At first glance, I-Empire would seem like a direct sequel to A&A's first record, 2006's overtly anthemic We Don't Need to Whisper. It's all here: the ostentatious build-ups, the highly optimistic lyrics, and the undeviating 80's influence and style. However, given a closer listen, it becomes apparent that the group's sound has slightly evolved over the past year. The songs are tighter, more concise, and with a few exceptions -- "Love Like Rockets," "True Love" "Heaven" - gone are the minute long marathon instrumental intros that personified much of their last album. And it doesn't end there. "Secret Crowds" rocks harder than anything the band has done to date while "Rite of Spring" touches upon a new level of personal songwriting singer Tom DeLonge had yet to tap into.
Despite all this, the band does seem intent on continuing to follow the path set by Whispers. Since leaving Blink 182, DeLonge has ostensibly been on some self-redemptive messianic mission to save the world through music. Every song is a journey. Each a "Where the Streets Have No Name" or "Born to Run" emulation - sweeping guitar rock grandiosities that further explore the U2/Cure/New wave influences that were abound on their debut. Bordering on guilty pleasure territory, I-Empire can be a bit overdramatic at times, but in a music industry that ever-increasingly relies on stunts and controversy to sell its artists, it's refreshing to hear something as positively genuine as this on the airwaves.
3 our of 4 stars.