Review Summary: So WCAR have returned and on this, their 3rd release, they showcase the largest shift away from their metalcore beginnings yet.
I discovered We Came As Romans when they released their last album 'Understanding What We've Grown To Be' and I was pleasantly surprised. Modern American metalcore is generally a hit or complete miss with me and there was something about WCAR that I just couldn't ignore. On the outside WCAR may look like a standard, run of the mill metalcore outfit: harsh verses, whiny cleans, chugging guitars and electronica melodies laced into their songs; and they largely are. However on their 'Understanding...' I just couldn't forget a song, they were all so damn positive and catchy, and in the good way.
On 'Tracing Back Roots' WCAR have stripped away a large amount of their heaviness in place of an even more pop orientated sound. For many of the breakdown parade this probably will cause them to be put off. That's not to say that there aren't any heavy parts to this album, the opening two minutes of the title track is the heaviest part of the album and could easily challenge their back catalogue in terms of heaviness. Overall though the harsh vocals from David Stephens have been used more selectively and he's even trying to do some cleans here and there, which come across as a bit amateurish and half-hearted. The cleans from Kyle Pavone (a big deal breaker for many) actually sound better than any of the previous releases by the band and this is where the band's strength lies, the vocal melodies in the clean choruses is what separates the average songs on this album from the great ones. The chorus from 'Hope' will stay with you for days and it's all due to the catchy chorus with Pavone's vocals and the subtle piano in the background (also courtesy of Pavone.
Onto the other elements of the band. The drums are pretty standard on 'Tracing Back Roots', double bass is used less and there are far fewer interesting fills. I feel like Eric Choi's drumming is wasted on this album as it is such a step down in terms of technicality and there is no room for any of the cool fills he had on 'Understanding...', which is a shame. The guitars are pretty standard and like the drums take more of backseat on this album so that the keyboard and electronics can come to the forefront of most of the songs, there are some decent riffs on 'Never Let Me Go' and 'I am Free' which are more guitar orientated tracks. The bass is only just audible, except when it's shoved to the forefront of 'I am Free' a few times when it actually sounds pretty nice as a flourish to the riff, which brings me to my next issue with the album.
The production on this album is odd, the guitars seem kind of muddy and are masked by any electronics and vocals a large step down compared to other recent releases in the metalcore genre (ABR's 'Rescue and Restore' sounds hugeeee), or even WCAR's previous album. It's a shame because it really muffles any dynamics in the songs, despite being one of the best songs on the album, I think 'Hope' suffers from this problem, the song should ebb and flow but instead it just remains stays one level through the whole song. Lyrics are corny as ever but it honestly is nice to see a metalcore band with a truly positive lyrics and message.
As a whole I think this album is a step down from 'Understanding...', but 'Tracing Back Roots' is saved by its great vocal melodies and catchiness. If you weren't a fan of WCAR before due to the pop influenced sound, this definitely won't win you over, it may entice some new fans though.
Best songs: 'Tracing Back Roots', 'Hope', 'A Moment'