Of all the spurts of hype awarded to bands seemingly at random, We Came As Romans’ was probably one of the weirdest. Their first two albums did nothing whatsoever, but when 2013’s Tracing Back Roots came around, suddenly they were thrown up there as one of metalcore’s breaking elite that just couldn’t fail. The strangest thing was that, even now, it’s hard to see why that was the case; it was definitely an improvement by adopting a more pop-heavy sound, but it was still nothing special, and nothing that would’ve been improved on their hopelessly bland self-titled follow-up.
Even now there still feels like a few attempts to turn We Came As Romans into legitimate players, but that’s basically a losing game. Want proof? Just look at Cold Like War, the album that is supposed to mark the sextet’s reversion to a darker, heavier sound, and even though it does ultimately do that, it’s tough to say whether it’s been a worthwhile endeavour. This isn’t a terrible album, but it has so few distinguishing features that it can’t be called a good one either, basically boiling down to a slight update for electronically-driven metalcore that hasn’t been exciting or relevant in years, and the fact that We Came As Romans’ take is so sterilised and devoid of interest makes it all the more difficult to endorse.
To the band’s credit, they tend to have a more natural command of melody than a lot of other metalcore bands, and even in Cold Like War‘s edging towards some more blunt heaviness, those big pop choruses are still bolstered on for what can only be a fallback option. Tracks like Lost In The Moment and If There’s Nothing To See definitely work in that regard (the latter also having a decently technical guitar line in its opening), and even though the Punk Goes Pop covers are clearly starting to take a hold seeing as Two Hands‘ verse melody is basically a cut-and-paste job of The Weeknd’s Can’t Feel My Face, it, along with Kyle Pavone’s slickest, most powerful hook at least make for a track that could reasonably be deemed a highlight. Occasionally they develop a habit of going off on an overly melodic tangent and neglecting any real metal elements entirely – the worst offender being the horrible AutoTuned ballad Promise Me – but at least it’s there at all; they have at least one characteristic that defines this as a We Came As Romans album.
But that also begs the question of how focused they actually are on this album, particularly on the recursive metalcore style that’ll apparently work for them. That’s not to say that Cold Like War doesn’t have moments where, for this brand of metalcore, We Came As Romans are convincing as a heavier act; Wasted Age and the buildup of Vultures With Clipped Wings mightn’t offer much in the way of novelty but are fit for purpose, and Encoder‘s glitching electronics that make way for Dave Stephens’ scream to take the reins can be a surprisingly abrasive cut for a band so fixated on polish. But that fixation is also the problem, with so much of this album suffering from losing any real meat due to production constraints, or simply leaning on such an outdated take on metalcore that there’s so little to be gleaned from it. We Came As Romans at least have the courtesy to give the electro-metalcore formula a slight update here (the trap beat on If There’s Nothing To See says a lot), but it’s still a glaringly obvious attempt to slip back into the style where they made their name, and it just doesn’t work.
It leads to We Came As Romans ending up right back at square one, as a band with so little stock thanks to having nothing to say compared to numerous other acts doing the same thing. But at least back then, this was at least fashionable; right now, Cold Like War is just a dated, utterly redundant entry into the modern metalcore catalogue, not necessarily awful but having no shining positives either. Even in this exact branch, there’s The Word Alive, Wage War and so many more doing this sort of thing with more power, vigour and just overall excitement. We Came As Romans’ moment in the sun might be long gone by now, but to see them try and scramble back into it as they are here is just bordering on sad at this point.
For fans of: Wage War, I Prevail, The Color Morale
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Cold Like War’ by We Came As Romans is released on 20th October on Sharptone Records.