We Came As Romans – Understanding What We’ve Grown To Be – Review

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Thought the Paul Romano-designed cover art for We Came As Romans‘ sub-par 2009 album, “To Plant A Seed,” looked weird? Well after two years of considerable touring and another round of recording with producer Joey Sturgis, the band has come full-circle and topped themselves — both with more weird album art (see: insert), and with writing a more mature and darker-toned effort. If the positive message and uplifting lyrics of “To Plant A Seed” counts as the bands “action”, then their new record, “Understanding What We’ve Grown To Be,” acts as the “reaction,” with a message that is “a more straightforward approach to life’s struggles and the challenges of growing up.”

After an attentive listen, We Came As Romans is still fitted with the same package — one that mirrors the current digitally-dipped, death metal-tinged, post-hardcore genre with peers, Attack Attack!, Of Mice & Men, and The Word Alive manning the posts, — but with their new record there are slight alterations to the formula. Instead of slowly building momentum,”Understanding What We’ve Grown To Be,” wastes no time in establishing its strengths. Noticable from the start of the album opener “Mis//Understanding,” the band unleashes intricate finger workouts, early staunch breakdowns, and an uncanny ability to seamlessly trade between the swift brutal blows lead by David Stephens‘ growls and Kyle Pavone‘s clean serenading and teaming melodic guitars. See if you can spot all of the transitions in the back & forth track “Everything As Planned.” If this track was an player in the NBA, your ankles would be crossed up and you would need an ice pack for all tendons pulled.

[Side note for no reason] Normally bands that feature two lead singers that aren’t otherwise involved in making music (ie. playing drums, guitar) make me slightly annoyed, but since Kyle also provides the album with positive mood-setting keyboards and pro-tools, riff-bending synth, I think we can give him a pass, especially for the beautiful vocals and haunting pianos of “What I Wished I Never Had” and “A War Inside.” Dave on the other hand needs to pick up a harmonica, a cowbell, or something while he grates the inside of his throat on the mic.

Fret-smiths Joshua and Lou give our ears a proper workout, much like “Plant A Seed,” almost every track on the record is filled bountifully with meticulously melodic guitars, not to mention the overly-busy thumping of bassist Andrew Glass. You’d think he was playing a 6-string with all the impressive bassline riffs. For an outfit that claims to have taken a “darker-tone” this go around though, much of “Understanding What We’ve Grown To Be” is lead by Kyle’s clean siren voice and introspective lyrics. More subtle than most, as the standard band would consider “darker” to be an excuse to jam belligerent chugging and raspy shouts into a few tracks, We Came As Romans successfully marries both dichotomies of expressing struggle and maturation, to the tune of effects-altered singing/ethereal guitar compositions and finessed down-tuned chugging/commanding growls.

While We Came As Romans may keep their clean side more apparent with “Understanding What We’ve Grown To Be,” (at least when compared to recent records from peers of the genre) and there is some boredom-inducing retreaded ground with tracks like “I Can’t Make Your Decisions For You,” these six guys from Troy, Michigan have taken a large step forward with this well-produced and skillfully executed effort. The record also asks more important questions, seeking more mature answers, which is more than be said for the thoroughly up-beat and simple record “Plant A Seed.” If you have spun recent albums by bands like Of Mice & Men, Asking Alexandria, and Woe, Is Me into the ground, We Came As Romans have stepped up their game both conceptually and lyrically — add in a consistently striking set of fevered and temperate post-hardcore poles and you have an album that will last you through the fall. [Staff]

Score: 3.75 (out of 5)

Release Date: September 13th, 2011
Record Label: Equal Vision Records
Genre: Post-Hardcore

RIYL: Of Mice & Men, Attack Attack, Sleeping With Sirens

Track Listing:
1. Mis//Understanding
2. Everything as Planned
3. What I Wished I Never Had
4. Cast the First Stone
5. The Way That We Have Been
6. A War Inside
7. Stay Inspired
8. Just Keep Breathing
9. Views That Never Cease, to Keep Me from Myself
10. What My Heart Held
11. I Can’t Make Your Decisions for You
12. Understanding What We’ve Grown to Be

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