If you take a retrospective look at a band’s discography, there should be some familiar fibers that keep the trajectory going. People grow older and many musicians either learn new things or want to incorporate styles into their collective. The best bands know how to include the new wrinkles while keeping the blood flowing into the foundation that they’ve built.
2014’s Restoring Force was a step forward in the right direction for metalcore giants Of Mice & Men, keeping the coarseness of their first two albums, but introducing a new alternative rock element that made the songs seem more uniform. The band worked with producer David Bendeth and the whole experience showed a growth not only instrumentally, but from a song writing perspective as well.
Lead singer Austin Carlile’s health battle with genetic condition Marfan syndrome has been well chronicled, so it was a long, hard road to get to their newest album, Cold World. The record starts off on a different note. Usually with a OM&M album, there’s a hard-hitting introduction that propels you into the music. “Game of War”, written by bassist/vocalist Aaron Pauley, is an A Perfect Circle-esque style that recalls the events of the San Bernadino shooting.
“The Lie” is probably the closest we get to classic OM&M material. Carlile mentioned in a twitter post that the song was a heavier version of 2011’s “O.G. Loko.” The song’s likeness even comes down to the similar breakdown at the end. “Like A Ghost” showcases how Carlile has grown within his clean vocals while still leaning more towards the lines of Restoring Force. The band is able to balance their heavier side with their melodic side.
“Real” is an interesting song in itself and brings about some questions. There are points in the album that the band begin to take shape of the bands that have influenced them through the years. It’s good to hear OM&M are able to turn on styles almost at will, but is this at the expense of their identity? Bendeth was able to rein the bands’ potential on RF, but this time around, the plot lines go every which way. “Real” begins with electric piano keys reminiscent of Linkin Park and, from a mainstream standpoint, would be their most accessible in terms of radio play.
“Pain,” the most aggressive song on the album, has elements of Slipknot (there’s a part in the bridge where drummer Valentino Arteaga mimics the additional custom percussion of Shawn Crahan and Chris Fehn. “Contagious” and “Relentless” are both songs that could fit in the late 90’s within the heyday of nu-metal.
“Relentless” is the strongest of the two – guitarists Alan Ashby and Phil Manansala play off each other to create this rhythmic bounce – but it leaves the listener wishing that the instrumentation would be allowed to have more freedom in creating atmosphere.
One strength of the album is how Carlile’s clean vocals are integrated, as they flow right into Pauley’s. The last two songs, “Away” and “Transfigured”, are the best examples – the former being akin to a more alternative sounding song and the latter showing a nice contrast of Carlile’s rougher vocals placed with Pauley’s soothing ones. It’s reminiscent of System Of A Down‘s “Lost In Hollywood”, where Serj Tankian and Daron Malakian shared vocal duties on an emotional outro to the Hypnotize album.
Cold World sees itself pull the band in so many different directions that it is hard to get a sense where the band is going next. There’s a cosmopolitan amount of influences present throughout the 14 songs that get in the way of truly enjoying the narrative of the album. What is Of Mice & Men’s sound? It seems like the band is still figuring that out.
Metalcore | | Alternative Rock | Rise Records