Sound — 7
The band started in 2005 and only retains a single founding member, David Stephens (clean vocals, screamed vocals), though his role in the band has changed as he was initially the rhythm guitarist. The band's first full length studio release was in 2009, and the current members have all been with the band since then if not earlier, but the band was originally formed in 2005 by high school friends. He is joined by Kyle Pavone (clean vocals, keyboard, synthesizers), Josh Moore (lead guitar), Lou Cotton (rhythm guitar), Andy Glass (bass guitar), and Eric Choi (drums). This album is the first album displaying David Stephens using some clean vocals.
"Tracing Back Roots" is the third studio release by We Came As Romans and has 11 tracks with a total runtime of approximately 40 minutes. The first single from the album was "Hope," which was released as a single in January, but was also a bonus track from the deluxe edition of their last album. The album opens with the title track, which provides a strong opening as this is one of the most aggressive tracks on the album. The next track "Fade Away" uses some of the most extensive use of clean vocals on the whole album. The third track, "I Survive," guests Aaron Gillespie from The Almost. The track "Never Let Me Go" has a more rock sound over metalcore, and actually reminds me a little bit of Linkin Park. The track "Hope" is definitely written to be a single, with a gang vocal chorus and a lot more emphasis on melody. The album closes out with the track "Through the Darkest Dark and the Brightest Bright" which repeats the line "this is our song to remember" so often that when it is over that is about the only thing notable that I remember. The musicianship on the album is solid, but I don't think I can't stand much more of the stutter effect that has become popular with hard rock, metalcore and pop music lately.
Lyrics — 6
David and Kyle do a solid job on the vocals, and for the first time David provides some clean vocals as well as his normal screamed vocals. These clean vocals are in addition to Kyle's clean vocals. David's screams are as strong as they've been on their previous releases and the addition of his clean vocals help to show he has a respectable range. Kyle's clean vocals are well executed, as usual. I have a hard time with the lyrical themes because of the strong self-pity content throughout the whole album, which is my main gripe with We Came As Romans. As an example, here are some lyrics from the title track, "Tracing Back Roots": "Eight years ago I committed a sin/ And there were many more that followed with/ Some that changed my mind/ Some that broke me down/ But all of them made me who I am now/ All of them made me who I am now/ All of them made me who I am now/ I lived in the bliss of ignorance/ And slowly sank into self-doubt/ I had to answer my own questions/ As I attempted to crawl out/ After these years on the road/ Was this really my home? / Why do I feel so alone? / In my chest there's a hole/ Why do I feel so alone? / Why do I feel so alone? / In my chest there's a hole/ I've tried to keep it full/ But there's a break in the hull/ Depression floods like frozen water's cold/ Is this life drowning me? / I am a ship lost out at sea." Hopefully the band's songwriting will mature over time and they'll get over this self-pity kick that is ruining their music.
Overall Impression — 7
We Came As Romans have released a solid album for their genre, but they aren't really pushing any boundaries or being very adventurous. While there is a little more in the way of clean vocals on "Tracing Back Roots" and a little bit more melody, at the end of the day it is a mediocre release. While the band is trying to be dynamic and grow as a group, I get the impression listening to the album that they aren't really sure of how to go about it. My advice to them would be to take a little bit more time and work on their lyrics and their overall lyrical themes and avoid using gimmicks like the stutter effect. My favorite song on the album would be "Hope," I guess, but I'm not feeling very enthusiastic about it. While this album isn't horrible, it didn't really capture my interest either.