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


Artist: We Came As Romans
Album: Understanding What We’ve Grown to Be
Genre: Rock/symphonic rock
Label: Equal Vision Records

We Came As Romans place enormous emphasis on the positivity of the message in their music, and to be fair, it is a rather refreshing and encouraging perspective. It’s not, however, the most obviously brilliant thing about this album. You may stay for the keep-the-faith message, but you’ll show up in the first place for a rich and powerful release brimming with depth and sentiment. True, it’s a bit all over the place and packs everything but the kitchen sink into its songs, but they’re exceedingly lovely, and make a stirring impact.

For someone admittedly not acquainted with their earlier efforts, it takes a while to warm to the instant implosion of screaming and guitars here. It’s not bad, but it doesn’t do much to stand out or endear itself until the melodies arrive in the latter half of “Mis//Understanding.” The clean vocals of Kyle Pavone are beautifully clear and ethereal and give the song a vivid resonance that it would lack were it a more traditional rock song. The collision of symphonics with rock is a touch overpowering at first, but quickly becomes a defining and enhancing aspect of the music. “Everything As Planned” opens strikingly, with a very theatrical symphonic sweep underpinning a more plaintive rock song. The lush, grandiose score gives the song a real sense of heart, which the more visceral elements serve to complement and pronounce.

The melodies throughout act as a kind of calming influence, adding a harrowing, sentimental vibe. “What I Wished I Never Had” is a particularly primal and forceful track, excelling in its tough and commanding sound, but the melodies that float through it give it a sweeter and more accessible touch. “Cast the First Stone” is a heavy song with a haunted heart. Though it is fast, assured, even relentless, there are lots of atmospheric twinges ensuring that the song never quite remains what you expect it to be. “The Way That We Have Been” then introduces a string sample, further confounding expectations. The vocals waft in and out over a hazy sound, before a blast of carnage completely destroys the floaty intro. The two distinct styles come together towards the end for a huge crescendo which packs all the power and punch of a straight up metal track, but retains a graceful touch due to the strings.

The album maintains this general trend throughout, in a series of increasingly heavy songs fused to a more harmonious soul. It’s difficult to fault, as the tracks all sound fantastic, but it’s worth noting that this means there’s little in the way of individual stand outs. The record seems to be one that has to be appreciated as a whole, never really letting up or changing style for long enough to gain some diversity. Yet, as noted above, this isn’t necessarily something to fault. There are some beautiful decorative touches later on, as in “A War Inside” and “Just Keep Breathing” which both feature flashes of freewheeling piano to add a dextrous and poignant air to the music. The string section reappears throughout, most impressively perhaps on “What My Heart Held” and the final track “Understanding What We’ve Grown to Be.” It adds something of resolution to the rushing guitars and a grandiose, more theatrical style to the tracks. On the latter in particular, it provides a dramatic conclusion as the record goes out on a seminal high note.

We Came As Romans have, thus, navigated the troublesome sophomore (full length) album move with ease. The record is a consummately realised work, showing sublime artistry and vision. The use of symphonic elements in heavier music can be an acquired taste but here the band have illustrated the flair and style that it can add. Individual songs or singles mightn’t seem as easy to appreciate, but as a whole, the album is a triumph.

SCORE: 9/10
Review written by: Grace Duffy

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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