Of Mice & Men is a Metalcore band from Orange County California that cites their influences as Korn, Linkin Park, Slipknot, and Rage Against the Machine. This inspiration is clear in Of Mice & Men’s album Defy.
After the departure of singer Austin Carlile in 2016, due to his ongoing battle with Marfan syndrome (a rare connective tissue disorder), vocalist Aaron Pauley took his place. Of Mice & Men now consists of Aaron Pauley (vocals, bass), Valentino “Tino” Arteaga (drums), Phil Manansala (lead guitar), and Alan Ashby (rhythm guitar). The band has been through nearly as many changes as the Sugababes, so it’s no surprise that their sound has developed significantly over the past few years.
If your favourite place in the world is the centre of a mosh pit, this is the album for you. The title track ‘Defy’ opens with a bone-shaking growl so strong that my earphones started vibrating against my head. I will admit that I was initially confused as, due to a mental mix-up, I’d confused them with the band Of Monsters and Men so originally saw the title track as a strong departure from the indie-band’s previous style. Although this was different to the style of music that I usually critique, I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed this album. The vocals by Pauley are incredibly powerful, which achieve further depth especially in his more melodic parts. This album, despite the many character changes over the years, shows incredibly synchronicity and development.
For me ‘instincts’ and ‘Back to Me’ were particularly strong. The vocals in ‘Instincts’ shone through, with the instrumentals in ‘Back to Me’ catching my attention. For a head-bang so solid you’ll work muscles in your neck that didn’t exist, I would recommend ‘Defy’, ‘How Will You Live’, ‘Warzone’, and ‘Forever YDG’n’.
This album was designed with live-performance in mind, as they’ve always been a live-oriented band. This led to them developing much of their new material while on the road. However, this does not detract from the lyrical and instrumental power of the music in recording. ‘Vertigo’ is particularly lyrically strong and nicely changes up the dynamic of the album, along with their final track ‘If We Were Ghosts’. These tracks demonstrate their versatility and true talent, with ‘If We Were Ghosts’ providing a lyrically beautiful ending to the album; written after the heart-breaking death of Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington, a long-time friend of theirs, the poetry of the line “I have to wait till I get to the other side/Just to see you/Just to see you” will surely reach out to the many others affected by his death.
The album is extraordinarily powerful, filled with versatility and excellent lyricism and artistry. Of Mice & Men go on tour this year, playing London’s KOKO in April, and I will be in the front row trying not to get crushed and thoroughly enjoying myself. This album is one to watch.
Defy is out now, listen on Amazon.
Image: Lindsey Byrnes