Review Summary: "I'm starting again to return to form."
We Came as Romans fell prey to the attraction of commercializing their sound with their self titled release back in 2015. The album did have some catchy bangers here and there, but far too many tracks just oozed wasted potential and a want to receive airplay. While I enjoyed tracks like "The World I Used To Know", seeing that track's music video on MTV felt fairly out of place for a band rooted in aggressive metalcore, known as an exponent for underground music. Thankfully, the band saw the error of their ways. This foray into pop rock has been both forgiven and ripped to shreds with the group's newest album, Cold Like War
That's not to say, however, the group didn't take valuable lessons from their brief commercial senescence. We Came as Romans has always been accessible and unafraid to take chances and create new opportunities. Clean vocalist Kyle Pavone's voice is perfectly suited for this brand of accessible metalcore. It creates a clean, glossy edge, but takes nothing away from the group's overall sound. Dave Stephens, meanwhile, is back to assaulting the microphone with his superb unclean vocals and the instrumentalists are back to ripping through the speakers. And for a band willing to give up some mainstream spotlight to focus once again on making quality music in this day and age is without question, a risky proposition. But, We Came as Romans sees this plan pay off time and time again throughout this record.
Album opener "Vultures with Clipped Wings" begins with ninety seconds of ominous synths that entertain the notion that perhaps We Came as Romans are going further
down the road their self titled album took them. But, when Stephens roars "I never found peace, but now I'm fighting a war" and the instrumentals kick in, quite the contrary is present; We Came as Romans as we know them are back and better than ever. Kyle Pavone croons his way through a chorus full of symbolism that perhaps embodies how the group feels about where they've gone with their music and how they're starting over.
This allusion is reiterated immediately in the following title track. "I will never betray me again", Stephens proclaims while Pavone sings of the "consequences made in this failure." The two trade lyrics of a "future undefined" and one can't help but surmise the group is directly alluding to the mainstream experiment they released via Equal Vision Records just two years ago. One thing's for certain - the album's title track is damn good
. Stephen's uncleans are at optimal quality and David Puckett's recorded debut on drums for the band pays off as he helps maintain steady pace to pair with Joshua Moore's lead guitar and Andy Glass's smooth bass work.
The album does undergo a few hiccups. "Two Hands" and "Lost in the Moment" wouldn't be out of place on the group's self titled project at all. Sloppy breakdowns and misplaced uncleans can't save either track from the sloppier basslines, annoying vocal distortion and choppy synths. Dave Stephens still has a lot of work to do as a singer, but his uncleans are great and that creates a bit of a saving grace. Last year's single release "Wasted Age" combines the raw heaviness of We Came as Romans' earlier discography with the glossy shine of their most recent work. It makes for a very cohesive track and an album highlight.
"Encoder" doesn't deserve one second of Stephen's uncleans being this electronically tinged dubstep ripoff it tries to be and while it's heaviness is enjoyable in the second half, the track's opening is just God awful
. "If There's Something to See" writes the ship by further harkening back to the group's older sound and I Prevail's Eric Vanlerberghe offers a solid guest appearance. "Promise Me" and "Learning to Survive" both close the album in solid fashion, both Stephens and Pavone closing out Cold Like War
to the best of their ability.
Despite some absurdly bad
hiccups every once in a while, Cold Like War
is We Came as Romans' best album to date. The group returns to their heavier roots and is better than ever in this incarnation. They take what worked about their commercial experiment, but a few misfires hitch their way onboard in the process. That can be forgiven, though. Too many songs on this record are too good to not enjoy. Dave Stephens is the MVP of this effort. Kyle Pavone is fantastic, but Stephens steals the show by once again assaulting the listener's ears with his godly uncleans. Not the best release of 2017, but We Came as Romans should be commended for the otherwise excellent job they've done. Cold Like War
is an album all genre fans must hear at least a few times.