Of Mice and Men - Restoring Force
Record Label: Rise
Release Date: January 28, 2014
Of Mice and Men released their follow-up to 2011’s The Flood, and in a wave of interest and a rekindled fondness for the group that has gone through numerous trials, including their very inception, I found myself listening to their new record Restoring Force. Upon finally completing my first listen and making the decision to write a full-fledged review about it, I feared that this review would be a lot less about the band and more about metalcore in general, and I wasn’t far off. To put it simply, a long awaited sonic change to the genre is in full swing and Of Mice and Men is leading one side of it. Their new record is highly influenced by hard rock and nu metal, in fact I find them to sound very similarly to older Linkin Park periodically throughout, and thus I label this differing sound ‘nu metalcore’. Catchy, ain’t it?
Let’s talk about the band’s progression first. The most obvious change with this new record is the vocals, plain and simple. Frontman Austin Carlile has altered his typical fry-style screams to a harsher, and ultimately better, yell. This new style complements the clean vocals of Aaron Pauley, formerly of Jamie’s Elsewhere, and creates a very catchy dynamic. Close to everything I really like about the record is their vocals, and I have no complaints towards this aspect of the changed sound. Another positive note is drummer Valentino Arteaga’s growth as a musician. In the past I felt as though he just called in his performance, but I’ve noticed a sense of vigor coming from him behind the kit and each song benefits from it.
One area where the band hasn’t progressed, and where most metalcore bands rarely do, is in the guitars. Every song chug-chug-chugs in some way, shape or form, and it is my biggest pet peeve towards the genre. In “Would You Still Be There”, one of my favorite songs on Restoring Force, there is some surprisingly great lead guitar work from Phil Manansala, and that’s the end of my appreciation for the guitars on this record. Every song just seems to be Manansala and Alan Ashby playing the same notes, and refusing to add any more diverse elements to the soundscape.
The lyrical capacity of Carlile, Pauley, and Ashby was very hit or miss for me. Tracks such as “Public Service Announcement”, “Bones Exposed”, and “Another You” make use of lyrics that complement the heaviness or melodic-ness throughout, while “Glass Hearts” and “Identity Disorder” are all over the place and make use of the occasional overused cliché to pull me away from what the whole track was trying to accomplish, with extreme emphasis on the former.
My biggest issue with this record is my biggest issue with metalcore, and this is where a sonic change such as the one that this band and some others, such as Issues, may come into play; it is incredibly decent. It isn’t bad, it isn’t great. It is dead in the middle. It isn’t a record that I will hate and it isn’t one that I will love, and that could just be proof of how far my musical preferences have grown from my young teenage days of listening to this genre as an act of defiance from mainstream media. I won’t play this album long after this review gets posted, and that’s because I’m at an age where I don’t love the genre as I once did as well as the fact that I live in an age where easily accessible albums are fighting for my attention.
With all of that being said, when you reach the end of Restoring Force you might find yourself in the same spot that I did. The soft and melodic “Space Enough to Grow” has the potential to make you optimistic or pessimistic towards the band’s future. Could the next record be a stellar example of musical progression, perhaps addressing my complaints and allowing the band to become the new norm? Or could the band chug out more of the same and send this potential ‘genre altering’ down in flames? Who knows? For now we have a decent glimpse of what the future of metalcore eventually may be, and my inner young teenager is intrigued to see good become great.