We’ve ended up here in the long, atmospheric road of Angels & Airwaves. There have been many instances of music, art, and even short stories. Founder Tom Delonge has toted the band as a bigger project; for us to not just look at the music, but to look at their projects as an entire art form. With subsequent releases, while the art aspect has been verbose and beautiful, I felt that it got in the way of the actual music. Angels & Airwaves were on the cusp of making a complete album, but just couldn’t quite get there. The Dream Walker, their fifth studio album, is more of the completed vision where the art actually reflects in the music completely. It takes you on a journey and within the layered schematics, finds a band that is more confident of where they want to go than ever before.
The new inclusion of drummer/programmer Ilan Rubin has a lot to do with the completeness of many of these songs. With Rubin’s drumming and Delonge’s guitar and vocals, you have some of the most accessible and catchy songs in their catalog. They bring out the best of each other in this album. The beginning of “Paralyzed” was what I was waiting for from Delonge going back to the Box Car Racer days. The song combines a huge guitar rift with big percussion giving that arena rock feeling. There’s a bridge within this song that accents the synths known with AVA, but it does not sacrifice the heart of the record.
There’s an ambitious aspect that surrounds this record as a whole. “The Wolfpack” may be the perfect litmus test of this. Mostly layered with synthesizers, the track featured a epic-sounding chorus. It’s songs like this that make you welcome the bigger song and appreciate the stripped down closer “Anomaly”, which is comprised of mostly acoustic guitar. The lyrical themes are a tad bit darker this time around. Angels & Airwaves are known for their uplifting, positive words and poetically switched gears. “Tunnels”, which is about Delonge’s dad who passed earlier this year, encapsulates the feeling of loss and also a tribute as well: “Don’t you go/come a little bit closer now if you like/when you die.”
“Kiss With A Spell” has an ’80s, Depeche Mode feel to it where as “Mercenaries” is similar back to the “The War” from the We Don’t Need To Whisper days. Instrumentally, there is a broader spectrum that is reached that doesn’t feel pressure from the art side of Angels & Airwaves. I feel that the music is the main attraction with the art and movie being the appendages used to push the music.
With The Dream Walker, Angels & Airwaves sounds more sure of themselves as a whole as the album is pretty much solid from top to bottom. I’ve followed the band over the years and it’s the first album that made me forget about Blink-182 and wonder how far it could go. With Delonge’s aspirations growing, there’s no telling the heights that can be reached.