Of Mice & Men – Defy
Released: Jan 19th, 2018
Of Mice & Men are:
Aaron Pauley // Vocals & Bass
Phil Manansala // Guitar
Alan Ashby // Guitar
Valentino Artega // Drums
Of Mice & Men online:
The tragic, though perhaps inevitable departure, of Austin Carlile as the frontman for one of the leading Risecore bands of the last decade, Of Mice & Men, left the group in a precarious and potentially opportunistic position. Although lineup changes are nothing new to the band, with previous clean vocalist, Shayley Bourget, having departed in 2012, this will be the first album to be released without Carlile. Bassist and clean vocalist, Aaron Pauley, who was left to front the now 4 piece in wake of the -uh – unsatisfactory 2016 effort (Cold World), Defy has been the subject of a great deal of intrigue and anticipation. The leading single, ‘Unbreakable‘, has created a widespread notion that Defy could very well see the band return to their metalcore roots.
“We didn’t want to become a new band; we just wanted to be Of Mice & Men.” – Aaron Pauley
And although I wouldn’t necessarily call this album metalcore, the opening track (in case the number of heavy singles hadn’t already done so) proves within the first 30 seconds that Carlile’s departure has had absolutely no impact on the presence of screams on the album. In fact (as much as I love Austin’s vocals) I would even suggest that front-man Pauley has been able to construct a far more free-flowing and fluid vocal sound than the duo ever managed to in the past. Swapping between his signature clean vocals, and a powerful scream technique that may make you question why he hadn’t taken the helm a while ago, Pauley and the rest of the band have subscribed to a new sound which has all the makings of an addictive alternative metal band.
If you want an overall description of what this album sounds like, think Restoring Force meets The Flood. Songs like ‘Defy‘ have got those chuggy downtuned riffs that are reminiscent of earlier albums, mixed with harmony and melody that ring of matured musicians. Songs like ‘Back To Me‘ have those catchy, anthemic Restoring Force melodies. And still others such as ‘Money‘ (a Pink Floyd cover which, strangely enough, works) and ‘Sunflower‘ (a slow burn that unfolds really nicely) provide plenty of variety to hold interest throughout the album. Small details like the interesting hard rock solo in the super aggressive ‘Instincts‘ track, and the beautiful chorus melody of ‘Vertigo’ make the album a genuinely enjoyable listening experience.
It’s not a flawless release of course. If we’re being honest with ourselves, the breakdown in ‘Back To You‘ is laughably out of place. The concluder, ‘If We Were Ghosts‘, is a little lacklustre. But ultimately, Defy is a solid album that certainly blew my expectations out of the water. They’re working with a great collection of styles, and it honestly feels the most matter-of-fact and natural these guys have sounded in a long time.
And now it’s time for the BEST PRE-BREAKDOWN CALLOUTS.
- “…” (‘On the Inside‘) – 10/10
- “And you will know where you stand” (‘Unbreakable‘) – 8/10, dat rhythmic interest
- “I refuse to march into an early grave” (‘Defy‘) – 7/10
- “I hope it keeps you up at night, I hope it never leaves your mind” (‘Forever YDG’N‘) 6/10
- “How will you live?” (‘How Will You Live‘) – 5/10, edgy enough, but loses points for being the title
Of Mice & Men – Defy tracklist:
- Back To Me
- How Will You Live
- On The Inside
- Forever YDG’N
- If We Were Ghosts
Valentino Artega is also guest co-hosting this week’s episode of Wall of Sound: Up Against The Wall, check it out here.