Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Review: I See Stars - Digital Renegade

 Well, this is the band that are claimed to be the pioneers of the electronicore sub-genre that everyone loves to hate, and that I've really managed to get into for some reason. I See Stars' second album 3-D has had a considerable impact on a small-sized generation of people into emo, metalcore and electronica music, wondering if there's anywhere where they can find all three at once. Sounds reasonable. Despite their major influence however, I See Stars have always been in the shadow of other bands that have prospered and have recently been playing second fiddle to Asking Alexandria on their massive Still Reckless Tour taking place across North America, acting as support along with The Amity Affliction, Motionless in White and for some weird reason Trivium and Dir En Grey. So, in many ways, the group's third release Digital Renegade sees I See Stars taking a step up to the air of respectability in the world of electronicore they demand.

 If it's going to make them bigger anywhere it is going to be very much limited to getting bigger in electronicore circles and if that's not you're scene, you're probably only here because you're lost and the correct term you're looking for is "astronomy". There's no sign of the band taking on more traditional metallic qualities here. There's big choruses filled with hooks and auto-tuned vocals from Devin Oliver, there's still continuous usage of synthesizers and not the ambient kind, the ones that create trance music in order to accompany the constant breakdowns from Brent Allen and Jimmy Gregerson, which at random points of the album, leads the musical proceedings with no guitar backing and stops the group from having any kind of metallic qualities and makes them sound more like Cobra Starship and tracks like Summer Died in Connersville feels more inspired by pop punk music than any kind of hardcore group. In many ways, I See Stars still prove themselves to have the kind of music you could headbang to, but you would definitely cringe if you heard anyone refer to them as "brutal".
 Still, with their position as a poppy post hardcore group established, there is lots to be impressed by. This album sees a great increase in focus in terms of merging these styles together and the relentless juddering mixed with pulsing dance synthesizers seen in tracks like NZT48 and Filth Friends Unite shows these influences brought together and executed in a much more seamless form in a way more definitive of what electronicore should be, the latter track even carrying the sense of ambition to see the group take on Enter Shikari. And get instantly defeated because Enter Shikari are incredible.
 Needless to say, an emotional impact is created across the album, be it the kind of dark and furious tones contained across Mystery Wall and Endless Sky, aided with guest vocals from Yorkshire rabble-rouser Danny Worsnop or are more rooted in melancholy and tragedy, as Electric Forest tells of romantic loss and woe with the intense rush of emotion heightened by guest vocals from Hey Monday's Cassadee Pope. Albeit it can be difficult at times to distinguish her voice from that of Oliver's, due to the auto-tuning.
 Overall, Digital Renegade is very much a prime album that in realms of electronicore ticks all the boxes. The synthesizer work remains pulsing and dynamic and the strength of the post hardcore performance is very much cranked up. It's unlikely that it will make them any friends out of this scene but, it's a pretty solid effort that shows I See Stars to be a rightfully respected act as one of the main innovators of this genre.

 I See Stars' Digital Renegade is out now via Sumerian Records. The band will perform at the Slam Dunk Festival at the Leeds University Union and University of Hertfordshire Forum from 26th-27th May.

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