We Came As Romans
We Came As Romans
(Equal Vision Records)
Goddamn it, WCAR. Not you, too.
This whole alternative rock meets marketable nu metal has been done before. Every time a highly respectable metalcore band tries to make their sound more radio-friendly by releasing overly rock-botched records Chester Bennington wakes up from a nap yelling “Someone is ripping me off again!” While bands like Bring Me The Horizon and Of Mice & Men have recently proven to be way too in-depthly influenced by albums like Meteora and Hybrid Theory, this pattern is extending to other classic -core bands, as well. Exhibit A: We Came As Romans’ fourth studio record.
This highly anticipated self-titled album was supposed to expand upon the new direction We Came As Romans had employed with their previous record Tracing Back Roots. Unclean vocalist David Stephens had found a way to blend his own attempts at clean vocals with rolling riffs, breakdowns and singer Kyle Pavone’s melodic and almost boy-band worthy choruses. And while that all sounded like a cluster fuck, it worked and helped set WCAR apart from the generic mesh of metalcore bands out there. Tragically, the self-titled record did not follow up as successfully.
While the record opens up with a standard WCAR sound on “Regenerate,” the heavier levels of this track fade from view on the album for the majority of the listening experience. In fact, only five tracks on the entire album employ unclean vocals in any kind of significant manner. The rest all rely on melodic tropes that modern rock radio would happily play between Jimmy Eat World throwbacks and a new Arctic Monkeys single.
We Came As Romans was always a significant band for their ability to have semi-Christian lyrics feel digestible and relatable to all ranges of an audience. For the self-titled record, however, it seems as if they preferred an unprompted vagueness to anything else. Tracks like “Memories” feel bland and uninspired with sustained clean vocals, early 2000s alt rock riffs, and forgettable lyrics like “There’s nothing stopping you and me from making all these memories.” In fact, there are moments on this album where I actually wanted to throw the record out of the window, had it not been a digital download. “I won’t make it through tomorrow if I don’t make it through today” and “My critical condition is killing me” are actual lines off of the track “Flatline.” How did we go from “These demons will never leave me/But I control them/Not the other way around” (“What I Wished I Never Had”) from Understanding What We’ve Grown To Be to this? Like, just how?
This self-titled record screams lazy song writing. Three consecutive songs (“Blur,” “Savior of the Week,” and “Flatline”) employ “ohhhhhs” in place of actual words in the choruses, simply displaying the lack of complexity this record holds. To make it even worse, the melodies in the choruses of “Savior of the Week” and “The World I Used to Know” could probably be played on top of one another and still be the same damn song.
Amid the jumble of clunky, soft alternative rock, thankfully, there are some gems that still maintain the old school We Came As Romans sound that I love. “Tear It Down” pairs hard-hitting, and almost angry vocals to more old school metal oriented instrumentals making it a fun, upbeat track that should have been the foundational cornerstone sound to the entire record. The closing track “12:30” also creates atmospheric metalcore sounds that help frame the album through varying levels of heavy and abrasive screams over soothing and stomachable melody lines.
Having two standout tracks is never enough to carry an entire album. Had We Came As Romans followed the pathways they had set up for themselves with “Tear It Down” and “12:30” this record may have stood out more and not reflected a plethora of lazy, commercial song writing. (Natasha Van Duser)