Despite the departure of founding member Austin Carlile a little over a year ago due to long-term health issues, Of Mice and Men are moving on with their aptly titled fifth album, ‘Defy’. Bassist Aaron Pauley has taken over vocal duties and the band have consolidated their position by focussing on reasserting their identity, rather than further reinventing themselves. As such, there is less of the nu-metal vibe that underscored ‘Cold World’, although the slick songwriting with all the expected moves from the metalcore playbook is still very much to the fore.
It all gets off to a positive start with the pulsating opening riff to title track ‘Defy’, which is as groove-laden a slice of commercial sounding metalcore as you are likely to get. The aggressive approach continues on ‘Instincts’ with its super fly riffing and extended soloing offering up a distinctly metal sound.
There are a couple of other seriously attacking moments, such as the mosh pit fodder of ‘Warzone’ with its guttural vocal and hardcore feel, besides the massive ‘Forever YDG’n’ with its killer chorus and great vocals. However, there are also plenty of emotion tinged tunes such as the Linkin Park reminiscent ‘Back to Me’ and the brooding undercurrent to ‘Sunflower’.
Although in general there is a nice balance between the metallic and the heartfelt, there are one or two tracks where the band are going through the motions. ‘How Will You Live’ and ‘On The Inside’ for instance, are both on the obvious side, while ‘Unbreakable’ is only saved by its chorus.
Even so, there are still plenty of killer tunes on offer; their metal spin on Pink Floyd’s ‘Money’ works well, while ‘Vertigo’ with its cool riff and laid-back groove is a straight up tune. Although ‘If We Were Ghosts’ is a predictably atmospheric ballad finale, it’s slickly done and makes for a pleasant closer with a great hook.
All things considered ‘Defy’ is a quality return from OMAM, reaffirming their metallic roots and underscoring their undoubted quality.
‘Defy’ by Of Mice and Men is out now on Rise Records.
Words by Edward Layland (@EdwardLayland)