Review by Shannon Shumaker
Treehouse is a monumental release for I See Stars. The band’s fifth full-length release also marks their first release as a four piece, with frontman Devin Oliver taking on both clean and unclean vocals, but that’s not the only change that the band has gone through. Each track on Treehouse stands out for its own reason, whether it’s the band’s aggressive rock presence, strong electronic elements or even the hip-hop influences that are present on this release. Massive, explosive and incredibly diverse, Treehouse is a turning point for I See Stars, and in the best way possible.
The hip-hop influences in Treehouse, something we haven’t seen much of since 3-D, are apparent right from the get go with the opening track, “Calm Snow,” which is carried primarily by stunning vocal work and drum and bass until the full band comes in. “Break,” the second track, definitely sets the tone for the rest of the album though. Massive, inspirational and emotional, this song is when the I See Stars we all know and love really deliver. Each element to this song is incredible, from the heavy and full guitar tone to the eerie electronic parts to Devin Oliver’s stunning vocal work. “Break” is the perfect pushing off point for the rest of the album.
Following “Break” comes the first hint of heartbreak on Treehouse, “White Lies.” This track, which starts off relatively soft and slow, builds with heavy bass and great drumming before exploding about halfway through. But on top of the incredible instrumentals are vocals and lyrics that really stand out, telling a story of heartbreak and betrayal in lines such as, “You said you’d be there till the bitter end/Your voice feels bitter now.”
While Oliver’s stunning clean vocals are showcased very well throughout the first half of the album, his ability to pull double duty as both a clean and unclean vocalist is proven in “Running With Scissors.” Not only does the track showcase Oliver’s unclean vocals, but it also proves I See Stars versatility as a band as it changes tone and pace multiple times in under five minutes.
The following song, “Mobbin’ Out” is easily one of the most ambitious songs on the album as well, starting off soft and quiet, but quickly building and becoming absolutely massive. The electronic elements in this song could easily stand alone, but combined with heavy guitars and powerful screams, it becomes one of the biggest, and most impactful songs on the album. Then comes “Walking On Gravestones,” which musically, is the exact opposite of “Mobbin’ Out.” “Walking On Gravestones” is very soft and mellow. Like the previous song, it is very electronic based, but on the other end of the spectrum.
Honestly, the only downside on Treehouse is the fact that it’s impossible to pick out a standout among these twelve incredible tracks. Okay, so that’s not necessarily a downside after all, but it definitely is a remarkable feat. Track after track, I See Stars simply continue to surprise and impress. Take “Light In The Cave,” for instance. On top of some of the strongest lyricism and vocal work on the album, this song is very strong instrumentally, from wild drumming to jaw-dropping guitar work and beautiful electronic elements. Following is the heavily hip-hop influenced and proud track, “All In.” Normally, a song like this would feel out of place, but considering the diversity on Treehouse, it just works. Then comes the poppy and upbeat, “Two Hearted,” with instrumentals that sometimes sound like a video game.
Treehouse is a big and ambitious release from I See Stars and thankfully, they totally pull it off. From slower songs like “Walking On Gravestones” to the explosive, high energy closer “Yellow King,” which seems to combine all of the strengths of the album, I See Stars as a group showcase their remarkable songwriting skills, and Devin Oliver proves that he is more than capable of taking on clean and unclean vocals on this release, and any future ones to come. I See Stars take Treehouse on the road with the Vans Warped Tour this summer, and I for one can’t wait to hear these massive songs live.
Listen to "Break," "Mobbin' Out" or "Yellow King"
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