Album Review :
I Am Empire - Kings

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Band: I Am Empire
Title: Kings
Label: Tooth & Nail Records
Release Date: January 25th, 2011
Reviewer: Joshua Clark


  1. Brain Damage
  2. Heart Attack
  3. Saints & Sinners
  4. Hammers & Anvil
  5. Love & Despair
  6. To The Moon
  7. The Elevator
  8. Dig You Out
  9. Take Me Away
  10. You’re A Fake
  11. Foxhole
  12. Its Not Fair

I Am Empire is a five-piece band out of Sane Jose, California that formed in 2008. The band has been swimming around in the realm of indie music since their inception. Having independently released their self-titled album back in 2009; the band ended up being signed in 2010 by Tooth and Nail Records. The band has, at least for me, come up as a bit of surprise and is a very promising new band on the label.

Musically I Am Empire provides a fiery-energetic brand of rock n’ roll. You could throw the band’s musical sound in anywhere among Skillet, Thousand Foot Krutch, Disciple, or Skillet. I was very impressed by the musical talent displayed on this album. The band favors a high-octane heavy rock style, filled with lots of catchy riffs and energy. There is a number of very skillful guitar solos scattered throughout this album. They add a nice side to a number of these songs and build up the enjoyabliity of the tracks. Along with that though these songs display a decent amount of complexity. Also the band also strives to deliver some variety by making each song fairly unique in each of their arrangements. The songs are very intricate and all the instruments combined together display some very compelling musicianship from the guys in I Am Empire.

Vocally I am slightly torn on how I feel about front man Austin Lyons pipes. At times I found his vocals decent and working well with the songs the band has constructed. But at the same time I found his vocals rather shrieky and sadly a little annoying at times as they come off a little whiney. Austin does indeed have a unique voice and I can’t say I have heard many vocalists that sound like him. But I can’t really say it is the strongest voice either. There are moments I thought he sounded like a calmer Matt Baird(lead vocals from Spoken.) Maybe it’s just me but a few parts just really reminded me of Matt’s vocals. Matt also has a rather unique voice that I have had very similar feelings about his voice as I now have with Austin Lyons. But in both of these vocalists case, they both are an acquired taste and if you can get into either of them there is much to enjoy. So maybe overtime his voice will grow on me more as Matt Baird’s voice has after  a couple years. But for now I was not as astounded with his vocals as the musicianship displayed by the rest of the band.

The ballad “Take Me Away” was one of my highlights from the album. The track really doesn’t slow things down too much and is a rather upbeat rock ballad. But Austin’s vocals actually drew me in here and I thought this type of song worked well for his voice. The lead off track and single “Brain Damage” was a great start to the album and is a very catchy track, featuring one of those great guitar solos. “Saints & Sinners,” “Dig You Out,” and “Foxhole” were other tracks I found myself enjoying. But the band does a nice job diversifying each track and has decent collection of rock tracks to dive into, along with the few ballads.

Lyrically most of messages the band dives into here is personal experiences front man Austin Lyons had with his biological dad leaving and later his stepfather he had grown close to also leaving from his life. So a number of these tracks touch on abandonment and show a very honest outpouring from Lyons. Some of these tracks come off as pure venting but also show some glimpses of spiritual renewal as well. So the messages actually meld quite well with the music and I found the songwriting to be quite satisfactory.

Overall: I can say I wasn’t expecting to enjoy Kings as much as I have ended up liking it. There are a lot of great energetic rock tracks that will let any rock fan have a good time with Kings. While the music is great some may not be able to get into the vocals as I mentioned above. But even if the vocals aren’t really your thing there is still enough to dive into that will keep your interest. This was definitely a wise signing by Tooth & Nail and was a pretty strong label debut. While this album may not be perfect it is good for what it is and paves the way for the band to grow into their sound more. Not all the songs are spectacular but as a whole the album is solid. This release is a good launching point for the band and helps Tooth & Nail set off with a bang for the year. This is a band to keep an eye open for in the future and rock fans you may have just found yourself a new favorite band.

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