Review Summary: A strong effort from the group, but felt rushed and effortless at times when you expected the band to shine.
Alright, well here it is, the so called "highly anticipated" sophomore album from Angels and Airwaves, I-Empire. They pushed back the release date, they showed a dozen song samples and previews (aside from the leaks) and now it is the official release date in the US and in Canada.
Angels and Airwaves stopped touring quite early to work for 6 months on this new adventure. Tom Delonge claimed that this album was like listening to We Don't Need To Whisper with the energy times by ten. He says that this is the second half to their debut album. With WDNTW, it received some good reviews, but definitely had its share of bad reviews, which what I think is going to happen with this album; people are going to either love it or hate it.
I-Empire is another concept type album. With concept albums, you often think that many songs will sound the same, but on I-Empire, Tom Delonge does a decent job of giving you a variety of songs that sound quite different from one another; which was his weakness on the bands debut album to many. Each song seems to have its own story and its own sound, which really gives a good flow for the album. The cover features a painting of the band, flags, stars and a dude on a motorcycle. The people that have not heard about this band or album are going to be curious when they walk by this album cover. As you may be able to tell, the album cover highly resembles the cover of a Star Wars movie; Drew Strizan(?) (who also did work with Star Wars) is the master-mind behind this painting. People are talking about it and when they are, they are either laughing at the bands serious pose infront of the "Star Wars galaxy" or saying "Woah cool dudes! Looks like Star Wars!".
So on with the album, Call to Arms comes in with an uplifiting intro with the marching drums and an energetic riff, followed by the "clashing" type effects. When the song rolls in, it rolls in with a quick and hard pace. This is the perfect song to start off the album and follows the lines of "beginning a new adventure".
There is a lot to talk about with Everything's Magic since it was the first single off the album, but what has most blink-182 fans talking is the songs similarites to blink-182's Anthem Part 2. Everything's Magic was the "radio friendly" song to attract a young audience by releasing a typical pop-punk song with anti-depressing lyrics. The music video was filmed on a football field with the stereotypical young adults lying around; not what Angels and Airwaves is about really. The song features some cool clapping effects, decent drums, great bass lines and even a dreamy guitar riff, but the lyrics at the verses are somewhat poor "Do you ever_____and Do you ever_____I can say that I have, I can say that I have" (You see where i'm going with this) Delonge basically fills in the blanks with different situations, which can be okay, but becomes less and less exciting each time around. This is can be a fun song, but there is nothing special about it.
Breathe and Lifeline are the two soft songs on the album, but If there were to be just one, it would easily be Lifeline. Not that Lifeline is amazing, but it is certainly better than Breathe.
The much talked about Breathe (not great talk may I remind you), starts off with some more cool snyths, effects and brushing little drums rolls; the snyths gave me a real unique 80's type feeling. It really did not sound like AVA. When Tom's vocals came in, I was surprised with some good lyrics like "Stars fall like dust". But as Thomas Delonge turned the corner, he walked straight into a brick wall for the chorus. "Did you know that I love you? Come and lay with me; I love you". The words "I love you" are used way too much. When you listen to almost every song on the radio these days, they are trying to find different ways to tell their crush or love that they love them, but Tom just stands up and says it out loud. So, if you look back on Good Day from WDNTW, Tom Delonge says "Have you ever heard me scream I love you". Well now you can reply "Yes we have, now shutup please".
Lifeline is a decent soft song with different lyrics that do not speak of love, they talk about having strength and doing the unimaginable. "I watched us all reach out and lean for the strength to touch the sky..." He uses his vocal melodies very well through the verses. As I listened to this song I felt something building up and building up then when the song finally takes off to a snappy drum line, the dreadful lyrics "Yo, oh, oh, oh, woah, oh" take place. Tom made everything build up to those lyrics and then it's over?
Okay enough, let us look on the positive side. Musically, the best song on the album is Secret Crowds. The newest songs in terms of feeling, are Sirens and Rite of Spring.
Secret Crowds is a fantastic song in every way. Tom fills up the verses with fast and unique vocals. He sings about what he claims the album is about "Building your own Utopia". He ties the album "I-Empire" with the lyrics "If I Had My Own World, I'd Build You An Empire". Perfect, very different from Tom. The choruses are very uplifting and Tom Delonge streeetches his notes to give you an epic and euphoric chorus. "Watch our words spread hope like fire.."
Sirens gives you a dark feeling; the song is about murder. It is quite stripped own. A clean twangy like guitar and smooth bass line fits perfectly with the lines like "...a dark night on the west coast""...then the phone rang, like a gunshot, like a siren" Surprisingly, the la, da, da's fit well, probably because they build you into the chorus.
