It's difficult to gauge what level of expectancy is fair in relation to a We Came As Romans record in 2017. At one stage they were a metalcore band that seemed to be hardly putting a foot wrong - notching up tours around the world onto their belt and carrying a huge load of momentum. The Michigan six piece's spark seems to have been dimmed over the past two/three years though with their previous self titled record taking a step away from the raw power of Tracing Back Roots and a giant leap towards mediocrity.
WCAR have never quite achieved an album that was one intricate flow of success, and latest offering Cold Like War follows this trend. The star power of the record is shone with a level of vibrancy in some areas, but as a whole work of art Cold Like War is tastelessly bland in others - with some direction turns that show admirable courage, but no cigar.
Cold Like War starts promisingly enough, the ominous opening synths of 'Vultures With Clipped Wings' descends into a thrashing breakdown - it's high octane, seamless, and sharp toothed; it's the We Came As Romans you were hoping to hear. The promise and lure of an album stylised in a lick of paint from the bands yesteryear starts and ends here though, and the rest of Cold Like War seems to be a push and pull between bridging gaps between genres, and floating into segments of who they used to be.
'Two Hands' finds the six piece at their most creatively exhuasted - tepid gang vocals leading into a run of the mill rock chorus hits with a hint of laziness and predictability; it's a concoction that pales in comparison to the energy We Came As Romans have bought to previous efforts.
Tracks like 'Foreign Fire', 'Wasted Age', and 'If There's Nothing To See' hold choruses within them that with a tweak to their tonality could be dropped straight into out and out pop songs. But this isn't the disaster it may strike as, with Foreign Fire in particular having an undeniably tempting hook in the chorus bought to the table by Kyle Pavone, and it's here that while we're not finding WCAR in the kind of form that tears our heads off - at least it's interesting and intuitive.
The latter half of Cold Like War takes a surprising lean into more a techno lead style of music, which is jarring to say the least. 'Encoder' sounds like something you'd expect to find on a Punk Goes Pop record, it's a risk that was worth taking for We Came As Romans, if done in the right way then a whole new direction opens up - but this isn't the case here. On the surface this is WCAR pushing for an experiment, but look deeper and instead we find the band trying to put square pegs in round holes, instead of re-invigorating the record; it's just another filler track.
There are moments where Cold Like War shows potential, and holds some undoubtedly strong metalcore in its grip, but these segments are often short lived. Instead what we have here is a decent record from a band that seem creatively pushed to their limit. Not a disaster by any means - but if you were waiting for a record where We Came As Romans deliver as a whole over 40 minutes, you won't find your answer here.