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I Am Empire - Kings Album Cover
Author's Rating
Vocals 8.5
Musicianship 8
Lyrics 7.75
Production 9
Creativity 7.5
Lasting Value 7.75
Reviewer Tilt 8.5
Final Verdict: 81%
Member Ratings
Vocals 6.65
Musicianship 7.25
Lyrics 7
Production 7.5
Creativity 6.65
Lasting Value 6.65
Reviewer Tilt 6.45
Average: 69%
Inside AP.net

I Am Empire - Kings

Reviewed by: Matthew Tsai (01/17/11)
I Am Empire Kings
Record Label: Tooth and Nail Records
Release Date: January 25, 2011


As a former, ardent supporter of Tooth and Nail, I regretfully admit that I’m one of those pessimists declaring the label’s downfall. But when their recent signings have gone the way of electro-pop gasping desperately for inspiration (And Then There Were None), fearless The Maine worship (Rocky Loves Emily) and Underoath-meets-Relient K-meets-disaster (Write This Down) – just to name a few – you’re left with little choice. Never mind that they’re losing more of their experimental side by the second: These new additions are enough to get anyone speculating that they might be ditching their signature pop/rock brand altogether. It’s a good thing, then, that they inked I Am Empire, whose obsession with slick hooks, solos, ballads, the like, throws back to some of the Tooth’s brighter days (and yes, Ivoryline and Children 18:3 are still on the roster, but we’re talking rookies here). Kings lets you taste nostalgia without making you dig back in time.

Let’s go back to the part about slick hooks for a second. Kings is laminated with the same kind of glossy production we’ve come to expect from, say, Anberlin or Ivoryline, which makes a lot of the tracks sound good. “Brain Damage’s” gloriously decorated assertion that “We are the sons and daughters of broken homes, kings of great peace couldn’t compare to us” is made still more glorious when it’s fitted with a climbing chorus and Austin Lyon’s dynamic diaphragm (the Matt Shelton comparisons are mostly accurate, by the way). Even better is the part later in the song when the volume is momentarily toned down, only to make room for the music to barge back in seconds later, ablaze and frenzied. The same precision in songwriting/production pairing is there in the slow burners too: “Love & Despair” is written with enough melody – and polished to just the right sonic glint – to actually channel the emotions of love and despair.

Just as important to the album are its child abandonment theme and searing riffage. The former threads underlying feelings of oppression, frustration and hope throughout the album; the latter adds punctuations to its message. The band doesn’t need to be told twice to brandish the guitars – seven of the 12 tracks sport solos. In single “Saints and Sinners,” a squealing riff builds to finger-pointing screams: “You don’t make any sense! Full of incompetence!” And “You’re A Fake’s” bridge is lightly tinged with southern metal. Not to be outdone by either – or any of the seven, for that matter – “To the Moon’s” solo rains fire, melting the remaining minute of the song into adoring “whoah-oh’s.” It’s just too bad the fire catches in the sixth track, since the rest of the album is good but never again surmounts such a lofty height.

Kings does a good job of reviving the more likeable days of pop/rock, but it also revives some of the faults along with it – mainly that it can come across as too formulaic, and that consistency isn’t promised. Most of the tracks adhere to a verse-chorus-verse-chorus-solo-chorus pattern, but for the most part this is fine because it’s executed convincingly. But some are less convincing than others, and interestingly enough, almost all of the less fortunate ones are slower songs. There’s “Dig You Out,” proudly co-written with Anberlin but lacking in memorability; “Take Me Away,” which is too snugly entrenched in radio pop to make any sort of impact; maybe the most obvious one is closer “It’s Not Fair,” where the vocals are a little too melodramatic for comfort. All these missteps say something about I Am Empire though: When they turn up the energy, they also seem to turn up the quality.

And that’s where Kings sits. It loses momentum when it tries to get ballad-y, but the majority of the album blares loud enough that it doesn’t necessarily matter. The essential thing is that it’s a hardy exercise in rock for the better half of its playing time. It falters at times, but never gives up (“Foxhole,” one of the most rowdy numbers, is one track from the closer), serving up a dish of provoking music that will establish I Am Empire as a “band to watch.” And maybe more importantly, it’s a nice assertion that the Tooth ain’t dead just yet.

