Review Summary: We Are The Romans is an Earth shattering album that fused hardcore and metal to create an album of technical genius.
The year was 1999. Prince told us to party like it is 1999. The world had us thinking there would be computer mayhem after the year 1999. The same year that George W. Bush told us that he would be a republican candidate for the upcoming election. It was the same year that the Euro was introduced as a major form of currency. Yet after all of events, three blunders and one economic uprising (give you a hint, the economic uprising did not have anything to do with George W. Bush), there was one record in 1999 that changed a genre of music as we know it or perhaps even created one. In 1999 in Tacoma, Washington the four members of Botch
created an album that is considered one of the best within its genre entitled, We Are The Romans
. A title that is a statement about the United States thought of immortality, but a realization that we are not. The album cover shows what appears to be New York City with a huge blot of black ink covering the city. Within the blot is a red target, signifying that the United States is indeed a target. The even more disturbing aspect of the art is the fact that when you first open the contents, there is a picture of destroyed buildings. That picture, perhaps, tells the story of what will happen in the near future to the United States or maybe Botch themselves. Now then, let us get to the album that Norma Jean
tried to base an entire album off.
Botch had only produced two full-length albums during their brief career as a band. We Are The Romans
was the second of the two and a major advancement from their earlier release, American Nervoso
. While American Nervoso
was an amazing record in its own regard, it was not produced well and not as groundbreaking, musically, as We Are The Romans
. During this release they came up with catchy and yet menacing guitar riffs, thick distorted sludgy bass riffs, extremely technical drumming.
As an opener, “To Our Friends in the Great White North,” kicks you directly, square in the nuts. With an initial shout, the guitar, bass, drums immediately follow. A consistent downward scale is played on the guitar that soon slyly transitions in a chug-to-high chord section. It then begins to break down as the pace begins to slow down. On and off head banger riffs follow at a slow dissipated pace that leads into a clean vocal section chanting
it’s your fault (it’s your fault)
***ing up the kids (***ing up the kids)
The chant is repeated for a few solitary moments and then it becomes tacit with just a high-hat keeping tempo that quickly turns until another heavy part with intense guitar work. The initial reactions after this song that it was simply mind blowing. The album maintains its ride of almighty power into the next song “Mondrian Was A Liar” with math metal elements incorporated. “Transitions from Persona to Object” continues the theme of memorable guitar riffs with a hook that is repeated and altered throughout the duration of the entire song. While the noises protruding may not be the most pleasant to the ear, they certainly add to the effect of destruction. While some may say that the repetitive nature of the song continues for far too long (clocking in at just over six minutes), the overall feeling was that it could not be abruptly stopped after any given point. It eventually comes to a halt when the drums are the only remaining instrument left. “C. Thomas Howell as the "Soul Man”” provides a sloppy and gritty performance with classic tapping guitar riffs. Also contained is a three note distorted bass riff that evolves into a clean break within the song that builds up into chaos that then tapers off.
More than half way through the album, We Are The Romans
needed a shot of pure adrenaline. In what is the climax of the album, “Saint Matthew Returns to the Womb” has an unspeakable feeling about it. The song practically defines metalcore (in an album that is the start of metalcore, as we know it, perhaps). A song that combines classic elements of brutal metal and what can be considered “fun” hardcore. It is a true staple strong in the short lifespan of Botch. Finally, in what maybe be considered the song that may have predicted Botch’s downfall, “Man The Ramparts.” Surely, one can look at the album in the eyes of America’s downfall, but ironically, Botch may have fell first. Think about it this way, it was their last full length without conflicts of the direction the band was going. It is a song about preparing for what is ahead, because it will soon be a collapse, but not without a last stand.
We’ll man the ramparts
With arrows ready
With our flags up
We are the Romans
The song can almost be related to a battle. It starts as it were trudging along to the beat of a war drum with off time guitar and bass. It then starts the battle with a brutal scream and fiery fierceness to it. As it continues, it slowly disassembles and then regains composure into the previous intensity. The song dies down, with every beat and it begins to fade into a choir hymn saying We are the Romans
as almost collecting forces to join for one last hurrah. Eight minutes and thirty now elapse, the quintessential loudest section of the entire song ERUPTS. Precise drumming and abrasive chords carry on until the final hits of the instruments and the last screech and it everything stops.
It is over. The piercing screaming, the rhythmically brilliant drumming, the coarse sound of the bass, and the memorable guitar riffs are no longer. While “I Wanna Be A Sex Symbol On My Own Terms” is the only track that I feel was a grave disappointment, they produced an unbelievably solid record. We are the Romans
was a completely original album in its own regard and left a legacy behind. They made the music that was out there more interesting and complex. Botch created a fusion that was perfected with this release. I am glad one thing will never change, no matter what year it is next; I can still listen to this album.