When a new album releases from one of our favorite bands, we as fans expect to hear growth and progression in the writing and delivery. It helps whenever said band gets a chance to experience a synergy between each of its members. We Came As Romans have been fortunate enough to retain the same sextet across 4 albums now, and with their newest, and self-titled, record the bond between all 6 members shows quite clearly.
Self-titling a record indicates that THIS record shall define the band’s sound or at the least their influences as musicians. We Came As Romans succeeds at being both true to its members’ post-hardcore roots but also showing that they are also full of dynamic musical capabilities. Whether this be subtle (“The World I Used To Know” could be classified as alternative rock) or blatant (“Savior Of The Week” is the greatest song Taylor Swift never wrote) the band never fails to expand upon their favorite genres and sounds. Producer David Bendeth, an especially hot ticket man lately after having been credited with Bring Me The Horizon and Of Mice & Men’s alternative brand of musical success, took it upon himself to clearly push everything out of WCAR that they have been holding in as people and as artists.
That reflects clearly in the angry and sometimes even vengeful lyrics. If a fan of WCAR’s 2008 keyboard effect-splatted label debut To Plant A Seed‘s inspiring and hopeful messages were to hear “12:30″‘s finger-pointing, direct call-out to mindless followers they may not believe this is the same band. It’s the growth the band has rapidly made since Understanding What We’ve Grown To Be (an apt subtitle for this album in all honesty) that makes such a theme not quite as shocking. It’s no secret that we as humans all experience varying emotions, it’s about time WCAR become even realer than they’ve already been and touched on this feeling. Not to say that there is a lack of emotion displayed on this album, “Blur'” seems to touch on the sadness of watching a relationship fall apart, “Who Will Pray?” is all about uncertainty and fear, “Regenerate” is a positivity-laced, pit-starting anthem that will please old fans. These ideas are conveyed clearly, owed all to the composition and for the most part, excellent top 40-worthy dual vocal delivery.
As for the writing itself, it’s kept consistently poppy, irresistably catchy, but intriguingly ominous in some cases. The best songs start and end dramatically, and only build-up admirably between that time. The example of this is “Flatline” – Beginning with a piano solo of sorts to establish a sense of desperation, the guitars soon come in to echo that sense, their best usage on the entire album, before clattering percussion creates a noisy and speedy change of tempo to create urgency. No other song on the album is this effective, it doesn’t hurt either that the chorus is as chant-inducing as humanly possible. When it comes to the other songs there are a few hiccups though. “Tear It Down” comes across as downright mechanical, the vocal trade-offs in the chorus are as Linkin Park as they can be, but devoid of any feeling. The unnecessary electronics that cancel out one of the coolest riffs on the album in the intro of “Blur” will anger as they do nothing but impede the soundscape. And as unfortunate as it may be, few songs are worth listening to all the way through if you’re someone who enjoys surprises. Being the first track on the album I wish “Regenerate” would have set the standard for the rest of the tracks – It changes tempo in interesting and wholesome ways and the bridge is downright destructive. The remainder of the album’s song structures are extremely formulaic and safe, never truly allowed to naturally grow which is disappointing.
The vocal dynamics of both frontmen almost make up for that though, especially when both Dave Stephens and Kyle Pavone harmonize. In previous works both vocalists were only designated to certain parts of the song, never featuring at the same time. I’m glad that “Who Will Pray?” and “The World I Used To Know” changed that. Interestingly enough, in some cases Dave, with his incredibly diverse range of singing styles, delivers the chorus, notably in “Flatline”. Kyle deserves just as much credit for sounding the most natural on record that he ever has, “Defiance” being a personal favorite highlight. Dave still screams, but only when it makes sense (the verses). He rap-screams in “Tear It Down” with ferocity, and unleashes a burly growl to ignite the bridge of “Regenerate”. He shows new range in “Regenerate” as well, seemingly so angry that he reaches literal new highs, resembling genre-mate Austin Carlile for a short time. I do wish the guitarists were allowed more a spotlight because when they are featured they’re heavy and frenzied, relying on a nu-metal derived style of playing. The drumming from Eric Choi is impressive, as per usual and it’s credited to him that the songs experience some nice tempo changes and interesting rhythms.
Overall We Came As Romans does define it’s performers, but at times they are just that: Performers, and not emotive musicians. Only sometimes is that the case though, and it is the flashes of reality and melodrama that put this band one step closer to being a highlight in their genre.