For an album to have a lasting impact, it needs to be more than just a great set of tunes. It needs to be more than the music that meets the ear. It needs to really speak to me. Understanding What We’ve Grown to Be, the second studio album by metalcore giant We Came As Romans, has done that and invoked multitudes of emotion through my ears, to my heart, and back again. Despite the overproduction and the always-hated clean vocals, it’s more passionate and sincere than I could’ve imagined.
Closely contained by “Mis//Understanding” and the title track (both featuring backing vocals from Josh Wells of Close To Home), this album is packed in between two of the best songs that WCAR has written. From the start of “Mis//Understanding,” the screams are more hardcore, the guitar meatier, the wall of sound thicker, and the lyrics a bit darker than the typical uplifting songwriting style of guitarist Joshua Moore. This continues throughout the beginning of the album, before changing into the more positive, happy style of To Plant A Seed, while rising to a third high point in the sin-splitting, perspective-flipping metal anthem “A War Inside.” Swapping in and out of piano ballads, it has some of the most emotional and mature material that the band has ever compiled into a song.
What impressed me was the growth of the band’s guitar leads and riffs. That being said, the band still sticks to the same formula of To Plant A Seed. The leads in “What I Wished I Never Had” and “The Way That We Have Been” are diverse and carry a lot of energy. But some of the guitar parts get tiring and grow a bit old over time. That’s not always the case, but some of the songs don’t always successfully separate themselves from others. But the best example of progression comes in the Metallica-esque intro to “Cast The First Stone,” where it quickly summits into one of my favorite lines on the record (“I cast the first stone”).
There’s one problem though: the clean vocals. Kyle Pavone’s singing is riddled with annoying autotune and computer effects. It’s the clean vocals that may turn a lot of people away; they’re more overproduced and computerized than the band’s debut, though if you liked them in that album, this won’t stop you. In a lot of the songs the metal guitar and bass with a full symphony and piano are a unique blend, though some synth seems to control the music and it may turn some heads for listeners throughout the album. I feel like the symphony is unique to the band’s sound; I’m glad WCAR brought it back.
The emotional closer consists of an inspiring set of dialogue and its heavier, crunchier guitar riffs, while David Stephens’ screams and growls are vastly improved from To Plant A Seed. Using a more climactic approach in the song, the highlight comes with the closing lyric, “Tonight when I look into the sky, I know this is why I am alive,” probably the most memorable line in the album.
Lyrically, these guys have gone above and beyond what I would’ve expected of them. WCAR is a band with a positive message. They’re not a Christian band, but their lyrics sweep the listeners off their feet and make them feel the power of love and forgiveness. It’s as if Moore is trying to root out all of the evil in the world and overpower it with his lines of compassion and sincerity. WCAR takes a more straightforward approach in this album, improving their songwriting by a bit. These guys say what they feel, and to hear such sincerity and dedication to their work really shows how much music means to them.
We Came As Romans is a life-changing band. People will always be picky with their clean vocals and I can understand that, but sit down and not only hear, but feel the music running through you. In addition to the great message this album holds, it is really heartfelt, and I can never get enough heartfelt music. These guys have plenty of talent, even with Pavone, whose cleans may drive everyone batty (consider that there are more cleans in this album than the debut). But even with the problems of overproduction and the weak clean vocals, this album will really speak to a lot of people, because it’s a trip that may heal your heart.
Post-Hardcore/Metalcore | Equal Vision Records