"Never satisfied, never dormant..",
This review is from: BOTCH-WE ARE THE ROMANS -2CD- (Audio CD)
We Are The Romans, Botch's penultimate release, proved to be an incredible, original and instantly legendary album in the hardcore scene. However, the fact that it can hold it's own and be recognised for being an astounding piece of musical achievement outside of hardcore is it's most rewarding factor. The title alone - implying political articulation, metaphorical thinking and aggressive opinion on the part of the band - is just the start of this monsterous journey into the mind of the most respected of modern 'metalcore' groups. Fist track, To All Our Friends In The Great White North, is an instant breath-taker with it's comicalisation and dismissal of right-wing, elitist thinking (vocalist Dave Verellen wrote all the lyrics, but bassist Brian Cook was given carte blanche to come up with the absurd, tongue-in-cheek song titles). From the first second, you know that this going to be an effortlessly energetic, intense and superbly produced 53 minutes of music. The guitars sound like rabid dogs chasing you up a tree, the drums are pummellingly loud, and the vocals are syrupy and malevolent.
Second track, Mondrian Was A Liar, starts of a little less intensely, but soon shows it's stripes as another bruiser. Transitions.. starts off like some kind of morbid Pink Foyd immitation, but soon warps into a break-neck, unpredictable mosh-inducer, undoubtably awesome-sounding live. Next track, Driving The Channel is an awesomely atmospheric instrumental, and it isn't until this track that you begin to realise how bafflingly simple guitarist Dave Knudson's riffs can be. If you consider yourself to be a just-about above parr hardcore guitarist (as I do myself) you can't help but think 'Damn, why didn't I think of that?' - but you didn't, so get over it. Botch got there first.
C Thomas Howell is perhaps the pivotal song of the recording. Intensive at the beginning, then trasnforming into an ear-piercingly high yet meltingly beautiful mid-section, then into a slow, beat-down rock ending, this is Botch in a song, like Radiohead in Street Spirit or The Chemical Brothers in Block Rockin' Beats. I Wanna Be A Sex Symbol is a tremendously disco-worthy number, and you can't help but think how a track like this, with it's simplistic yet powerful guitars, minimalist vocals and catchy as hell drums would go down a storm at a decent rock club. Intense yes, but too cool to be caustic.
Man The Ramparts is an excellent follow-on to Sex Symbol, and is an intimidating, crawling track, captruing the essense both of a country or continent being overtaken by an aggressive army, and of the monster in your closet revealing itelf just before it gets you. It transforms into an at first ridiculous, but then foreboding Gregorian chant by the end, with 'We.. Are.. The ..Romans' being the only, and instantly catchy, lyrics.
Loaded with quotable, insightful songwriting, the lyrics here are fantastic. Having serious points without trying to sound self-important, the band have managed to hit a correct balance between finger-pointing aggravation and respecful self-deprecation ('Can't hear the notes you play and the words you say, and you're not changing the world..'). I Wanna Be A Sex Symbol is particularly worth mentioning because of it's harsh look at the fashion industry, and how models are churned-out more like soldiers than anything else ('She comes in armies.. fear them. We're the Western medicine, freshly flown..). Even the artwork is great here, and looks more like some kind of art gallery statement about the chaotic state of America than an album sleeve. The pictures inside lend more than a fleeting similarity to certain shots of Ground Zero as well, even though this album was made two years before 09/11. Sends quite a shiver down the spine.
Well, Botch spilt up in 2003, and for four normal (if not slightly geeky-looking) guys from Tacoma, this is a perfect achievment. The fact that it is, indeed, just four blokes who you could mistake for a bunch of trainspotters if you hadn't seen them on stage, makes the music all the more admirable. Who needs the image when you're producing music that is this stoic and admired? It's sad that they split after what feels like a criminally short amount of releases, but still, at least they can be considered brilliant forever.