"Defy" By Of Mice & Men-Album Review
Alternative Metal/Released Jan 19, 2018
The past few years have been a time of change for the Myspace-era -core bands. Many of the popular metalcore and deathcore bands that rose to prominence on the platform have been going through musical maturation and exploring new places to take their art. California's Of Mice & Men have gone through more change than most in more ways than one. Their popularity has continued to grow with ever higher festival slots and prime support tours with Linkin Park and Rise Against. And in the midst of this success they lost founding frontman Austin Carlile who had to leave the band due to long standing health issues. Undeterred, OM&M decided to continue as a four piece with bassist/melodic vocalist Aaron Pauley handling all vocal duties. Defy marks the band's first album without Carlile and comes only 16 months after their previous album Cold World.
Ever since their 2014 album Restoring Force Of Mice & Men have been incorporating more alternative metal styles into their sound. It was subtle on Restoring Force and, while inconsistent in quality, more prominent on Cold World. With this album the band finds a much better balance of their metalcore and alt-metal influences. Overall this album is their most melodic to date and puts a bigger emphasis on radio worthy hooks that's reminiscent of bands such as Breaking Benjamin and Chevelle. A big difference however is that the band is able to provide more diversity to the tracklist by being able to play fast and shreddy while keeping a melodic edge and have layered, slower tracks for contrast.
Despite the bigger focus on melody Defy still has its heavy moments. "Instincts" is a satisfyingly aggressive track which proves Aaron Pauley's ability to handle screaming vocals along with his well known melodic singing style. The riffs on the track are slick and super thrashy making the track a surefire crowd-pleaser if added to live sets."Warzone" sounds like a Restoring Force-era track with its more hardcore leaning sound. Uptempo with a d-beat drum pattern and chuggy guitars, this one is a straight up metalcore song that only lets up for a melodic, mid-song bridge before ending heavy again. It's direct and not overly complex but will satisfy fans yearning for something more moshworthy on the album.
The big draw on this album however are the more accessible tracks. Of Mice & Men have always been adept at writing catchy hooks and without needing to write for at least one unclean vocalist were free to explore more melodic territory. The opening title track and "Back To Me" are the best of these with both holding big sing-a-long choruses. "Defy" makes for a great opener as it encompasses the overall sound of the record. An equal balance of metalcore and alternative metal that is upbeat and aggressive yet accessible. "Back To Me" is more ballad-like with its clean,simple, and melodic verses that contrast with its soaring chorus making for a good loud/soft dynamic. The cover of Pink Floyd's "Money" also makes for a nice mid-album curve-ball that maintains the swagger of the original while making it work in the band's own style.
Defy marks the beginning of a very different Of Mice & Men. Without Austin Carlile and the multi-vocalist set up the band has lost one of the most distinct pieces of their sound. In its place comes a more mature and melodic style that may turn off a few old school fans but will earn the band legions more. While there aren't any individual tracks with the attention grabbing power of a "Second & Sebring" or a "Bones Exposed" Defy is a strong album as a complete package that is better than listening to any single alone.. And for a band to have such a reconfiguration and still make a solid album that's listenable in full is worthy of praise.