At the Gates. In Flames. Botch. What do these three bands have in common?
Current metalcore bands love ripping them off!
The specific album most of those ripoffs seem to reference with Botch however is We Are the Romans, the Pacific Northwest sons' devastating, final full-length. But you probably already know that. But for those who don't, Hydra Head Records serves you a reminder with the latest in a series of catalog reissues of the band, serving forth a mighty deluxe edition. It's also the reissue with the most bonus material as evidenced by an entire second disc with demo and live versions of nearly every song off the album. We Are the Romans itself is also remastered.
As for the very album itself, it sounds as meticulously crafted and noisy as it did during its original release. Dave Knudson's mind-bending, angular riffs, effects pedal abusing and pulsating finger-tapping resonates below the time signature changes (those ringing riffs in "Saint Matthew Returns to the Womb" still hauntingly great), while vocalist Dave Verellen still gravelly screams over the ever-changing chaos. Instruments seem to bounce off all corners of the studio -- a darkly colorful, explosive cacophony that relents only during its 50+-minute running time for some mellow lulls that merely act as calms before the throat-grabbing storm.
As for the new-ish sound clarity, unfortunately, it's simply bulkier and louder. Matt Bayles' original production, engineering and mixing job never seemed to be terribly unfocused or off; We Are the Romans was always a loud, confrontational record, and the remastering, while trying to push those aspects to the limits, proves that they may have been immobile from the start. Luckily, it doesn't shift the enjoyability of the album in either direction, but it consequently seems sort of needless.
For those who truly love the record, though, the bonus disc is a treat. The band laughs and momentarily jokes around between the demo takes ("Man the Ramparts" was apparently originally called "Fair Maidens Aplenty") and each song offers a slightly alternate perspective; it's sort of like We Are the Romans in a parallel universe. The aforementioned "Saint Matthew" in its demo version seems a little more raw and rugged and its bare bones delivery makes it a mid-disc standout, as does the groove-laden foundation and weird electronic flourish of certain moments in "C. Thomas Howell as the 'Soul Man'." "Man the Ramparts" is even shortened by a good three minutes. The live version of "Saint Matthew" that reappears later is great, too; there's a cool, electronic-tinged guitar loop introducing the band to the crowd and its stop-starts are as pounding as ever, while Verellen sounds like a man possessed. A live "Vietnam" is refreshing, helping to break up the repetition of Romans material.
Despite a questionable remastering, We Are the Romans definitely seems to be the complete package here for an album that collects more and more accolades by the day for the obvious, healthy influence it's continued to provide since its release.