One of the first concerts I ever attended was a Silverstein concert at a small bar in Syracuse, New York in 2010. This was one of my first forays into live hardcore music, and the opening bands, I See Stars and The Word Alive, were both foreign to my young ears. I was thoroughly impressed by both, but never really got into I See Stars as much as I did The Word Alive, mostly because I wasn’t as much a fan of frontman Devin Oliver’s high-pitched singing. Yet when I heard last week that I See Stars would be releasing a mixtape, it piqued my interest enough to want to check out what a mixtape from this band would sound like. Unfortunately, Renegades Forever brings nothing interesting to the table other than some decent remixes and a couple noteworthy tracks.
One of the best things that I See Stars did stylistically to their music was change to a harder sound with their 2012 album Digital Renegade. The album had some quality songs on it, my favorite personally being “Filth Friends Unite.” Remixing this song as “Filth Friends Unite (Celldweller Remix)” in particular is one of the best parts about Renegades Forever. This is a great mix that showcases one of I See Stars’ best songs and dubs it with some deep electronic drops that feel in place with the band’s ever-present technological sound and theme.
However, other than that, none of the other remixes work at all. The two greatest offenders are “NZT48 (Razihel Remix)” and “Electric Forest (Andrew Oliver Remix).” The former takes one of I See Stars’ best songs from Digital Renegade and turns it into an annoying, repetitive mess that attempts to turn the song into a party song that wouldn’t even work at a night club that the Jersey Shore cast attends. The latter remix is just an atrocious mess, making Cassadee Pope of Hey Monday fame, who made the original song quite good, into an irritating soundboard that just keeps moaning the same lyrics to some poorly made beats.
The only thing that saves Renegades Forever from being an utter wreck are the songs that aren’t just remixes of their songs of old. One of these is “This Isn’t a Game Boy,” which features a great retro introduction that feels like it could have been on a soundtrack to an old Super Mario video game. While I wish they would have continued with that sound for the entire song, they instead put the retro to the background and deliver a good track that doesn’t feel marred by unnecessary dubstep like the rest of the mixtape. “Can We Start Again,” which features Frankie Palmeri and Mattie Montgomery, feels and sounds the most like a song from Digital Renegade and is definitely one of the hardest songs I’ve heard the band release.
I See Stars definitely have talent – there’s no doubt about it, because this aptitude is abundant in Digital Renegade. Sadly, mixtape Renegades Forever showcases very little of what they could achieve. Very few of the remixes actually work, and two of the best songs are just plain releases, which goes to show that maybe they should focus more on writing and producing more music instead of toying around with their old songs. Renegades Forever is a poorly constructed release that could have done without all the dubstep and instead showcased some of what I See Stars may be bringing to the table in the future.