Every scene lives and thrives on the bands within it, there will always be the flag bearers, the copycats and then the also rans. This is the same with any and every ‘scene’ or sub genre, and that will never change until the scene inevitably collapses in on itself and everyone moves on to something else.
The hardcore/metalcore scene is currently at a crossroads, with bands dishing out the same formula over and over again in order to retain their status, and to keep that coveted spot on Warped tour and their t-shirts in Hot Topic. Then there are the bands that are dragging more hip hop and dubstep culture and elements into their music to give them a bit more of an edge, but somewhere among all that are the true heroes of the scene, the bands that are upping the ante, and releasing game changing albums, and changing the landscape of the scene along with them. Bands like Parkway Drive, A Day To Remember, Bring Me The Horizon, Architects and The Devil Wears Prada who are all breaking down walls and kicking their way into the mainstream, but they aren’t the only ones shaking things up.
Of Mice & Men from California exploded on the scene with their self-titled debut album in 2010, and followed that up with the critically acclaimed “The Flood” in 2011, spending time out on the road honing their craft and becoming a live force to be reckoned with. However, with time passing at an alarming rate, fans started wanting a new album and that is what they now have in the form of the band’s third full length album “Restoring Force”.
Before its official release much was being made of the album, there were rumours and whispers that the band had gone in a nu-metal direction, that there was more singing and the band had made a more commercially viable release. Of Mice & Men themselves stating that the album restored balance to their world and was them at their best, the only thing left to do was find out for ourselves.
I can sum up “Restoring Force” in one word. Mature. There you go, review over… Of course it isn’t, but it is definitely a step up both musically and lyrically into a more mature and focused direction for Of Mice & Men as a band, delivering on the promises they made during its recording and especially before its release. Album opener ‘Public Service Announcement’ is a massive middle finger to anyone that has ever dared to back stab, lie or try to bring anyone down. It really brings the album to life and sets the pace for what will follow over the course of the 39 minute running time, it’s appropriately crunchy but also catchy enough that you will see it sung back at live shows to come.
The more interesting material album comes from the tracks that will surely divide the band’s audience. A track like ‘Would you still be there,’ which is tailor made for arena and festival sized mosh action, has a more polished melodic edge to it, it has a largely sung vocal to it, and is less aggressive than some of the material on here. When the internet haters whine about the band selling out, look for this track to be at the centre of said vitriol, but for me personally it’s one of the best tracks on the album. Then there is ‘Another You’ which is a ballad of sorts and is a nice callback to the side of the band shown on ‘My Understandings’ from “The Flood.” For me, it’s on tracks like this where Of Mice & Men really shine, as it shows the many sides of them but also vocalist Austin Carlile who in particular puts in a powerhouse performance, running the full range of human emotions, he really cuts himself open and bleeds all over this thing.
For those of you that what balls out hardcore riffs and screaming, there are those tracks on here for you as well, ‘Bones Exposed’ and ‘You Make Me Sick’ are both blood pumping, full throttle riff fests that will keep your head banging and the fists flying. Even ‘Glass Hearts’ manages to balance the full on hardcore approach and the melody nicely and makes for yet another stand out track on the album. I think it helps that it picks up the pace after ‘Another You’ gives you a breather before walloping you in the face again.
As for the nu-metal thing? Well yes, there are appropriate amounts of bounce and swagger in the riffs on this album, that may lend themselves to that era but this is definitely not a nu-metal album, and it is definitely not post nu-metalcore before someone coins another ridiculous sub genre…
The great thing about “Restoring Force” is it’s an album full of balance, pace and brim full of ideas and freshness, this is the sound of a band spreading their wings, growing up in front of our eyes and showing who they really are for the world to see. This is not only an important album in the career of Of Mice & Men, but it’s an important album for the hardcore/metalcore scene in general, as it stands side beside by some of the greats that have been released recently by the bands mentioned in the early part of this review, as an honest, unflinching, exhilarating album full of integrity, intelligence and good old honest song writing from a band without a disingenuous bone between them.
“Restoring Force” is one of the first great albums of 2014 and an album that deserves your full undivided attention. Whilst there may be some surprises on here, one would hope that the band’s fans will support the change and continue to grow alongside the band. Regardless, take note now because when this album drops and before the year ends you won’t be able to avoid Of Mice & Men as they are about to take over the world.