DVD REVIEW: We Came As Romans – ‘Present, Future, and Past’

wcar 2014 we came as romans

Film: Present, Future, and Past
Starring: We Came As Romans
Genre: Music/Concert

The rise of We Came As Romans from unknown Michigan post-hardcore outfit to international headliners is the very definition of a cinderella story. The group that signed with Equal Vision back in 2009 have grown from boys to men over the last half decade, and in that time recorded three critically-acclaimed albums, each more complex than the one before. Through it all, the members have remained true to themselves and their roots, allowing their experiences and struggles guide the material that creates their future releases. It’s not an approach entirely unique to them, but the release of Present, Future, and Past proves WCAR are closer to perfection than many, if not all of their peers.

It would be hard for me to pinpoint the exact date I first encountered We Came As Romans live, but I know for a fact it was at a point in the band’s career when they were promoting the release of their Dreams EP (2008). At that time, We Came As Romans’ stage show was tight musically, but the vocals of both Dave Stephens and Kyle Pavone left a lot to be desired. Maybe it was their lack of experience, or perhaps a desire to give it their all that outweighed their ability to recognize when they were pushing themselves too hard, but the band’s performances would almost always start off strong and finish weak. You could tell they wanted to leave everything on stage, but they did not have the stamina to do so just yet.

Present, Future, and Past, which serves as the group’s first full length DVD release, showcases a band far more mature and seasoned than the fresh-faced young men I recall from that concert many years ago. Beginning several seconds before the group hits the stage in front of a sold out crowd at the House Of Blues in Chicago, the film offers an incredibly well produced multi-angle take on WCAR’s live show that has never been offered to fans before. The sound is impeccable, with Stephens and Pavone taking center stage (both literally and metaphorically), and the powerhouse level of strength and talent displayed at the beginning is maintained throughout. There is no pyro or over the top theatrics, but none of that matters because the group’s collective presence is so demanding it’s almost impossible to look away. The lighting is also on point, which is an added plus.

Anyone familiar with the discography of We Came As Romans knows that the band has maintained a very focused perspective throughout each release. The dreams they were chasing on their first album became accomplishments celebrated and discussed on subsequent releases. It may seem muddy at times, but there is a fluid storyline across all of the band’s material, and that idea is also present in the band’s live show. The set starts with early material and builds through talk of struggles and setbacks to big, room-shaking anthems that everyone in attendance knows by heart. By the time tracks like “Hope” and the group’s unforgettable cover of “Glad You Came” enter the mix the crowd has already become engrossed in the legend of We Came As Romans.

There are only two issues I found with Present, Future, and Past, and both may be entirely forgettable to some. The first, and most noticeable, is the stark lack of supplementary footage. The performance is inspiring and thrilling to say the least, but with such a firm grasp on who they are and what they want to do through their music it’s interesting we don’t spend any time with WCAR off stage. Also, and this is entirely unrelated to the amount of intimate time spent with the band, there are several moments throughout the show when the audience drops so low in the mix it’s hard to tell if anyone is reacting to the show on stage. I mean, it’s clear the crowd is going wild, but it would be nice to have heard more of their screaming and sing-a-long like chants in the audio.

Present, Future, and Past is proof We Came As Romans have reached a point of professionalism in their career that is unmatched by their peers in music today. Though the film lacks any sense of intimacy with the band it does provide a thrilling and beautifully captured performance that is worth revisiting over and over again. There are very few bands with a stage presence akin to what We Came As Romans offer on this recording, and even less are able to maintain the quality of their performance throughout the duration of a headlining set. If there was ever any doubt We Came As Romans were destined to be genre staples for many years to come, this release should squash that nonsense once and for all.

GRADE: A-

Review written by James Shotwell

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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