts whimsical 8-bit beats at its start, and the synth-softened “Electric Forest” features dancefloor-siren vocal contributions from Cassadee Pope.
Unlike other bands who combine disparate styles, I See Stars do so in unexpected ways; the mash-up of programmed effects and crushing rock elements sounds seamless and exciting. Yet Digital Renegade also won’t alienate long-time fans—the album just reinforces how the band are creatively charged and ferociously ambitious.