Once touted as the flagbearers of the unofficial new wave of American Metalcore, Of Mice & Men have been the victims of a cold world, with each step of their journey thwarted by co-vocalist changes, a throw-of-the-dice switch from metalcore to nu-metal-inspired-arena-rock, and frontman Austin Carlile’s ongoing battle with Marfan Syndrome.
It is apt then that album number four from the Californian quintet is entitled ‘Cold World’ and is an out-and-out collection of anger-fuelled spiels regarding the hardships of fighting Marfan Syndrome and the disparate dystopia American is slipping into in this current climate.
However, it takes five songs and a sleep-inducing interlude before Austin Carlile taps into the anger he’s built over the last two years since the release of their last studio outing – 2014’s ‘Restoring Force’ – in the form of the Slipknot-aping riff-and-bang ‘Pain’, complete with a breakdown worthy of nu-metal inclusion and harsh vocals that are as angry as Corey Taylors were on Iowa. Unfortunately, they follow it up with some instrumental-less clean vocals that whimper rather than explode into a half-baked beatdown that leaves you feeling like ‘Pain’ was nothing but a wet dream reliving Of Mice & Men’s through and through metalcore days circa 2011.
The nu-metal-goes-arena-rock approach Of Mice & Men developed on ‘Restoring Force’ is fully realised on ‘Cold World’, their time spent touring with nu-metal forefathers Linkin Park clearly an influence as over half of the album sounds like B-sides stripped from the recording of ‘Hybrid Theory’ – they even come off like they belong back in 2000. It’s inordinately clear on early numbers ‘Real’ and ‘Like A Ghost’ that rather than take their inspirations – Slipknot and Linkin Park – and redefine their own sound, they merely replicate it losing all of the potential the songs carried with them.
Not all hope is lost in this cold world for Of Mice & Men however, as the aforementioned ‘Pain’ and penultimate closer ‘Away’ highlights yet hides the potential this group have to break through the barriers of the mid-card middling-venue band they are to the arena-conquering group they should be. ‘Away’ hypnotises you into submission with its slowcore soundscape before Carlile’s darkest thoughts spill out and resonate with you harder than a meteor hit the dinosaurs: “We always fall into the holes we dig/so ignorant to the depths of them.”
Whilst Carlile and Aaron Pauley’s duel vocal performance is at times off – shining only on the constantly-mentioned ‘Pain’ and ‘Away’ – with harmonies hitting the floor rather than the sky, the saving grace of this album’s structure is the above and beyond guitar playing of Phil Manansala and Alan Ashby who without a doubt steal the little show the album has with an arsenal of riffs so beautiful and meaningful yet so devastating and heavy. Take away their work and the album would not only lack a sense of depth, but a sound that makes any sense with the words they sing.
‘Cold World’ may not be the magnum opus Orange County’s finest were perhaps hoping to put out, but it is their calling card – once again – for the future, a statement of intent for what they plan to do, even if they should be there by now.
This Of Mice & Men article was written by Jack Press, a GIGsoup contributor