Angels and Airwaves issue a ‘Call to Arms’

Angels and Airwaves are aiming for world domination with their second album, I-Empire.

Angels and Airwaves spawned from the break-up of pop-punk icon Blink-182. Guitarist and front man Tom Delonge enlisted guitar player Dave Kennedy (Boxcar Racer, Over My Dead Body), drummer Atom Willard (The Offspring, Rocket from the Crypt) and new bassist Matt Wachter (30 seconds to Mars), who replaced original bass player Ryan Sinn.

The band’s first album We Don’t Need To Whisper was met with solid reviews but failed to live up to the lofty expectations set by Delonge when he claimed in a press release that the record would "be the best rock record in the past 20 years."

Delonge’s arrogant hype of his new band had fans puzzled; former band mates Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker lashed out in interviews, condemning Delonge for his selfish attitude. I was fortunate enough to meet Delonge at Angels and Airwaves’ first show in Houston in 2006, and he was the same Delonge to whom Blink-182 fans were accustomed. He went out of his way to converse with me, and it occurred to me that the extensive media hype was done to create a buzz about his new band – and it worked.

"I- Empire is the second half of our first album. It reflects an idea that the world is yours for the taking," Delonge said in a release. "It can be something as trivial as a personal struggle or as grand as the inescapable idea of world peace."

We Don’t Need To Whisper relied heavily on the use of effects pedals and crunchy power chords. I-Empire takes the stadium-rock formula of Whisper, but adds a boost of energy and brilliant harmonies and melodies that Whisper lacked.

"Call To Arms" opens the disc with the anthem of a guitar rift followed by a drumbeat that sounds like a marching army. The song captures the arena-rock sound the band aims for but has the punk-rock energy all members of the band grew up with.

"Everything’s Magic" is the first single and is a well-crafted pop song that reflects the positive vibe of the record.

"Sirens" showcases the band’s darker side lyrically, but provides one of the strongest tracks melodically with its infectious chorus and keyboards. "I like your eyes wide / Knocking at your back door / Nervous like a knife fight / Be careful what you ask for," sings Delonge, telling a tale of murder.

"Secret Crowds" is a heavier track that should have been the first single, as it incorporates everything the band is about. "If I had my own world / I’d love it for all that is inside it / There’d be no more wars, deaths or riots / There’d be no more police, packed parking lots, guns, bombs sounding off," Delonge sings about a perfect society.

The song really takes off in the chorus as Delonge passionately sings, "Let me feel you, carry you higher / Watch our words spread hope like fire / Secret crowds rise up and gather / Hear your voices sing back louder."

"Lifeline" is an eerie, haunting track that somehow remains upbeat, telling the listener "If you wish it, wish it now / If you wish it, wish it loud / If you want it, say it loud."

The rest of the album carries that big, U2 sound that the band strives for with tracks such as "Breathe," "Love like Rockets," "True Love" and "Heaven," which recycles a lot of the sounds and riffs from We Don’t Need To Whisper.

"Rite of Spring" (emo-band Rites of Spring ring a bell to anyone?) is an autobiographical song about Delonge’s life up until now. The song urges listeners not to take him so seriously, as maybe doubt lies behind his strong words, as Delonge sings, "And everyday I wake / I tell myself another harmless lie / The whole wide world is mine."

I-Empire is everything We Don’t Need To Whisper should have been, and then some. Will Angels and Airwaves be the biggest band in the world? Realistically, the goal seems unattainable, but you can’t fault them for trying.

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