In the past, the sextet have identified as a melodic metalcore band; this time around, there’s much more focus on the ‘melodic’ and much less on the “metalcore”. To promote the record, they released singles for album opener ‘Regenerate’ and ‘The World I Used To Know’ in the same week, and the contrast between the two songs couldn’t be more marked; the former is a further development of the sound we heard on ‘Tracing Back Roots’ two years ago, with staples like double-kick drumming, singer Dave Stevens’ reliance on harsh vocals, and even a half-time breakdown thrown in for good measure. The latter, meanwhile, is an out-and-out pop-rock song that finds the band taking steps into unfamiliar territory. Indeed, its chorus hook of, “What happened to the world I used to know?” will probably sum up the mindset of some older fans.
So it goes for the rest of the record. There isn’t a struggle between old and new We Came As Romans so much as a concerted effort to make both eras of their sound gel. For every track like the slow-burning ‘Memories’ or the hyper-polished ‘Saviour Of The Week’ – the latter being one of the moments on the record where they absolutely nail their new sound, “woah-oh-oh” hook and all – there’s a more aggressive counterpart like ‘Tear It Down’. ‘Tracing Back Roots’, at the time, didn’t feel like the end of anything, but, recontextualised within the band’s discography, it feels like it was the album on which WCAR brought that chapter to a close. Maybe that relentless writing/touring cycle made them hunger for a change; after all, if you’re putting records out every two years, might as well throw fans a curveball now and then, right?
The only track that balances the scales somewhat is ‘Blur’, appropriately smack-dab in the middle of the album. We Came As Romans have some figuring out to do, but there are certainly more hits than misses on board, and the album’s particularly potent considering it runs to only 33 minutes in length. The band has spoken about how they wrote an album full of music they both wanted to hear and play, and there’s no doubt that a lot of this record longs for the stage (especially ‘Flatline’ and the appropriately ebullient penultimate track ‘Defiance’), but for a band who have always had a very definite sense of identity, We Came As Romans haven’t half raised a few questions about their future. Based on this evidence, their self-titled isn’t a mission statement so much as the latest snapshot of a band in a definite state of flux. There are two different bands in this fight; perhaps, in two years time, we’ll know which one has come out on top.
‘We Came As Romans’ by We Came As Romans is out now on Equal Vision Records (US) / Spinefarm Records (UK).
Words by Gareth O’Malley (@vetusmemoria)