Sound — 5
Being a boom within a boom, 2009 warranted a trendy and fleeting peak of electronicore within the general rise of metalcore. With the genre's tongue-in-cheek demeanor colored by kitschy synthwork being represented in debut albums from fresh faces like Asking Alexandria, iwrestledabearonce, Breathe Carolina, and I See Stars among others, electronicore was equal parts addicting and agonizing, and ultimately inescapable. Debuting in the same year, We Came As Romans stood on the more serious side of the electronicore sound, courtesy of also taking a few pages of inspiration from Chiodos' neoclassical metalcore style. With their first album, "To Plant a Seed," attempting to wield all those elements, it succeeded in standing out, but its ambition was noticeably cluttered.
With those numerous sonic aspirations sprawled out from square one, We Came As Romans spent the following years cultivating them for a more optimal version of this hybrid metalcore sound. Their 2011 follow-up, "Understanding What We've Grown to Be," did a fair job of reining things in while keeping that multi-faceted sound intact, but the band would opt to go tamer in their third album, "Tracing Back Roots," where riffs became noticeably less frantic, and harsh vocalist Dave Stephens started to employ some clean singing along with his growling. In the midst of these changes, however, the electronicore side of the We Came As Romans was still unchanged while other bands were starting to jump the ship of the faddy subgenre - though with the band's clean vocalist and synth player, Kyle Pavone, also having a solo EDM project on the side, it's no surprise that the electronica elements remained a key ingredient for the band.
Though they're still sticking to that electronicore sound that a number of their peers are veering away from, We Came As Romans are following the pack in terms of swapping aggression for accessibility in efforts for a commercial metal sound. With their fourth album bearing a self-titled name to imply a sort of reinvention for the band, the album shows We Came As Romans sounding cleaner than ever before, indicative by the heavy investment in anthemic toplines over basic chord progressions and production value. This new arrangement of priorities not only gives much of the album that bland commercial metal sound, but it renders songs overly simple ("Memories" is built with very few progressions, and even worse is "Tear It Down," which is essentially stuck in one riff), as well as leaving much to be desired in terms of instrumental skill and intrigue - save "Flatline," which does a good job pairing Pavone's delicate piano parts and string melodies with stark metal guitar riffs, as well as putting Stephens' clean vocals front and center.
To their credit, We Came As Romans do attempt to mix things up a bit on the album (even in spite of almost every chorus having the same feel to it), though those moments are easily-spotted emulations of other bands. Along with the designated metalcore song "Regenerate," Stephens' moments of wielding his harsh vocals come in the polarizing nu-metal cuts of "Defiance" and the Hollywood Undead-esque "Tear It Down." On the other side of the spectrum, "Savior of the Week" is the poppiest song the band have ever made - uncharacteristically so, especially since it sounds crafted in the same vein as latter-day Fall Out Boy, with Pavone also trying out a singing style that can be described as "Patrick Stump-lite." And the smooth synthetic organ in "12:30" strongly evokes a Radiohead circa "Kid A" vibe.
Lyrics — 7
The lyrical matter of We Came As Romans has always been centered on a positive outlook towards life, whether in the Christian-tinged "To Plant a Seed" or the personal trials and tribulations aired out in "Understanding What We've Grown to Be." In "We Came As Romans," however, that positive outlook is noticeably sullied by a few chips on the shoulders of Stephens and Pavone. A contentious negativity is channeled and delivered aggressively in the seditious "Tear It Down" and the judgmental "12:30," as well as being directed towards a fickle love interest in "Savior of the Weekend" - other love-centric lyrics appear to lesser avail in the mushy "Memories," and the elementary photography metaphors in "Blur." Even the lyrics that are more in keeping with the band's usual subject matter come off more forceful and severe, like the no-tolerance-for-selfishness sentiment in the generally uplifting "Regenerate" ("Stop living for yourself / You're just living in your own hell"), and the amplified shade of fatalism expressed in "Who Will Pray?" ("If I fall too far, disappear in the dark / Who will pray for me tomorrow?" and "Flatline" ("Blacked out, I think I've had enough / Bright lights, waiting for Kingdom Come"). While the general poeticism in the lyrics doesn't top that of previous We Came As Romans albums, seeing them mix up their lyrical topics and demeanor is refreshing.
Overall Impression — 5
Despite walking further away from the frenetic sound they began with, the new style of metal We Came As Romans are opting to deal in will be plagued with the memories of those more impressive albums from earlier ago. From the contrasting levels of instrumental skill to the unadventurous and derived songwriting, the commercial metal output in "We Came As Romans" comes off very a-dime-a-dozen, and though it tries to be the most radio-friendly and accessible-sounding effort from We Came As Romans, it duly renders itself the most underwhelming album in the band's catalog.