First, the obvious. This is the fifth album by We Came As Romans and their first for the SharpTone record label. WCAR is a six-piece metalcore/post-hardcore band from Michigan, somewhat distinguished by having a keyboardist.
If you are already a WCAR fan, then rest assured that Cold Like War is exactly what you expected of them and you will probably love it.
We Came As Romans are known for their use of keyboards to incorporate some elements of symphonic metal into their sound. Otherwise, Cold Like War is straight metalcore. It would be appropriate to call it “generic metalcore” but since WCAR arguably helped create that sound, we should give them a pass on genre labels. In case anyone does not know what “generic metalcore” is, We Came As Romans combine simplified, heavy riffs with melodic elements; mid-range screams with soaring melodic choruses; ballad-y parts with stuff that sounds almost like straight thrash metal.
Previous WCAR albums have been variations on the same theme, with differing degrees of melody, accessibility, and darkness in an overall sound that has otherwise remained unchanged. And so it is on Cold Like War. We Came As Romans built this album with heavy riffs, soaring melodies, harsh screaming, and breakdowns. The symphonic flourishes make them just sufficiently different from other generic metalcore bands to give them a distinctive sound.
Cold Like War starts on an appropriately dark note, “Vultures With Clipped Wings” having the heavy chops and a punishing, brutal riff. It has the soaring chorus too, and enough of one to make that intro seem to not matter. The title track comes next and it is WCAR’s way of saying “OK, so now that you know we’re still heavy, let’s get down to the serious business of trying to get some radio airplay.” It focuses on the melodic chorus too much, with a “whoa-oah” motif meant to be sung along to at concerts.
“Two Hands” continues this trend with a deliberately radio-friendly buildup to a catchy chorus. It almost sounds like a Blink-182 song in this respect. The guitars are dialed way back during the main verse and it has a chord progression rather than a riff, the hallmark of radio rock. “Lost In The Moment” tries to balance both the heavy and radio-friendly approaches (again, that chorus that repeats the song title over and over again) but settles into a shameless breakdown late in the song.
“Foreign Fire” picks up the heaviness, a bit more riffy, the un-clean vocals in the main verse, and a brief breakdown. Still, it has that “stamp it on your head so you don’t forget it” chorus. This leads to “Wasted Age,” the heaviest song on Cold Like War. This song is more unrelenting in its heaviness with a hardcore-style riff, a genuinely memorable breakdown, and less evidence of We Came As Romans trying too hard to make the listeners remember the chorus.
This makes “Encoder” a let-down. Its overproduced electronic sound has “we want a dance hit” written all over it. It even has a disco/dubstep/hip-hop/neo-industrial/who-cares-what-it’s-called-all-programmed-drums-sound-the-same beat to it, with samples. Sure, they add in some “organic” heaviness to the chorus, but the main verse is scream-rapped. “If There’s Nothing To See” tries to atone for the sins of “Encoder” with some heaviness and a lack of electronica (save for the obligatory WCAR keyboards) but the song’s tendency to repeat the infantile “We were so young, we were so vivid” chorus over and over again ruins it.
“Promise Me” is a power ballad with an uptempo, programmed beat (think “My December” by Linkin Park). It gains forgivability by not trying to be heavy, being an out-and-out unabashed pop song. It contrasts too much with Cold Like War‘s standout, heavier tracks. “Learning To Survive” closes out the album on an underwhelming note, again making the mistakes that We Came As Romans made with “Encoder” and “Two Hands,” straddling the line between pop acceptance and ‘street cred’ heaviness.
We Came As Romans did not make a mediocre album by their standards, or even by the standards of generic metalcore. As described earlier (i.e. with simplified riffs and a balance between mid-screams and soaring clean vocals), it is an established sub-genre with a savvy fan base. In other words, a standard exists for what WCAR did on Cold Like War and it would be unfair to hold it to the same standard as other material commonly reviewed on It Djents. Cold Like War‘s vacillations between heaviness and poppy-ness do not make it bad; rather, that’s just metalcore the way most people expect it. Miss May I made an album in the same genre earlier this year and it did not live up to its own press release, mainly by staying in the same formula from song to song. Cold Like War shows a bit more versatility on WCAR’s behalf and that makes it just slightly better than the (unjustly) dreaded 6/10 rating.
Notable Tracks: “Vultures With Clipped Wings”; “Cold Like War”; “Foreign Fire”; “Wasted Age”; “If There’s Nothing To See”
FFO: A Day To Remember, The Word Alive, Memphis May Fire