“Lifeforms” Takes Your Breath Away

15 years of Angels & Airwaves results in their most diverse and compelling release yet


Aaron Story

Photo courtesy of Aaron Story.

Angels & Airwaves have returned to tell a compelling story of discovery, love and extraterrestrials with their sixth studio album “Lifeforms.” After much anticipation from fans and critics alike, it was released on Sept. 24 through Rise Records. The tale, with its track listing, reveals a mystery revolving around a creature from the stars known as Vivian; a being of light having the form of a female human in search of someone named Victor. Frontman Tom Delonge has once again transformed his fascination with the unknown into an enthralling auditory adventure. While taking you on this journey, each song invites you to find a bit of yourself in every note and every word.

The opening track “Timebomb” kicks off the ride with layers of glitzy synths that reminisce the opening credit sequence of your favorite Sci-Fi television show. Delonge’s signature vocal style also pairs up with soaring guitars and punchy drums in such a glorious and welcoming fashion. The anthemic lyrics take you by the hand into this mystery with a promise of profound discovery.

The second track “Euphoria” delves a little deeper into this entity known as Vivian. While metaphorical and almost esoteric, you feel like she is learning how to be a human. Her fears and desires to know who she is paralleled with what we go through every day. The words paint a picture of dreams and memories of a forgotten past; a picture that you can always find yourself in. The poetic lines are coupled with driving kick drums, a funky bass line and an outro that will leave you dancing with your hands in the air.

Following “Euphoria” is the band’s sexiest song yet, “Spellbound.” It’s electro heavy forefront mixed with a smooth descending bass riff rivals some of Depeche Mode’s most iconic aesthetics. The lyrics are primal, risky and alluring. The beat leaves you feeling like you’re in the backroom with a secret lover, throwing caution to the wind about getting caught. This track seems to delve into Vivian’s newly discovered sexuality which is something that humanity is forever exploring.

Then comes “No More Guns,” which reflects upon the planet’s circus of perpetual violence. The vocal phrasing and guitar tone rings with an homage to The Ramones. You can almost hear Joey Ramone every time Delonge sings “oh oh oh” between lines. For as grim and unforgiving as the lyrics are, this jovial and bouncy punk rock classic will get you in the mosh pit. It also takes a good look at what we as a society have become.

Just when you thought you thought the band couldn’t bend the genres any further, they come with a pop banger called “Losing My Mind.” As the maddening lyrics echo the chaos of human existence, you can’t help but dance throughout the entire song. This is one of their most exhilarating departures they have ever embarked on. It appears to stray from the underlined story of Vivian, and is more of a straightforward outcry of the outrageous reality we are faced with day after day. This track will keep you on the dance floor from beginning to end.

You are then transported back in time with “Automatic.” The heavy reverb of the guitar and orchestral synths scream with an undeniable inspiration by The Cure. It sounds like the last day of high school on the brink of summer break. It blossoms with a warm and bittersweet atmosphere that calls back to the beauty of young love and the honesty of your first broken heart. The listener can assume that this song is referring to Vivian’s first love. This frail creature is learning the power of attraction and setting her heart’s controls on automatic.

The warm and fuzzies are then replaced with unease and uncertainty as “Restless Souls” begins. The distant electronic percussion with a somber yet aggressive strum of a single guitar string put you in the middle of a vast desert. The mention of false words and aimless passion amongst a punk rock drum beat make you wonder if there is still a promise of hope in this world. Just as you feel the album taking a drastic turn, the chorus explodes with a powerful and uplifting crescendo. You are invested with a message of pure aspiration and reassured that even if the world is caving in, that you must never give in.

After that curve ball, we are brought back to a sound that every Angels & Airwaves fan is all too familiar with. The track “Rebel Girl” still embodies the bright ‘80s synths, but the vocal phrasing and guitar work is more reminiscent of their earlier work. After having been shown the versatility of their soundscapes, it feels like a return to form and a reminder that the band will never forget their roots. This track could be referring to a character in the story that has fallen in love with Vivian. It almost sounds like something that Romeo would write for Juliet while waiting outside her window. It calls on the tragedy of hiding your true feelings for the person you cannot stop thinking about. It is likened to a love letter that was never sent. Beautiful yet so unfortunate.

Then comes “A Fire In A Nameless Town,” which is perhaps their most cinematic and engaging song yet. The atmosphere shifts from being vulnerable and dismayed to being certain and dedicated. The chorus expresses the power of one’s fidelity to another; that no matter what, you’d always be there. All the while desperately begging for just one more night together. It’s a bit unclear where this song fits within the overall story. Yet the emotion that is expressed will be felt tenfold and will bring a tear to your eye. The album could end right here and it would still be a masterpiece.

The story cannot end like that though. Angels & Airwaves always take you on one final rise to the top of the roller coaster for an exciting and optimistic conclusion. The closer, “Kiss And Tell,” ensures you that the story is far from over. The track shines like a post credit sequence of a Sci-Fi blockbuster. Just as you lost the one who got away, you are given a final chance to pull them close and finally let them know how you’ve felt all along. No matter the consequence, you must let your true self be seen and heard. Sometimes that can be done without a single word, but rather with one single kiss.

This album is breathtaking and concrete in its mission to envelope you in a unique experience. While the path of the tale is not entirely revealed in this release, you are given the opportunity to find yourself within the adventure. You will undoubtedly be moved and inspired from start to finish.

You can purchase the album at tothestars.media and riserecords.com, and you can hear it on all streaming platforms.