Sound — 6
Starting out with a reckless metalcore sound that incorporated both electronicore and neoclassical qualities in their 2009 debut album, "To Plant A Seed," We Came As Romans have aimed to tame their sound from each album onward. With 2011's "Understanding What We've Grown To Be" easing up on the technically-challenging performances, and 2013's "Tracing Back Roots" incorporating more clean singing, the band eventually tried to peel off their metalcore tag almost entirely in their 2015 self-titled album. While a pivot to a mainstream metal sound like that is always expected to yield mixed feedback, the watered-down sound easily made it the band's least compelling album yet.
Likely having understood that themselves, We Came As Romans bring back more of the aggressive elements of their earlier sound in their fifth album, "Cold Like War." The return of more traditional palm-muted metalcore riffs, breakdowns, and harsh vocals from Dave Stephens in songs like "Two Hands," "Foreign Fire," "Wasted Age," and the eponymous song help set a better contrast to the clean choruses of simple chord progressions and Kyle Pavone's clean vocals. And while those reintegrated metalcore elements are mostly elementary, the band show off some skilled instrumental moments, like the tapping lead guitar riff in "If There's Nothing To See," or the drumming activity in "Lost In The Moment."
Though their formula of clean, anthemic choruses has remained unchanged, "Cold Like War" also shows We Came As Romans attempting more with their melodic elements. This primarily comes in a greater investment in the band's electronica elements, with synth roles in songs being more elaborate (see the arena metal closer "Learning To Survive"), though it also manifests in some misfit songs, like the token EDM pop cut of "Promise Me," or the hybrid of electro-house beats and percussive nu metal riffing in "Encoder." The opening "Vultures With Clipped Wings" may be the best example for the band's maturing taste, where it's metalcore riffs are paired with strong textural qualities, though it's a recipe that imitates the likes of Architects or Northlane.
Lyrics — 6
For the most part, the lyrics in "Cold Like War" retread themes and subject matter heard in the band's previous album. The confrontational social commentary in "Vultures With Clipped Wings" ("All the vicious and greedy, their collapse was deserved / With delusions so grand, this is what they have earned") sounds recycled from "Tear It Down," the cherished memories of the band's formative years in "If There's Nothing To See" ("We were so young, we were so vivid / We were so young, awake and driven / I can feel it taking over, new ambition, though I'm older") is a more positive spin on reminiscing compared to "The World I Used To Know," and the glum resolution of separation in "Two Hands" ("I wish it was harder to watch you leave / The time that we spent never bought a thing / I can breathe in and finally let you go") rings similar to "Blur." At the very least, We Came As Romans bump up the positivity, where messages of self-improvement in "Encoder" ("Every day is another chance to build / Any pain only feeds my will") and "Learning To Survive" ("I'm letting go of my shame, that unbearable weight / I'm learning to survive") make the album much less angsty than their previous album.
Overall Impression — 6
Rebounding from the unsatisfying attempt to pivot to a more accessible metal sound, "Cold Like War" shows We Came As Romans wanting to find the ideal blend of their aggressive metalcore roots and the mainstream metal sensibilities they have today. In the tinkering of that sonic chemistry of past and present, "Cold Like War" primarily makes itself out to be like the band's self-titled album with more bite to it, as well as containing more ambitious electronica influences. Though the overall result bears a handful of ups and downs, "Cold Like War" climbs back up from the bland hole that the band's previous album fell into.