We Came As Romans

Understanding What We've Grown To Be

Written by: AP on 16/11/2011 18:14:00

Perhaps the most refreshing and encouraging perspective to the music of We Came As Romans is the huge emphasis placed on positive messages. Indeed, while the band's keyboard-tinged hybrid of metalcore and post-hardcore has never been the height of innovation, neither within the genre nor outside of it, the optimism and faith present in the growling and singing of main vocalist David Stephens and keyboard player Kyle Pavone has given them sufficient edge to accumulate an impressive following of fans surprisingly fast. "Understanding What We've Grown to Be" is only the band's sophomore album, succeeding 2009's "To Plant a Seed" as one of the most talked about scene albums at the moment.

As is considered good practice for bands of this style, the album was once again mixed and mastered by the go-to-guy for polished production: Joey Sturgis. That should be anyone's cue that from a technical point of view nothing has been left to chance, as even the most minute tone and timbre issues have been engineered out of the picture, though at the cost of authenticity, one might argue. But while a good amount of Pavone's soaring highs have undoubtedly been smoothed out with autotune, their presence is no less striking, and certainly no less likely to permanently inscribe the likes of "Mis/Understanding" to your cortical membrane. In general, however, "Understanding What We've Grown to Be" is far less generous with memorable moments than its predecessor. It is more complex in terms of structure and emotion, but tends to opt out of a decent chorus when the songs call for one.

Whether or not that is to their disadvantage is debatable, however, as We Came As Romans have a strength over most bands of their kind in terms of their ability to incorporate ambitious instrumental and compositional ideas into their sound, with especially the sampled piano, string and orchestral components providing interesting texture where a song might otherwise have passed by without much fanfare. Most notable in this context are "Everything as Planned", "The Way That We Have Been" and "Understanding What We've Grown to Be", all of which deconstruct the basic ideas usually attributed to metalcore and post-hardcore, replace them with moments of cinematic grandeur, and send the respective songs soaring toward the sky. Such an approach makes the absence of distinct sing-songs largely irrelevant because structurally the album becomes a more interesting prospect; the energy that would typically accompany a chorus is effectively funneled by surprisingly memorable instrumental parts.

There are more traditional approaches on offer, too, of course, in songs such as "What I Wished I Never Had", "Stay Inspired" and "Just Keep Breathing" and "What My Heart Held", in which riffs, breakdowns and hostility are pushed into the spotlight. Admittedly these are also the songs where the rewards are the most immediate, but in terms of longevity these songs are indisputably worse off because there is literally nothing in them bar the background ambience courtesy of Pavone that sets them apart from the deluge of fashionable plastic spewing out of the metalcore and post-hardcore factories of the United States. The one thing that rescues these songs - at least to some extent - is the nicely executed fusion of the calming influence of We Came As Romans' melodies with increasingly heavy passages.

But while the more straightforward metalcore plunges certainly drag the overall impression of "Understanding What We've Grown to Be", there is enough dexterity and poignancy here to warrant a degree of praise. If anything, on it We Came As Romans have certainly navigated the difficult second album with grace and produced their best output yet. It asks more important questions, seeks more mature answers, and if you have spun recent albums by bands like Of Mice & Men, Asking Alexandria and Woe, Is Me to the ground, it offers a consistently striking (and more nuanced than any of those bands can muster up) set of fevered and temperate post-hardcore poles that should last you through the fall.

Download: Mis//Understanding; Everything as Planned; The Way That We Have Been; Views That Never Cease, To Keep Me From Myself; Understanding What We've Grown to Be
For the fans of: Asking Alexandria; Woe, Is Me; The Word Alive
Listen: Facebook

Release date 13.09.2011
Equal Vision / Nuclear Blast

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