By Bill Adams
Given that heavy metal has now remained an active genre 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 aren’t your Dad’s sheen of metal. They’re bigger (both in the number of band members and instrumental scope) and, as the band’s new album attests, more musically ambitious than anything in the older breed but, 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 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 – We Came As Romans’ full-length debut – is any indicator. Even with the two preceding EPs released by the band in mind, what’s instantly noticeable about this new album is how much the sound varies 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 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 receptive ears so, when the band plays throughout Ontario clubs this week, the usual crowd of leatherclad headbangers may be surprised to find they’ll have to share some space in the crowd with some unfamiliar faces. According to Moore, such is exactly the sort of response that We Came As Romans has been receiving since they began to tour in support of To Plan A Seed.
“The album has actually been received really, really well so far,” exclaims the guitarist, humbled. “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 that 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 were thrilled when it started to take off.”
To Plant A Seed is out now on Equal Vision Records and is miles away from Bane and Floorpunch.