We Are the Romans (Hydra Head)
by Tim Den
The final installments of the Botch reissue series are – what else? – the two full-lengths that fully cemented the band’s place in the annals of heavy music history: 1998’s American Nervoso and 2000’s We Are the Romans. Each come with plenty of outtakes and b-sides, but that’s not why you’re interested in ’em, right? In the late ’90s, when metalcore was either Victory chug-chug tough guy meatheadedism or New England kids failing miserably at being “technical,” Botch almost single-handedly carved a new path for the subgenre. Instead of testosterone-fueled rage, they had genuine passion and a great sense of humor. Instead of messy attempts at pushing their instrumental skills beyond hardcore limitations (cough Converge Cave In cough), they could actually play/write as well as real tech metal bands like Gorguts and Cannibal Corpse. It was a bewildering revelation to know that something like Botch existed, because they seemed to embody everything that was great about metal and hardcore: A duality that was missing amongst their peers. They took the best elements from both genres and came up with something completely unique. Metal lacked hardcore’s off-the-rails energy, hardcore lacked metal’s attention to details and inventive tempos, Botch lacked nothing. They crushed like death metal, exploded like hardcore, had contorted bass lines like The Jesus Lizard, maze-like guitarwork with unheard-of, strange patterns, and a powerful grasp on (when done right, absolutely rapturous) the tension-and-release orgasms that all of us want from heavy music. In short, there’s no question as to why these guys are still heralded half a decade after they broke up.
To say that American Nervoso and (especially) We Are the Romans are crucial records would not be an understatement. They, along with Refused’s Songs to Fan the Flames of Discontent, pretty much were the pinnacle of the metalcore movement. If you own these three records, you can pretty much ignore anything past 2001. So grab these babies and hold them tight, cuz they don’t make ’em like they used to!