We Came As Romans

support Chunk! No + Captain Chunk! + The Color Morale + Palm Reader
author BL date 02/03/14 venue O2 Academy Islington, London, UK

The Rock Sound Impericon Exposure tour 2014 on previous years has always had a more hardcore slant with headliners like The Ghost Inside compared to Your Demise before that. Tonight's bill features a headliner in the form of metalcore/post-hardcore mainstays We Came As Romans, a band I have seen twice and on both previous occasions did not leave a particularly great impression - or much of any at all. Their latest album "Tracing Back Roots" also not exactly a memorable or lasting record either sadly. The London O2 Academy Islington is as good as venue as any though to perhaps have my opinion swayed tonight, a venue of moderate capacity but crucially having above average acoustics. Even if the main course was not exactly whetting my apetite, I was somewhat more looking forward to seeing The Color Morale and Chunk! No, Captain Chunk! Both bands were pretty impressive when I last saw them and both having great releases in 2013 respectively. Stood in a rapidly filling venue floor with a beer in hand, it was time to get the night underway.

Palm Reader

Palm Reader was tonight's only UK band of the tour. Having listened briefly to some older Palm Reader material online before tonight's show, I was sure that I could guess what to expect though in the end came out still rather surprised. Their brand of gritty, angry and sometimes utter chaotic sometimes melancholy metallic hardcore had elements of The Chariot, The Dillinger Escape Plan, and Converge all rolled together with a British pissed swagger. The frontman Josh Mckeown had a somewhat nonchalant attitude to the lukewarm reception they were receiving, but still performed with what felt like an overburdening sense of weight and emotion in his voice - screaming every note with passioned conviction. Instrumentally the band had a fair amount of interesting elements - pounding drum work paired with schizophrenic guitars made for an energetic display though I felt like the mix was so raw and dirty it was difficult to appreciate the complexity of material from the new album "Bad Weather". That and for such a moderate floor capacity the flaccid crowd really put a dampener on the atmosphere as the early evening still meant people were moving in and buying drinks. A smaller more intimate venue would have been the perfect setting for these dudes to strut their stuff and wreck the surroundings, and under those circumstances Palm Reader would have easily felt more impressive. These issues aside, the crowd eventually began to reciprocate the kind of movement they were getting from the stage though not until very late. Definitely a worthy band to keep an eye out for.

7


The Color Morale

The Color Morale were probably more closely aligned to what the audience were mostly expecting tonight, sceney post-hardcore with clean vocals. Though actually that description would largely belittle The Color Morale, as they are anything but a generic breakdowncore band. Vocalist Garrett Rapp's vocal style of hardcore yells while singing with a mature, raspy tone is something pretty rare for the genre and it is fortunate that he can pull it off live convincingly. Instrumentally the band's repetoire is varied though not too surprising if you're familiar with post-hardcore/metalcore from nowadays. The moments with a few gleaming bits of piercing lead guitars are the best aspect of their sound and a tendency to veer away from heavy breakdowns except a few select moments keeps them from sounding stale on stage. Their set consisted almost wholely of their latest album "Know Hope" which was a surprise darkhorse of 2013 released around this time last year, my personal favourite of tonight being the catchy and heartfelt "Steadfast" especially the end of the song, it just translates so well to a live environment. "Demon Teeth" was the other highlight, it was the peak of their musical violence in their set and the heaviest song they tend to deploy live from the times I've seen them. One oddity of their performance came when Garrett took the time mid way to address the audience in a motivational speech that perhaps came off more as awkward than overly inspiring, but I guess he should get props for saying something original - just not sure if being called a butterfly is the most relatable metaphor I've heard.


Setlist:

  • 1. Burn Victims
  • 2. Learned Behavior
  • 3. Demon Teeth
  • 4. Smoke and Mirrors
  • 5. Steadfast
  • 6. Strange Comfort

Chunk! No, Captain Chunk!