Just before Rite of Spring, is another interlude "Jumping Rooftops". They gave it a neat name and it sounds very mechanical, almost like "thinking" music. Cool? One might say or one may not think anything of this 0:45 second interlude.
Alright, the much talked about Rite of Spring. People are digging this song off the album because it obviously sounds like old school blink-182 at times and even refers to them. "My skateboard and my *** guitar, I dreamed all day that they'd get me far" Tom Delonge is trying to sum up the story of his life, a job well done to that. Very appealing lines to fans are "The summer's gone, the years have passed, my friends have changed, a few did last. the smallest dreams got pushed aside, for the largest ones, they changed my life..." well because you can guess why. The lyrics at the chorus feel a little basic as almost as if they are too easy "if i had a chance for another try, i wouldn't change a thing, it's made me all of who i am inside..." The toy piano makes a great cameo in this song, but Tom Delonge unnecessarily throws in some "Yo, ohh , oh, ohhs" in there, they are not as bothersome as others since he tosses them in at the end. Interesting, enjoyable, chill song.
Alright so the "time stealer" on the album, Star Of Bethlehem/ True Love. People are going to like and dislike this, they seperated it's original lengthy form and made it into two tracks.
SOB- Really just a "time stealer" off the album. Really it is just a bunch of digital effects and is a ridiculously long intro. Not a lot to say...
True Love- Well this song is a great song, which gives you a We Don't Need To Whisper feel, probably because it was written around that era. It has a great build up with some "Yo way, oh way, oh way oh's" then takes you away with the strumming clean, delayed guitars. The lyrics fill up the verses quite well and differ from other songs. "The Stars In The Sky Illuminate Below, The Light Is The Sign That Love Will Guide You Home" great usage of the chorus after the "Yo way's..." This a rather dreamy song with its vocals melodies staying around a calm level and a medium pace. I once heard that "Yo way, oh way, oh way, oh" was an alien call. If this were true, this would be quite neat.
Okay so I am working from Last to First, in the sense that Love Like Rockets was the first ever preview of I-Empire any one had ever heard. It sounded epic, spacy, but a little like WDNTW; who would have known through a short intro clip. So this song caught me on surprise by starting out with president Eisenhower's speech then going into a spacey, love song? Well, that's alright because the intro is still very cool. The melodies are catchy and in a good way it sounds like the Adventure at times (bass line, clean guitar bridge). The lyrics are quite good, but I felt "I kissed you first, then you kissed my ear" was a little bit for a lack of better words "lovey dovey" when I was expecting more lines like "The belts grew tight, as the blast grew loud". The chorus is a little disappointing "Do you feel alive?(Imagine, Imagine)" that was cool sounding, yes, but I felt they should have expanded on that. So they throw in a new line which I cannot understand "Stars in your eyes, light up the sky, with earths, light, fire and sound?" Which are not even featured in the I-Empire booklet? hmm weird and suspicious. Anyways, I thought they would drift back into the chorus or something, but instead it fades out on those lines.
Heaven, does a pretty good job of wrapping up the album. Heaven reminds me of a tribute song to AVA or a memorabilia as if this were to be played at AVA's funeral, which would give it away with the epic sounding organ in the beginning. It gives you some clips of WDNTW songs at the beginning that are coming through the airwaves. Neat. The lyrics are very epic sounding, the most epic lyrics on the album. They are very empowering, and inspiring "Your life is full of pure desire". The song features the same elements of Valkyrie Missile's verses and choruses; uplifting and slow at the chorus. The end really ties the album up by referencing WDNTW, "Please stay dont go, I got you know, are you curious?...Here I am (closer)".. Epic and beautiful sounding, in this song, Tom really lets you envision his lyrics through the music. "...Heaven must be just like this" was a great way to tie up with the title.
So to answer my summary line, the band evidently tried really hard by making each song diverse and/or energetic in which they did.
Repeating "I love you" over and over at such a cool sounding chorus, seemed effortless to find another way of changing it up after the thousandth time. Adding "yo, oh's" seemed a little rushed almost like saying "let's throw this in, It will finish the song"(Lifeline). Love Like Rockets, so anticipated, but fell short of being epic with the hooking, epic intro.
Well, it is easy to see that the band only spent 6 months working on this CD (1 year for WDNTW) therefore, it gave a bit of a rushed feeling, Honestly, what was the rush? The band just released WDNTW in May of 2006.
But for a "6 month album", great effort.
I recommend for a good approach to the album: Call To Arms, Sirens, Love Like Rockets, Secret Crowds, Rite of Spring and Heaven.
3 out of 5 stars. An album worth buying.