Tom DeLonge returns with an overhauled sound...

It’s been seven years since Angels & Airwaves released 'The Dream Walker', their fifth album. 10 tracks of synth driven alternative rock, it was both bombastic and ambitious: the record’s songs tying in to a much wider, over-arching narrative spanning several mediums.

To say a lot has happened in those seven years would be an understatement. Both on a personal level for founding member and frontman Tom DeLonge, but also on a much larger, global scale as well. It’s these themes that DeLonge seeks to explore on 'LIFEFORMS', the band’s highly anticipated sixth record, striking a balance between the personal and the profound in a way he’s never managed before.

A shift away from its predecessor, both sonically and thematically, 'LIFEFORMS' feels like the record Angels and Airwaves have been promising since their inception. Complex, yet easy to digest, it wears its influences plainly. ‘Automatic’ for instance harbours all the melancholy melody of The Cure, while ‘Euphoria’s angular angst could almost be a Box Car Racer comeback track. Not once however, do these tracks feel anything less than Angels and Airwaves. - And this is the important factor.

Though the band have always harboured a certain synth-driven, electronic aesthetic, it has, on occasion, felt cloying, or worse, ephemeral. On 'LIFEFORMS' however, it’s been sharped, honed, allowing for the opposing emotions of angst and optimism to shine through, both musically and lyrically, much more tangibly than on previous offerings.

And well they might. At its heart 'LIFEFORMS' is an album hinged on the human condition, and how we interact not just with each other, but with the world around us too. As such, there’s ideas DeLonge has discussed before, such as conspiracy theories and social interactions, but also themes he’s shied away from, such as racism (‘Losing My Mind’), and gun violence (‘No More Guns’). That doesn’t mean to say to say that 'LIFEFORMS' feels downbeat or negative however, it’s arguably the band’s most upbeat release to date, something that one assumes can be attributed to it also feeling like Angels & Airwaves at their most confident, most liberated too.

It’s understandable. In the time between records, DeLonge has parted ways with Blink-182, the band he co-founded, and divorced his wife. He’s also found vindication in the form of his work founding To The Stars, a company that will only further the already lofty ambitions of Angels & Airwaves. Those ambitions show no sign of slowing down either. And Angels & Airwaves are only an entry point to DeLonge’s already prolific output. As far as they go though, they don’t get better than LIFEFORMS. Big, bold and ambitious, it’s both a welcome return and a statement of intent.

8/10

Words: Dave Beech

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