Loss knows no genre. When Vocalist Kyle Pavone’s life was cut tragically short in 2018, his brothers in We Came As Romans were forced to accept this cruel truth, one that could have spelled their demise as a unit. Instead, the choice was made to persevere in Pavone’s honor.
Not shocking considering the Troy, Michigan group met in high school. With the release of their debut album, To Plant A Seed, in 2009, they began an upward trajectory that attained new levels of success with each new release, from 2011’s Understanding What We’ve Grown To Be to 2017’s Cold Like War. Topping Billboard’s Independent Albums chart, performing on five continents and in 40 different countries, and sharing the stage with the likes of Bring Me The Horizon and The Used only managed to add fuel to WCAR’s flames. So, label them as you like—Metalcore, Post-Hardcore, ‘another Warped Tour band’—but they have impressively accumulated over 500 million streams worldwide.
Clearly, someone is listening. And when you have a maelstrom of thoughts jarring your soul, and an overwhelming desire to keep your best friend’s spirit alive, creation is apt to provide catharsis. That said, the quintet’s sixth full-length, Darkbloom—which arrived on October 14, 2022, via Sharptone Records—serves as a threnody to their collective grief. Cut from a similar cloth to such masterful odes to personal pain as Architect’s Holy Hell (2018), the 10-song collection is a testament to the band’s resiliency.
Produced by Drew Fulk (Motionless In White, Highly Suspect), it is an honest look inside the heart of We Came As Romans—Vocalist David Stephens, Guitarists Joshua Moore and Lou Cotton, Bassist Andy Glass, and Drummer David Puckett—and their battle to rise above their suffering. In fact, with Darkbloom, We Came As Romans do not pretend to be okay. Rather, they promise listeners that it’s okay to not be okay, as cliche as that saying has become. But the sticking point here, one that they arrow through our hearts on “One More Day,” is that when things are not alright, don’t attempt to face your struggles alone; there is strength in connection.
And so, much like the aforementioned Architects’ album, Darkbloom understandably grapples with the varying stages of grief. From the obvious rage of “Doublespeak” to the bargaining found within “Promise You,” they wear their pain on their sleeves, offering a vulnerability that is both visceral and raw. Whether you gravitate toward the heavier songs or those that offer Pop sensibilities, there is something to be said for a band that, refusing to conform to a genre, also defies the idea that mourning is meant to be a private practice.
They approach their personal tale with a backbone of lush synths, as is evidenced on the album’s very first track, the titular “Darkbloom.” It initially offers us a danceable beat before they delve deeper, providing the central theme of what is to come: do not whither away in your sorrow, allow yourself time to find your inner light, and survive. Here, there is a sense of Linkin Park’s inimitable influence, a feeling that returns on tracks such as “Golden” and “The Anchor.”
But Darkbloom is not a one-note creation. It sees We Came As Romans mirroring their self-reflection with a plethora of sounds, from the cacophonous opening that detonates “Plagued” as numbness begets anger that begets loneliness, to the dueling emotions of “Holding The Embers.” A beautiful portrayal of the conflicting nature of transcending heartbreak, it fits perfectly alongside the likes of “Black Hole,” where they grapple with the maelstrom of the mind. Giving this confusion the sliced and chopped treatment, alongside a feature from Caleb Shomo of Beartooth, allows this earworm to reach new heights.
Similarly, Hip-Hop’s Zero 9:36 delivers a unique flavor to the record with his appearance on “Daggers,” arguably the collection’s heaviest offering. Although, in some senses, the most weighted material on Darkbloom is some of the band’s ‘softest’ to date. For example, the emotional diamond that sits at its heart, “Golden,” offers a public goodbye, while the previously mentioned “One More Day” celebrates the Pop sensibilities that can easily be found within the track’s angelic clean vocals. These moments are just as poignant as the likes of “The Anchor,” where they meld all facets of their sonic personality, kicking and clawing so as not to drown in the moment.
By the time Darkbloom reaches its climax with “Promise You,” if you’re not bawling your eyes out, you’re probably not human. Because, despite the fact that few of us knew Kyle Pavone personally, our ability to feel empathy for his bandmates is immense. It goes without saying that loss is a universal experience, one of the toughest to tackle, and allowing oneself to be this vulnerable in such a public forum is akin to standing before a firing squad. It is not an enviable position. Yet, We Came As Romans’ willingness to bare their hearts is worthy of great respect.
For some naysayers, it will be easy to dismiss this special moment, but, love it or hate it, Darkbloom is an exceptional addition to the band’s oeuvre of music. Yet, it is so much more than this. It is a collection that shows heartfelt sincerity, blatant honesty, and the truest form of love. As the character of Sarah famously stated in 1994’s The Crow: “If the people we love are stolen from us, the way to have them live on is to never stop loving them. Buildings burn, people die, but real love is forever.” Darkbloom is this love put to disc. For this, Cryptic Rock gives We Came As Romans’ latest 5 out of 5 stars.