January 25, 2011 - Tooth & Nail
This San Jose, California-based quintet have the lyrical self-pity necessary to make it big in the contemporary screamo/alt-rock scene, which is all about mixing introspection and tantrum throwing; but musically, they’re much better than that. On “Heart Attack” and “Saints & Sinners,” guitarists Andrew Stanton and Dan Otis crank out arena-ready riffs reminiscent of vintage Mötley Crüe and other hair-metal acts (on “To The Moon,” they get deep into Junkyard/early Guns N’ Roses territory, and “The Elevator” offers a short but fairly shredtastic guitar solo), while bassist Joshua Case and drummer Eric Martin keep the machine driving forward. Frontman Austin Lyons, despite being so busy gazing into his own navel he’s probably cross-eyed by now, is a more traditionally melodic vocalist than most young screamers, which means I Am Empire have a better than average chance of breaking through to the rock mainstream, and that would be a good thing. Kings offers much more than cock-rock strutting; “Love & Despair” features a 30 Seconds To Mars-worthy “whoa-oh” break that’s sure to get crowds waving their hands in the air and singing along, and “Brain Damage” and “Hammers & Anvils” are moody, slightly psychedelic ballads. Overall, this is a very solid debut from a multifaceted, frequently quite rocking band.