Botch – We Are The Romans (promo, deluxe edition)

4 out of 5

Label: Hydra Head

Produced by: Matt Bayles

A 2-CD promo version of We Are The Romans, with the second disc containing demos of some of the tracks, and a few live cuts. As the first disc is already the album you know and love, the rating here is more about the package deal. Are the demos worth it? Are the live tracks worth it? Yes to the former, kinda to the latter.

My take on demos is always about whether or not they bring something new to the listen. Alternate bits; proof of what studio adds or diminishes. While the tracks are mostly matching their polished versions, the lack of low end to the sound and looseness in the guitarwork shows off how much Matt Bayles really helped to crystalize a particular sound – both band and producer having gotten even more precise in their approaches off the back of the punkier American Nervoso – and there’s an interesting bit of wandering to some of the tracks that was also cleaned up for the album. Romans already has a very “clean” hardcore sound; the demos do help to underline how much work that took, in front of the mics and at the board, figuring out the right mix and levels and getting just the right take. At the same time, you can still hear the ferocity and creativity in this rawer examples, and the switched-up sequencing also makes quite an impact; possibly just because we’re used to a particular order, but I’d also say that the final sequence truly flows, whereas the demos hit some slower moments, even with a reduced track list – 7 out of the 10 (9, if you don’t count the hidden track).

The live songs, meanwhile, are mostly notable just to show off that this stuff does work – and is possible – live, but that’s kind of redundant, as the demos already prove that, and the live tracks only bring worse recording quality / balance. That would seem to shift the rating down, except I do consider the preceding songs a separate experience from the album, and one that’s worth listening to in addition to that album as a result. Now of course, if you own the main disc, it’s tough to say if you should double-dip, as this tends to run about the price of a regular CD if you’re shopping for it, but if you can spare the dosh – or certainly if you don’t own Romans – the compare and contrast offered by the raw takes earns its own runtime.