Monday, 3 February 2014

Review; Of Mice & Men - Restoring Force

Track Listing:

1. Public Service Announcement
2. Feels Like Forever
3. Bones Exposed
4. Would You Still Be There
5. Glass Hearts
6. Another You
7. Break Free
8. You Make Me Sick
9. Identity Disorder
10. You're Not Alone
11. Space Enough To Grow

Of Mice & Men is one of many bands that I've skipped over, generally speaking. I understand that they have a growing fanbase amongst the younger generation of Metal fans, I know they get an evil-eyed casting off by the more traditional Metal fans, and I have come to understand that this, their third album has been highly anticipated by many. I hadn't listened to them prior to this album, but I had heard that their sound was a hybrid of Hard Alternative, Nu-Metal and Metalcore. This caught my interest slightly, as I am a child of the Nu-Metal era (The first records I owned were KoRn's self-titled debut, Limp Bizkit's 'Chocolate Starfish...', Linkin Park's 'Hybrid Theory', Slipknot's debut, and Papa Roach's 'Infest' album) but that era is long dead as far as many people, including myself, are concerned. I won't lie; I went into this album very apprehensively.

As the album opens, the first thing that strikes me is that there's a lot been put into the production, so; well done to David Bendeth for the shining production that fits a band like this very well. There's a degree of punch, the rough edges are a little too smoothed down for some people's liking. The music itself... well, it's what I expected; chugging, down tuned riffs, nothing complicated. Everything steady but paced enough to give it an energy that's befitting teenage angst. Lyrically it follows the same territory of youthful anger, but fails to bring any grit or venom to the fray. The lyric "All of these people, talking about my story, As if they've lived it before, All of these people they don't even know me, But I love how you think you know me better than I know myself" from 'Public Service Announcement' comes across as a very lazy, almost pathetic show of anger that sounds less like a statement of reaching the proverbial breaking point, instead sounding like something that 'misunderstood' teenagers will put up on Facebook or Twitter when they've been told off by Mum and Dad.

Both the riff and the vocal in the verse for 'Feels Like Forever' sound massively influenced by Hybrid Theory, while the rhythm of the vocal line reminds me a little of Fred Durst. It's when the chorus comes in with the sickly-sweet clean singing...melodies, lyrics and all are about as bubblegum as Metal gets. Even as someone who admittedly grew up on the more market friendly strains of Metal music, this is cringe-worthy. It's like a bad homage to the Nu-Metal days with a touch of Bullet For My Valentine and Emo thrown in for extra effect.

Moving on; 'Bones Exposed' picks up the pace a little bit, though the chug-along simplicity of the guitar lines is still failing to impress. Again, the lyrics are enough to make my skin crawl "A cut cannot heal, unless you leave it alone. I'll open mine daily, leaving bones exposed". There's hooks, there have been on each song up to now, but to me the nature of the songwriting and structures seem formulaic and sterile beyond repair, no matter how catchy some may find it. At least there's a guitar solo, and the screams are half decent.

'Would You Still Be There' has a very 'Infest'-era Papa Roach tinge to it...frighteningly so. It's almost to the point that I quite like it. Again, the chorus comes in and screws it up for me. It doesn't help that a lot of the clean singing sounds like it's either been over-produced or even auto-tuned. On saying all that though, it's a surprising point on the album so far that I can't completely slate. In fact, I may listen to it when I feel nostalgic for my childhood. My opinion; bassist Aaron Pauley is a better vocalist than frontman Austin Carlile.

'Glass Hearts' takes things in a more Metalcore direction, with a real sound of Bring Me The Horizon to it, but fails to make any real impact on my ear before the album's ballad 'Another You' comes in. Again, it's the lyrical content that puts me off. It's like the Metal equivalent of a sickening boy band single. Fans will find the hooks in this song enough to stand by it, but I personally will try to forget this song. Similar comments count for 'Break Free'.

'You Make Me Sick' starts of quite well, an effective riff that breaks the monotony that had built up to now. There's also a few moments where Carlile shows some balls in what has been up to now an adolescent vocal delivery. The long scream towards the end of the song is impressive, at least in the context of the rest of the record. Another unexpected highlight, but by no means a great song as far as my point of view is concerned.

After another irritating track in the shape of the disenfranchised cry-for-help anthem 'Identity Disorder', 'You're Not Alone' brings some much needed positivity to the proceedings. This is what a band like this should be doing; rallying it's fans to a call, bringing a feeling of togetherness between fans and the band itself. This song strikes me as one that the target audience in question will enjoy singing along to at each and every gig. The line 'Don't let the world bring you down' is the hook that will no doubt sink under the skin of many young Metalcore fans. This highlight does make the closing song 'Space Enough To Grow' very confusing and very frustrating; again things turn introverted, sad-eyed and infuriating to those who want young bands to strike out at the Metal scene with fire in their gut.

One big issue I guess is that Of Mice & Men have their target audience; the misunderstood youth, confused, perhaps scared teens who turn to somewhat edgier music as an outlet or even as a shoulder to lean on. I can understand that; I think we've all been there at some point whether we admit it or not. When it comes down to it, this is an album for a new generation to grasp onto. I have no doubt this album will do well, it has all the hallmarks of an album that younger people will snap up in seconds, but for those of you out there who need brains and brawn in their Metal, who need something a bit different rather than a mishmash of commercially successful styles and self-conscious teenage anthems, I can only recommend that you avoid this album. Despite the fact that the fans of this group and even Melodic Metalcore fans in general will love this album, this is my review, and I must be honest to my own opinion.

This album sounds too empty, too copy-cat and too shamelessly marketable to me. Too frequently I find it infuriatingly simple and derivative of a few tried and tested styles of Metal, and it never equals the sum of those parts. Considering the hype around this band at the moment, I'm doubly stumped, and at the end of the day this album makes me wonder how long Metalcore can carry on riding a wave of popularity before everyone realises that it's run out of ideas and has stagnated horribly. I won't be playing this album again, and will probably forget it's existence in a few months.

Rating: 1/10

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