With the night starting to really pick up, Chunk! No, Captain Chunk! managed to leave me feeling even more upbeat. Their rowdy, rambunctious pop punk metalcore ain't necessarily for everyone's taste, but their massively downtuned guitars mixed with fantastically catchy choruses made for a fun bi-polar record in 2013 with "Pardon My French" - a description even the band themselves admit to. They were helped tonight a lot by a solid live mix which they didn't get on all the occasions I had seen them previously, the instrumentals this time I could actually hear clearly from all the chunky guitar riffs, melodic lead guitars to the furious kick pedal driven breakdowns. I'm also impressed by vocalist Bertrand Poncet's transition between your typical sweet pop punk clean vocals to hardened guttural growls that outpower most vocalists who can only scream, and he pulls it off more or less without a hitch on the stage. "I Am Nothing Like You" their heavest song was just a blast to hear him vocally. One other small thing that I particularly enjoyed was that their introduction to the set was an 8-bit version of the start of their opening song "Restart" which was silly but great entertainment, a spirit embodied in their music as a whole. It did feel strange to me that the audience reacted the most boisterously to the Ke$ha cover "We R Who We R" than most of their other songs. Even if the cover is a half decent one, it's just their most shallow and nondescript song in the whole list. Then there's the fact that the band's live personas are perhaps still developing somewhat. While it's nice they jump from song to song without so much a pause, their movement actually on the stage and crowd interaction feels very much like trying to fit into a routinely mould rather than just going truly nuts on stage.

7

Setlist:

  • 1. Restart
  • 2. Captain Blood
  • 3. Taking Chances
  • 4. I Am Nothing Like You
  • 5. We R Who We R (Ke$ha cover)
  • 6. Haters Gonna Hate
  • 7. In Friends We Trust

We Came As Romans

Putting my reservations with tonight's headliners aside based on previous experiences, I tried my best to not let that affect my attempt at keeping my mental slate clear before the final set got under way. Sadly, We Came As Romans's introduction with "Tracing Back Roots" seemed to immediately start rub me the wrong way. Why is it that singer Kyle Pavone stayed off-stage until moments before his actual part in the song kicks in is a mystery (he disappeared later on in the set too when there was a lull in his singing parts). That and he still can't really sing all that well either. The band's newer material from their latest album (also called "Tracing Back Roots") is in a lower range which should be more comfortable for Kyle's voice, but that didn't masked the fact that his technique was still really lacking - there were numerous times when you could hear him clearly struggling to hold his voice together or the note just goes off completely. It was especially disappointing and frustrating when he frequently dodged out of the trickier parts to let the crowd "participate". That isn't showmanship the amount of times he did it, it's just laziness. In fact, David Stephens showed on these new songs that he is a better singer than Kyle despite serving traditionally as the band's screaming vocalist. On songs like "Fade Away"and "A Moment" where he added his sung parts in you could tell a noticeable difference in the delivery, and considering he also screamed at the same... well you get what my point is.

Song choice wise, We Came As Romans opted for a large assortment of new album songs, a single not on any album, a cover, and two songs from their debut album. This obviously implies nothing from 2011's "Understanding What We've Grown To Be" made the cut to the set. It's unusual that an entire album mid way in their discography didn't get any acknowledgement for a headline show. Speaking personally, it wasn't exactly a stellar nor memorable album in my books but there were a few decent songs they could have played from that album. Of the newer songs the obvious choices were there such as "Ghosts" and "Hope", the already aformentioned "A Moment", and "I Survive". Although obviously not having Aaron Gillespie (The Almost/former UnderOATH) take his part in the second verse of the latter song made it somewhat less interesting than on the album. Slugger "Present, Future, And Past" also just goes to show though that while We Came As Romans have really poured on the vocals and the increased amounts of singing, the instrumentals have become rather uninteresting especially when the band tries something heavy. Only on the older songs like "To Plant A Seed" where you can hear more lead guitars and technical riffs do you realise how impactful those influences were on their sound, though that said the defencies in the clean choruses were also more stark to be fair.

Looking at the band themselves, the stage moves were there as you expect, and everything felt very rehearsed and attempted to be professional which isn't surprising nor is it necessarily a bad thing. It's only when you think back to passionate opener Palm Reader and to a lesser extent The Color Morale that you feel by comparison, all this sentimentality of positive thinking, brotherhood and cutting your own path seems rather contrived - compounded by the routine feel of it all. To at least return credit to the band for what they were here for, the audience were largely satisfied with what they got, so if you were a hardcore fan of WCAR then you would have gotten a pretty standard show, but not brilliant.

6


Setlist:

  • 1. Tracing Back Roots
  • 2. Ghosts
  • 3. Fade Away
  • 4. To Move On Is to Grow
  • 5. I Survive
  • 6. Never Let Me Go
  • 7. Glad You Came (The Wanted cover)
  • 8. Roads That Don't End and Views That Never Cease
  • 9. Present, Future, and Past
  • 10. A Moment
  • 11. To Plant a Seed
  • Encore:
  • 12. Hope

Photos courtesy of our own Lauren Harris.

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