We Came As Romans Gamble And Win.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Given that heavy metal has remained an active genre now for over four decades, it's interesting to look at how the music has evolved over time. Compared with what came before it (Black Sabbath, Judas Priest and even Led Zeppelin are good examples), the music and guidelines for composing it have become ever wider as time as worn on and other sounds (punk, hardcore, pop, synth-pop, name it) have factored in. Simply said, metal has mutated significantly with the passage of time to the point that, in some cases, it may be totally unrecognizable to an older breed of fan.

While the music hasn't quite reached that point yet, it would be hard to argue this point: We Came As Romans isn't your Dad's sheen of metal.

Instantly noticeable about the band's debut full-length album To Plant A Seed is that it's bigger (both in the number of band members and instrumental scope) and more musically ambitious than anything the older breed offered previously and, as guitarist Joshua Moore explains, the band has grown dramatically in its own right since forming in 2006. “When we first formed the band, our former drummer wrote all the music and we had a lot of different sounds working through it,” concedes Moore, while at home on a short break from touring. “This was about four and a half years ago but then he left about a year after we started and so I took it on myself to handle the writing responsibilities.

“More members joined the band – our new drummer, our bass player, our other guitarist Louie [guitarist Lou Cotton –ed]. When Lou joined, Dave [singer Dave Stephens] moved over to start doing vocals and, most recently, Kyle [keyboardist/vocalist Kyle Pavone] joined. We've worked it out so that Dave does all the screaming and Kyle plays keyboards and sings on the record. There are some parts on the album where you'll hear our bass player do some backup screams, but Dave does ninety-five per cent of the screaming.

“Since then, things have been pretty stable,” continues the guitarist. “I do the majority of the writing but the other guys in the band do factor into that obviously. Everyone has a say in what comes out. I'll show them something and they'll tell me what they think and what ideas they have. It's funny, but it's usually just that simple; when we go through this process, everybody has an opinion and I think that's important. There are a pretty good number of songs that didn't make the cut for the album because they didn't meet everyone's standard; if I show them something and two people like it but three people don't, it needs to be re-written. It's a long process, but I think it's an important one.”

There's no arguing with the results of the process, if To Plant A Seed is any indicator. Even with the two preceding EPs released by the band in mind, this new album is is far more difficult to peg stylistically because the sound varies so much from track to track. Elements of hardcore and screamo dynamics (read: melodic passages buttressed against brutally aggressive ones) mark songs like the title track, “Broken Statues” and “I Will Not Reap Destruction” as well as very adventurous (by the normally rigid standards of metal) instrumental entries and production styling (dashes of trip hop and electronica creep in regularly but seamlessly), and the band's willingness to push boundaries set the group apart from anything else happening in metal right now. Such a mixture also guarantees a greater number of ears receptive to We Came As Romans' caustic brew so the usual crowd of leather-clad headbangers may be surprised to find they'll have to share some space in the crowd with a group of unfamiliar faces.

According to Moore, such a wide mixture of interest is exactly the sort of response that We Came As Romans has been receiving since they began to tour in support of To Plant A Seed, even before the album was released in November 2009. “The album has actually been received really, really well so far,” exclaims the guitarist, humbled, “and that's been really exciting to see because we weren't sure how it was going to do. It was one of those situations where, I guess, as you grow as a band you start to write better and better music and, as we continued to write more music, we realized a direction that we wanted to go in that actually fit us.

“We also had a lot more time to work on this album,” continues Moore. “We learned a lot and really took a lot of experience away from when we recorded our first EP and we wanted to put it to use while we were making the full-length album. We realized that we were only there for about six days to record Dreams [The band's first EP –ed] but we sort of learned all the possibilities that we had in the studio during that experience. It sort of really opened us up when we discovered that nothing was limiting us so we just ran with it. We had some of the songs worked out but we wanted to work on them more when we got into the studio so, really, we were still writing. There was one song that got written on the last day. It came down to the last night in the studio and then, when we woke up, we'd have one more day and we'd have to wrap. I had written this song and brought it to Joey and we worked on it a little more and then that night I wrote the lyrics. The next day when we were going to wrap, we recorded all the guitars for it, Dave and Kyle wrote the vocal patterns to go with the lyrics and then recorded that and we put everything else in after that.

“That song ended up being included on the record; it's “Searching, Seeking, Reaching, Always,” track nine on the album and it was written in one night, recorded in one day.”

Clearly, the hard work and the gamble that We Came As Romans put in during the process of making their debut has paid off. With the album continuing to build steam even now as the band embarks upon a tour that will take the Michigan-based band across Canada (anyone that has ever make the trek knows how treacherous it can be), the guitarist takes a modest satisfaction in the favorable way that events came together. “We hoped that would go over with fans and it did so we were thrilled when it started to take off,” says Moore with a satisfied glimmer. “It's selling well at shows; I've noticed when I go to the merch table that a lot of kids are picking it up, but even more of the people that I talk to at shows tell me they had it already. We met one kid on the last tour that had the album artwork tattooed on his arm if you can believe it so, for only being out for a couple of months, it's been going really really well which is really gratifying because it really is everything that I had ever dreamed of or hoped for in a full-length CD. When we first finished the album, we were all happy with the songs that we'd come up with for the full-length so we just said, 'Let's get it out, this is the best we've got, if it sells, it sells and, if it doesn't, there's nothing we can do about it.' We didn't have any idea how it might do so we kind of braced ourselves for the possibility that it might not do anything, but we're thrilled that it's worked out so well.”



To Plant A Seed
is out now. Buy it on Amazon .

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