Review Summary: “Have you ever felt like you did everything right, but it still went all wrong?”
First off, if you were not a fan of We Came As Romans' previous effort “To Plant A Seed”, this CD will not do a single thing to change that. That being said, this is the second full-length release by this metalcore sextet from Troy, Michigan. “To Plant A Seed” featured a few standout tracks (the title-track and “Roads That Don't End and Views That Never Cease”) with some other noteworthy moments throughout the CD, but filler and overproduction killed any shot that record had at being too memorable. The overproduction and the filler return once again in “Understanding What We've Grown To Be”, but that is not the only problem that plagues this CD.
The first track and lead single “Mis//Understanding” fades into Dave Stephens improving scream. His vocals have made an obvious improvement from “To Plant A Seed” and is one thing that this band has going for them. However, incredibly obvious auto-tune on Kyle Pavone's vocals (more on that later) and the standard-fare metalcore chugging ruin this track along with the rest of the album.
The following four tracks are nothing but filler, a problem that haunted their previous work. Calling it generic would be just about right, with simple musicianship and lots of unnecessary breakdowns and synth keys. “The War Inside” comes to mind when thinking of unnecessary. Midway through the song, guitarists Brian “Lou” Cotton and Josh Moore decide to quit their bro-tastic breakdown and give way for Pavone’s auto-tuned vocals over a simple GarageBand instrumental. Some people think it is "cool" or "different" for metalcore acts to insert string sections into the bridges of songs. It may be "different", but that does not make it good by any means at all.
The second half of “Understanding What We’ve Grown To Be” follows the same dismal path as the first half, with the only semi-noteworthy track being “Understanding What We’ve Grown To Be”. Lyrically, the band is the same, sticking to clean lyrics with positive messages of perseverance, integrity, and hope. Here is some “inspiration” from the title track:
Tonight, when I look into the sky
I know this is why I am alive
So sing with me if you feel this feeling
Individually, each member has either grown or experienced no growth at all and it is unfortunately as simple as that. As aforementioned, Dave Stephens’ screams have improved and are somewhat of a highlight on this album. Guitarists Brian “Lou” Cotton and Josh Moore insist on keeping their musicianship as simple as possible, and it is almost impossible to determine if bassist Andrew Glass has improved at all as his bass in nearly inaudible as the case is in 90% of metalcore acts today. Drummer Eric Choi has not improved much from “To Plant a Seed”, but keeps things fresh with a few interesting fills here and there. This leaves us with clean vocalist Kyle Pavone.
Kyle Pavone’s vocals are more or less a staple for We Came As Romans. Without auto-tune he sounds like most of the vocalists in the metalcore vein (Jeremy DePoyster of The Devil Wears Prada comes to mind), high-pitched and at times irritating. To make matters worse, producer Joey Sturgis insists on overproducing the vocals by lacing them with obvious, obnoxious auto-tune. His vocals are pretty much the same as on their previous effort, and they are indeed irritating at times.
If you are a fan of this band or generic metalcore, than you will probably enjoy this very much. “To Plant A Seed” was loaded with potential, but unfortunately, that also means potential to fail as is the case with “Understanding What We’ve Grown To Be”. This leaves them with room only to improve.
Understanding What We've Grown To Be