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22nd February 2016

Record Reappraisal: Botch – We Are The Romans

15 years on from the demise of Botch, Adam Rogers explores the bands highly influential, and heavily chaotic final LP

Released November 1999 via Hydra Head

All genres of music have an album of pure brilliance that goes largely unnoticed when released. Whether it’s The Velvet Underground & Nico sitting and waiting impatiently for the rest of the world to catch up, or The Pixies selling out world tours only 10 years after breaking up. It’d be fair to say that various subgenres of metal and punk wouldn’t be where they are today without Botch’s We Are the Romans.

Botch were a four-piece balls-to-the-wall mathcore band hailing from Tacoma, Washington, renowned for their malicious blend of metal-inflected hardcore that sought to oppose the drawn-out, simplistic clichés of the scene at the time. The result was a sound that is an unequivocal punch to the throat—swapping out the standard three punk chords for erratic, noisy guitar stabs and shifting time signatures.

Following the release of their debut album American Nervoso, Botch took only a year to put out We Are the Romans—an LP that brought a more dynamic and complex approach to their already noise-laden sound. The album opens with ‘To Our Friends in the Great White North’ and distils this attitude into a single track; Starting with a riff in 5/8 at 180 beat per minute and ending with the mantra: “It’s your fault—fucking up the kids”. This album gives you a swift kick to the nuts and then berates you for it.

We Are the Romans is one of the first albums that managed to meld punk attitudes with progressive musicality and still came across with a raw head-banging clarity. It’s something very few of their contemporaries were able to reconcile; with other bands such as Coalesce or The Dillinger Escape Plan tending to sway towards one or the other. This signature style of riffing can be seen in bands as large and mainstream as Architects or Bring Me The Horizon, right down to local level bands such as Ithaca or Irk.

A true tragedy is that We Are the Romans was the final album Botch created before the demise of the band three years later, when tensions within the band led to communications breaking down and fizzling out. The group died a lonely death after being shunned from the crews of the underground scene for eschewing and even mocking their clichés. It was only several years later, that the band started to gain critical acclaim. But in the words of drummer Latona, “I don’t mean to sound like a dick, but it’s like, where were you in 2001?”

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