Nearly four years ago, We Came As Romans released its first full length, To Plant a Seed. Ever since then, the band has been rapidly gaining popularity, headlining several tours and taking part in several festivals (Warped Tour, Never Say Die), making noise worldwide. We Came As Romans has had its lineup locked in for about five years, but it's finally showing on the band's third full length, Tracing Back Roots, which hits the shelves on July 23 via Equal Vision (US) and Nuclear Blast (EU).
From the first note of the title track, which is also the opening track, it seems as if Tracing Back Roots is something very similar for this band. It seems really aggressive at first; however, as it goes along, it really mellows out. Breakdowns are still heard on almost every track, but there isn't really that one song like "Roads That Don't End and Views That Never Cease" that makes you want to bang your head incessantly. On previous releases, Dave Stephens split the vocal work with Kyle Pavone almost right down the middle; coincidentally, Tracing Back Roots is a bit more focused on clean vocals and hair-raising melodies – more proof that this is a different approach for the band.
While Tracing Back Roots is definitely a step down on the heaviness scale compared to the band's previous releases, it's several notches above in every other (important) aspect. Instrumentally, it is We Came As Romans' most well-crafted release, by far. The drumming has always been a fairly impressive aspect of the band's sound, and the work on the kit is very stellar again. There is still a fair bit of chugging and simple power chords present, but even so, there is usually some sort of melody accompanying these parts, or there is an excellent chord progression building up to something huge. Tracks like "Tracing Back Roots" and "Through the Darkest Dark and Brightest Bright" could even be considered as innovative post-hardcore/metalcore material.
Another drastic improvement is the clean vocals. Pavone's singing has always been impressive, but at times, it was a little too pitchy and didn't slot in with the music as well as it could have. This time around, his vocal melodies are absolutely on point and a little more masculine. "Present, Future, and Past" and "Tell Me Now" feature two of my favourite clean-vocal segments on Tracing Back Roots, and "Never Let Me Go" is the typical We Came As Romans clean-vocal-driven track that Pavone is the main voice of; he shines very bright over the course of the album, but particularly well on the aforementioned tracks. Additionally, for the first time on record, Stephens belts out quite a few epic clean-vocal moments of his own on some tracks, most notably "Fade Away" and "A Moment" (my personal favourite).
On To Plant a Seed and Understanding What We've Grown to Be, there were a few filler tracks that I always wanted to skip over, but for the first time, We Came As Romans has managed to hold my full attention for an entire album. Everything from the screams to the cleans to the drumming to the guitar and bass parts to the lyrical content is incredible. Heck, even the artwork of Tracing Back Roots is worthy of noting.