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Anchors A Seasoned Sophomore Release

  • Glenn McCarty Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
  • 2013 4 Apr
  • COMMENTS
<i>Anchors</i> A Seasoned Sophomore Release


Artist: I Am Empire
Album: Anchors
Label: Tooth & Nail

A lot can happen in two years. At this time in 2011, for example, the world had yet to be introduced to either Gangnam Style or the Harlem Shake. You can decide whether that’s a plus or a minus. Two years is also enough time, however, for a promising young band to gain enough maturity and seasoning to go from good to great. In the case of California quartet I Am Empire, that’s exactly what seems to have happened with its sophomore release Anchors.

In a review in 2011, I wrote of I Am Empire’s debut release Kings that “for a band barely two years old, it promises much more good to come.” Now, with Anchors, the band takes a giant leap forward in its development. Teaming up with innovative indie rock producer Brian McTernan (The Graduate, Polar Bear Club), the result is an infinitely more refined, sophisticated album. Both lyrics and music are less direct, which makes for a listening experience that’s not as immediately gratifying, but one that after a few listens becomes highly addictive.

From the flinging opening licks of “Gravity Bomb,” the band is dialed in, zipping through a spirited set of songs with a laser focus which results in the classic sound of a four-part rock band clicking on all cylinders. Lead singer Austin Lyons knows his way around a melody, never resorting to primal screaming when emoting and actually singing will do. When he hits the high notes, as on “Labor” and “Sing,” he sounds a bit like Phil Keaggy. The latter song, in fact, could have been a vintage Keaggy anthem, and that’s also a credit to guitarist Andrew Stanton. It’s refreshing to hear a rock band which actually taps the full potential of an electric guitar, and Stanton puts it through its paces on Anchors, whipping up a blend of crunching rhythm and soaring lead licks which are never look-at-me, but serve the song.

There are plenty of highlights on Anchors, regardless on your preference. For those into big, anthemic choruses, “Remedy” and “Daylight,” which reveal an impressive command of songwriting expertise, fit the bill. But there are also dead-eye rockers like “The Mastermind is Me” and “Gasoline.” That kind of variety makes Anchors a repeat-worthy disc and one of the first truly rocking rock albums of the year.

*This Article First Published 4/12/2013