Recommended If You LikeIvoryline, Anberlin, The Wedding, House of Heroes

Track list1. Brain Damage
2. Heart Attack
3. Saints and Sinners
4. Hammers and Anvils
5. Love & Despair
6. To the Moon
7. The Elevator
8. Dig You Out (co-written with Anberlin)
9. Take Me Away
10. You're A Fake
11. Foxhole
12. It's Not Fair

Find I Am Empire on Purevolume.
 
Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 39.
04:23 PM on 01/17/11
#2
Ryan Gardner
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Good review, Matt. I've had this record for awhile now from T&N, but it's just not doing a lot for me
04:53 PM on 01/17/11
#3
chillinlikebob
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Good review, Matt. I've had this record for awhile now from T&N, but it's just not doing a lot for me
I'd be happy to take it off your hands for you!!
05:14 PM on 01/17/11
#4
StepsInADance
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Nice review
Pretty excited about this CD, hopefully this really does bring some credibility back to Tooth & Nail's new signings
05:17 PM on 01/17/11
#5
cwhit412
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I have a bad feeling that it's going to seem very generic and repetitive, like Ivoryline was.
05:35 PM on 01/17/11
#6
more heart
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Tooth & Nail/Solid State really have issues signing bands that don't conform to what a majority of their current roster sounds like. Jeez...
05:44 PM on 01/17/11
#7
Blake Solomon
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i made it three songs before deleting this. so boring and strangely cock rock-ish in the most unpleasant, hackneyed of ways. I was expecting this to sound like Anberlin/Ivoryline, which is why I listened in the first place, but it does not sound like that at all. Bleh Burp.
05:47 PM on 01/17/11
#8
Ryan Gardner
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i made it three songs before deleting this. so boring and strangely cock rock-ish in the most unpleasant, hackneyed of ways. I was expecting this to sound like Anberlin/Ivoryline, which is why I listened in the first place, but it does not sound like that at all. Bleh Burp.
I agree. It reminded me of like some Escape the fate crap
07:33 PM on 01/17/11
#9
Romancebled
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I'm not seeing the appeal of this band's music. Doesn't sound new or refreshing at all.
08:51 PM on 01/17/11
Matthew Tsai
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i made it three songs before deleting this. so boring and strangely cock rock-ish in the most unpleasant, hackneyed of ways. I was expecting this to sound like Anberlin/Ivoryline, which is why I listened in the first place, but it does not sound like that at all. Bleh Burp.

I agree. It reminded me of like some Escape the fate crap

I mean the singer's voice is nasally and probably won't be everyone's thing, but the album definitely has some well-written tunes imo
08:59 PM on 01/17/11
Blake Solomon
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I mean the singer's voice is nasally and probably won't be everyone's thing, but the album definitely has some well-written tunes imo
no worries, i'm glad you liked it. i wish i did. i hate hating music, and am always glad when someone finds something they can latch onto. Didn't mean to make it sound like you were completely wrong and there was only one right answer. it's all a big crapshoot. Also, this was a nicely written review. You're certainly one of the better review writers here.
09:04 PM on 01/17/11
Ryan Gardner
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no worries, i'm glad you liked it. i wish i did. i hate hating music, and am always glad when someone finds something they can latch onto. Didn't mean to make it sound like you were completely wrong and there was only one right answer. it's all a big crapshoot. Also, this was a nicely written review. You're certainly one of the better review writers here.
My sentiments to you as well, Matt. Great review; just not my thing
09:11 PM on 01/17/11
Matthew Tsai
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no worries, i'm glad you liked it. i wish i did. i hate hating music, and am always glad when someone finds something they can latch onto. Didn't mean to make it sound like you were completely wrong and there was only one right answer. it's all a big crapshoot. Also, this was a nicely written review. You're certainly one of the better review writers here.

My sentiments to you as well, Matt. Great review; just not my thing

Oh yeah, definitely, I was just expressing my opinion as an alternative to your opinions haha. And thanks!
09:12 PM on 01/17/11
Ryan Gardner
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Oh yeah, definitely, I was just expressing my opinion as an alternative to your opinions haha. And thanks!
I wish I enjoyed it, as I've always loved T&N/SS
04:10 AM on 01/18/11
Hidden In NJ
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I never could really get into them...unfortunately.
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