The fourth full-length record from the Michigan group We Came As Romans hits almost all the right notes. The band’s self-titled touches on some of the major themes of life: identity crises, falling in and out of love, and the ever-changing nature of the world as a whole. Some pretty heavy stuff, but We Came As Romans have never shied from heavy topics.
Musically the album showcases a broad range of styles. There is, of course, the traditional hardcore screaming over thumping guitar riffs and pounding drum beats. But they also incorporate pop punk elements, repetitive choruses and a strong electronic tone that hums throughout the album. It’s a range that works well.
In “Flatline,” the opening verse gets crooned out with a whiny Tom Delonge-inspired voice, hitting a pop punk high note that carries throughout the album. The song “Who Will Pray” juxtaposes a deep life question (“If I fall too far, disappear in the dark/ Who will pray for me tomorrow?”) with some computer licks that could feel just as at home in an Imagine Dragons song. “Defiance” also starts with electronic strumming, seeming particularly influenced by early-2000s Linkin Park. But We Came As Romans’ use of metaphors sets them apart. In the second verse of “Defiance” they sing, “Ready to contend, ready to withstand/ Open up these walls built to keep you out/ Nothing you say can make me give up/ I’m persistent like a river cuts through a rock.”
While WCAR pepper the album with electronic beats and synthetic sounds, it never becomes too much. The self-titled’s electronic undertone helps keep a continuous theme as the songs jump from semi-ballads like “Memories” to full on hardcore affairs like “Regenerate.” It works as a unifying theme and helps make the album cohesive, even though they pull from all corners of the rock world for each song. It’s a solid album, and a great addition to We Came As Romans’ discography as a whole, but not the second coming of the rock gods.
The sixth studio album from Senses Fail, Pull The Thorn From Your Heart, delves into emotions normally reserved for a therapist’s office or angsty teen novels. But with a winning combination of screaming vocals, powerful guitar riffs, and soothing melodies, this album doesn’t feel so heavy. Instead, it leaves wisdom and a strange sense of calm in its wake.
The opening song, “The Three Marks of Existence”, sets up an expected Senses Fail album–all aggressive guitar riffs and angry shouting. But something sticks out like a lost red mitten in a patch of snow. The lyrics cut deeper than they ever have. Buddy scream-sings, “It takes compassion to confront your pain/ It takes strength to be vulnerable enough to float on the rivers of shame.” Out of context, the lyrics could be mistaken for a quote from a self help book.
These meaningful, frank lyrics, coupled with soft melodies and subtle guitar changes give an entirely comforting feeling. The juxtaposition works in the band’s favor and continues through the album. They pair hard and fast traditional hardcore songs with slower, more Taking Back Sunday-inspired tunes, which gives the record a distinctive flow. Just as it amps you up with heavy, smashing cymbals, rocky rapids give way to slow calm. It takes a breath and brings you back down, asking you to give your feelings room. On the track “Surrender”, for example, Senses Fail combine building guitars and steady bass with lyrics about finally surrendering to your heart.
The songs all touch on the difficulties of being alive. The love, loss, pain, and work that go into existing all come tumbling out like towels from an over stuffed dryer. The track “Wounds” has a few lines that almost hurt to listen to: “There are moments of extreme joy, there are moments of love, there are moments of madness/ And this is life; we cannot change what arises, only how we greet it.” Listening, you realize these are words that needed to be sung.
It is so easy to get lost, let go, and breathe the music into you with these 11 tracks. The masterful combination of raw guitars, subtle drum beats, and heart-wrenching lyrics makes this one of the best albums of the summer.
Once a month, in the epicenter of hipster culture in Los Angeles, the Echoplex opens its doors for Taking Back Tuesday—a night that brings every “emo” kid together to listen to their favorite 2000-2006 jams. A group of DJs spin their favorite emo tunes and a special guest DJ usually plays later in the evening; everyone from members of Senses Fail to Blink-182 have played a set. So this June, two friends and I caked on the eyeliner, pulled on our band t-shirts, and headed into Silverlake to see what Taking Back Tuesday (or #EmoNightLA, as it’s also known) was all about.
