Everyone has a different level of comfort when it comes to pushing themselves outside the norm. After all, it’s known as a comfort zone for a reason and as people, we’ve become accustomed to staying within our boundaries to an almost sickening extent. Part of it has to do with the day to day grind where things rarely have an opportunity to truly change, but the other part is a true lack of desire for a vast majority to differentiate outside of the norm. This dilemma rarely seems to affect those who are more creative minded in life as they typically are always thinking outside the box, pushing beyond what they feel they are capable of to create something entirely different and unique. Michigan metalcore act We Came As Romans are familiar with both aspects of the spectrum as they rose to prominence in the late 2000’s with a style that added very little the basic metalcore sound of the decade. That changed in 2015 as the band released their fourth album that veered heavily toward alternative rock and a softer overall approach than they were known for. While this was an album that wasn’t well received by their fans, it showed a different approach and side to We Came As Romans and in the end, resulted in a stronger understanding of where they wanted to go and what they wanted to create which has culminated in their best release to date, Cold Like War.
It seems important to note that the whole of Cold Like War feels as if it’s a heavy burden lifted off We Came As Romans shoulders, breathing new life into the band. With their less than stellar self-titled album and the departure of long-time drummer Eric Choi, there was assuredly pressure from themselves and fans to come out of the gate swinging on their next album, and that is exactly what they did. To do so, they took an interesting approach in giving fans an idea of what to expect when they released “Wasted Age” in late 2016; a song thateventually was unveiled to be part of the album, albeit re-recorded. Even though it wasn’t known that it would exist on an album that was due out a year later, it restored fans confidence in the band as their heavier roots once again became prominent.
While it’s in the middle of the track order, the influence of “Wasted Age” on the entire album is very apparent, starting off with the opener “Vultures with Clipped Wings”. Utilizing a budding synth with that slowly incorporates backing vocals, the sound goes static for a moment as Dave Stephens declares “I’ve never found peace, but now I’m fighting a war” and a thunderous earthquake of instrumentation shakes listeners core. This track not only serves as an introduction to what’s to come, but also as a declaration that We Came As Romans old sound is back and the band is better for exploring those new avenues. After making such a powerful opening statement, there’s a lingering thought of how do you top that – but it’s one that quickly dissipates thanks in part to some unexpected moments.
To understand where these unexpected moments came from, it’s as simple as the band letting go of creative constraints they put on themselves and building off what each member does best. Front and center of this shift is vocalist Kyle Pavone, who also happens to produce electronic music as a solo artist. His influence in this regard is felt throughout the whole of Cold Like War as the rest of the band fully embraced it, and its noticeable right away with the album opener, but really shines later on in tracks like “Lost in the Moment”, “Foreign Fire”, “Encoder” and “Promise Me”.
These tracks incorporate the synths that We Came As Romans have always included and elevate them to an entire new level. Take for example “Foreign Fire” where the bridge is created with a subdued, atmospheric female vocal track or “Promise Me”, which sees Kyle take front and center over a thumping bassline with wistful backing electronics. We’d be remiss to not mention “Encoder”, an in your face blast of heavy basslines and breakbeats with phenomenal mids and lows and thundering guitars. Ending this flurry of synth-influenced metalcore is “Learning to Survive” and it’s Asian-inspired opening theme with pounding drumlines and soaring choruses that once again shows off what the band learned from pushing their boundaries on their self-titled years ago.
For a band that came to prominence during a time where metalcore saw its rampant rise, We Came As Romans seemed to fall just as fast as they rose, leaving many wondering if one of the more influential bands in the genre would be able to return to the sound so many fell in love with. While some may end up finding slight faults in the overall lyrical substance or end up disappointed in the lack of differing styles and experimentation, those are truly minor nitpicks. If that statement leaves lingering doubt in anyone’s mind, toss it aside as Cold Like War is easily the most cohesive and well composed album that they’ve created to date, re-establishing their place among the genres very best.