BATTLE REVIEW: I See Stars – Digital Renegade

I SEE STARS2

What exactly is a BATTLE REVIEW? Good question. Sometimes the UTG staff cannot decide who will review a record and our solution is to let all interested parties voice their opinion. Below you will find two reviews, one by Kriston McConnell and the other by Ethan Merrick, each covering the new release from I See Stars. We highly encourage you consider each viewpoint when making your purchasing decision.

Battle reviews are rare on our site, but we have been thinking of doing more in the future. If you like this feature, comment below and let us know!

Artist: I See Stars
Album: Digital Renegade
Genre: Scenecore
Label: Sumerian

Electronicore pioneers, I See Stars’ cacophonic blend of neon electronic flourishes and gritty guitar fuzz make an exuberant return with their latest release. Digital Renegade is saturated in hyper-aggressive, sugary pop goodness that bares more fangs and claws than either of the band’s previous releases. This more volatile edge creates a juxtaposition between the electronic dance-beats as well as the harsh, brash vocals and instrumentation that places emphasis on I See Stars’ explosive energy.

The real charm Digital Renegade is how I See Stars are able to effortlessly blend brutal hardcore with catchy electronica. “Filth Friends Unite,” the album closer, as well as “NZT48” perfectly marries both genres. “Filth Friends Unite” opens with a bright, electronic dance beat before dissolving into Zach Johnson’s guttural roar and static, reverb-ed loops. Brash and bratty breakdowns, accented with Johnson’s menacing barks bookend Devin Oliver’s clean, melodic vocals along with luminescent synth accents and sharp guitar flourishes throughout the song.

“NZT48” is a straight kick to the teeth. The track opens with Oliver, fuzzed and distant before Johnson comes roaring in with crashing guitars. Oliver’s clean vocals tease in and out of the track accompanied by pop saturated synths and wheeling guitars. “NZT48” reaches its zenith when Oliver sings “some men just want to see watch the world burn” with Johnson repeating “watch the world burn” before quickly diving into a churning guitar riff.

With Digital Renegade I See Stars have been able to encapsulate electric, neon sex. The blended instrumentation as well as the clean and rough vocals imbue each track with infectious dance beats. Demanding the listener to answer with excitable movement, resplendent with Arsenio Hall-esque fist pumps. However, the lack of variation on Digital Renegade leaves something to be desired.

Score: 6/10
Review written by: Ethan Merrick

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Artist: I See Stars
Album: Digital Renegade
Genre: Scenecore
Label: Sumerian

Up until recently, when thinking of I See Stars, I always imagined a young, talented group of men lacking a little bit of direction. I personally heard about them from a friend who was crazy about the band. That’s when I decided to pick up 3-D, and I was immediately a fan. Though I never thought they were the “greatest” nor were they a band I would go out of my way to listen to, I enjoyed their music. Then The End of the World Party came out, I’m afraid to say that I purchased the album and was fairly disappointed with it. I was expecting a little bit more growth, and I believe their lineup changes (though they brought back their original unclean vocalist) might have had something to do with this.

Now I like to try to approach each new album a band comes out with as an individual piece speaking to who they were at that point of time, not necessarily something that needs to fall in a specific order of growth or development. When I heard that I See Stars was in the studio again working on new music, I was excited and just a little bit skeptical (as I tend to be). This changed immediately with the release of their first single off Digital Renegade, titled “Filth Friends Unite”. If this track alone is any reflection of what we should expect to hear then we will have a great album on our hands.

Digital Renegade opens strong with “Gnars Attacks”, a short but written track loaded with the electronic sound that I See Stars has successfully made their own. The second track is also their most recent single-“NZT48” was released in late February as a lyric video and is personally my favorite out of the two singles. This track gives us the opportunity to hear more of Devin Oliver’s singing voice, but is still heavy for those of you who need some eardrum shattering breakdowns. This and “Filth Friends Unite” are definitely two very notable tracks on the whole record.

Additional tracks that will keep you coming back for more would be “Endless Sky” featuring labelmate Danny Worsnop of Asking Alexandria and “Mystery Wall”. Capturing the listener at the beginning of the album may be important, but keeping them immersed in the music into the middle and the end is just as important, which these two tracks are able to do. These tracks are some of the backbone of this record and make the less memorable tracks keep this album on its feet.

The last track of the album, “Filth Friends Unite”, has that familiar electronica sound that you would expect from I See Stars, coupled with Zach Johnson’s much heavier screams. This is a great song to end an album with, it’s catchy, well put together and of course, very heavy. The verse “We’re not fucking around” should speak to entire feel of this album, this band means business this time around and it shows.

I believe with the release of this record this band is one giant step closer to being in the ranks with other great bands. They’ve managed to take a genre of music that can be done very poorly, and made it work in a fantastic way. They still have some growing to do and I anticipate this record will help propel them forward in their genre of music. I am sure this is not the last we will be hearing of I See Stars.

SCORE: 7/10
Review written by: Kriston McConnell

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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