The Echoplex, as a venue, has seen rock stars of all types, including The Rolling Stones, Beck, NIN, and The Mars Volta. It’s a small venue (capacity caps at 700) and it has that rock ’n’ roll smell of stale beer and deodorants mingling together. Taking Back Tuesday looked like every My Chemical Romance concert I went to over the last decade. But even more importantly, it felt like every My Chemical Romance, every Taking Back Sunday, every Blink 182 concert I’ve ever attended. All these people, men and women with varying degrees of dyed hair and tattoos, came together to celebrate this music and what it does for them.
This is music that grabs hold of someone and sticks to them like sap on a car windshield. No matter how hard you scrape, this shit is on you. It pulled me into a strange time warp, where it didn’t matter that no one was playing an instrument on stage because I felt like I was back at my first concert. It took me back an entire decade, back well before this kind of music was popular—back to a time when I got shit for being an emo kid.
When emo first gained popularity in the early 2000s, the word was widely used derisively. People used it to put down the music and the people who identified with it. Being an emo kid was almost like wearing a target to school that said “I FEEL MY FEELINGS HARDCORE,” giving other insecure middle and high school kids the opportunity to pick on them.
Once I got to the Echoplex and saw the enthusiastic crowd and the excitement, however, I realized things have since shifted. Now, emo kids—or former emo kids who like to dabble in the culture—have taken back the word. There was a feeling in the room, which was amplified by the DJs, that being an emo kid is cool now. The DJs asked, “How are all you emo kids doing tonight?” to which they got an uproarious response from the crowd. No one felt picked on or shamed for being there. It was about celebrating the music and the culture associated with it.
If you look closely at actual lyrics, it’s easy to see why these bands resonate so strongly with confused adolescents (and struggling 20somethings). In the My Chemical Romance song “Thank You For The Venom,” frontman Gerard Way croons, “You’ll never make me leave/ I’ll wear this on my sleeve/ Give me a reason to believe.”Lost, lonely, and searching for anyone to understand, these lyrics hit close to home for emo kids everywhere. The universal feeling of being misunderstood doesn’t go away entirely when you grow up. People will always misunderstand and overlook and be sort of shitty. You’ll always have to deal with that, and finding a healthy way to channel those feelings constructively, like with music, will always be important.
The feeling emo music gives me is one of acceptance and recognition; like someone turned to me in a moment of my own intense weakness and said, “I get it, this sucks, but you’ve got to stay strong.” That was the feeling that washed over me, like a warm shower, the moment I stepped into the #EmoNightLA crowd. It felt like I had found an old pair of Vans, well worn and held together by colored duck tape, that slipped on like no time had passed. It was like stepping back into my skin.
People jumped, bopped, and moshed to Sum 41, Taking Back Sunday, and Brand New. The moment the opening lyrics of “Fat Lip” blared from the speakers, (“Storming through the party like my name is El Niño/ When I’m hangin’ out drinking in the back of an El Camino/ As a kid, I was a skid and no one knew me by name/ I trashed my own house party cause nobody came”) 300 screaming attendees pushed forward and a mosh pit appeared like a sink hole, pulling in bodies from every direction. The songs that amped up the crowd most were songs about rebellion and being misunderstood, eliciting instant recognition and nostalgic joy.
Emo Night at the Echoplex gives people who never stopped being emo a place to jam together; a place to scream, jump, and enjoy the music that has become part of their soul. It’s a place where the year is 2006, and you’re watching the best damned Warped Tour of your entire life. The fact that this still exists, a decade later, is a testament to how much this music and this community still care. If every night could be Emo Night, then you would know where to find me: Jamming in Silverlake with a bunch of fucking emo kids.