Review Summary: I Don't Think It Was Supposed to Be This Way
Throughout the brief history of recorded music, the processing of intense emotions such as grief can invoke passionate releases of artistic expression that transcend music itself; channeling deep, meaningful feelings to produce raw, unfiltered noise and sound, understood solely by the creator but affected by the listener. Following the unfortunate death of We Came as Romans keyboardist and clean vocalist Kyle Pavone, the future of the band was indisputably in jeopardy considering the importance of Kyle’s contributions from the integral sound and vibes of his melody choices to the songwriting prowess with his electronic flairs to the bands common metalcore sound. The band revealed shortly after that they would persevere and create in Kyle’s memory and finally in 2022, we get to experience the fruits of their labor; the spoils of their emotional strife. Disappointed is the first word that comes to mind when analyzing the content that is recorded on their sixth full length record ‘Darkbloom.’
The first five tracks preceded the album release as singles, varying greatly in quality with the track “Black Hole” condemning the band to the island of eternal metalcore mediocrity with stale electronic flourishes, surface level lyricism and the most basic instrumental palate that borders on AC/DC levels of simplicity. The common angle of depressed individuals is to describe their pain in metaphor and unfortunately, the unfeasible reality of a black hole tends to be the target and subject to best describe these abstract emotions. At this point, this phenomenon has been overused and pummeled into the eons of metalcore lore as other phrases like “rise up,” “undertow,” and “set this world on fire” and its other variations, have. The choruses main hook “I fall into a black hole in my head/Reach into the darkness for what's left” leaves me shaking my head in disgust with the vocal melody having been used hundreds of times in previous songs and the background instrumentals coming off bored and half-baked.
Following the unfortunate demise of their fallen brother, We Came as Romans made the decision to continue without adding a new member and their harsh vocalist Dave Stephens taking on the role of clean vocalist as well. This has been an utter failure in my humble opinion with Dave’s attempts at emotionally charged and soaring choruses coming off as flat and borderline unlistenable with a majority grievously needing a couple more takes in the vocal booth. The so-called hook of the track “One More Day” is especially grating with Dave’s vocals seemingly strained into ranges that he’s uncomfortable in and once again delivering the most rudimentary lyrics that an elementary school student could write circles around them. When the words “So I can say what I need to say/Yeah, we'll find a way, we'll find a way/To break down the walls you made/Yeah, we'll find a way/For one more, onе more day” first lazily protruded from my speakers, a sickness overcame me; utterly disgusting boring garbage lyric writing fully disregarding the intelligence of their audience; literally offensive.
The last overtly negative experience takes place in the closing track “Promise You” which takes the form of an overly sappy, sentimental ballad that lyrical offends me, musically takes the most basic format of a ballad, and applies every trope to every nook and cranny of this unfortunate mistake and finally, is graced or more so, disgraced with an awful vocal performance almost unlistenable. Lyrically, it does tackle of the subject of their previous vocalist decent into a coma and eventual death, but every line is so on-the-nose and unaffecting that it reads as a script for a melo-drama rather than a tribute. There is extraordinarily little tact in this song's efforts to document the unfortunate end because the focus tends to fall into overly tacky, sentimental lyrical tropes rather than genuine emotion and feelings. When little flashes of personality exist, I.e., “I started smoking again/Anything to force myself into a deep breath” which is a very personal and heartbreaking nuance, it’s immediately squashed with inane silliness, I.e., “Cry it back out 'til I feel less broken/I know I'm still broken.” It’s difficult to attack this record knowing that it does come from a place of grief, but the execution is so grossly underwhelming that I can’t help but feel disgusted with the band’s lack of care to create something worthy of a legacy.
The brief flashes of good songwriting and melody are not enough to pull the whole unit out of the dust. The track “Golden” has a very lively instrumental and while the pacing and structure are very standard, the melody choices and execution are more profound and interesting to behold. Same thing with the song “Plagued” which covers all the basic metalcore principles but it is inoffensive enough to be a repeatable listen.
A brief note on the production and mix of the record, the compressed nature of the recording is not unusual for this style of music but this record lacks punch in every aspect. Whenever there’s a moment leading up to an ‘intense’ breakdown, the drop feels more like a tap than a slap. The inclusion of electronics is a staple to We Came as Romans sound but the way it’s mixed here is grating and noisy to the point of exhaustion. It’s an exhaustive listen not only because the sound quality is disruptive, but the quality of the music is atrocious at times. It’s unfortunate to see this band struggling to maintain their identity or maybe this is where they were heading all along but considering the strength of their previous record ‘Cold Like War,’ it is hard to understand the severe drop in songwriting skill. It’s forgettable, utterly lazy and an unfortunate tribute record that disgraces the person it’s meant to indemnify.