By Brandon “B-Mac” McCarthy
It may be a tough challenge for any group, to carry on without an original member, who was an integral part to the band’s success. When Stone Temple Pilots original frontman Scott Weiland suddenly passed away, the band could have chosen to call it a career. Instead, they have recruited a new singer in Jeff Gutt, and are on the verge of releasing new material with him. Same can be said of metalcore greats, Of Mice & Men. As I mentioned before in a previous article, the band went through a change, when original vocalist/screamer Austin Carlile was forced to leave the group, due an illness that left him unable to perform. Instead of closing up shop, bassist and vocalist Aaron Pauley took over the ranks of frontman, and marched the group forward. Never compromising their sound, Of Mice & Men have been hard at work, to give their fans an album they truly deserved. As a result, they dropped their latest album, Defy.
I see Defy as a somewhat return to form for the group, after the 2016 experimental sound they tried on Cold World. Pauley pulls it off, while on double duty, as not only the group’s clean singer, but also its screamer. He meshes those styles of singing together beautifully, like on the tracks “Defy” and “Back to Me.” Also, he rocks out on the bass very heavily. Phil Manansala and Alan Ashby, lay into the record with their insanely heavy riffs and licks. They both have this ability to combine a pop melody with a crunchy guitar flavor. Drummer Valentino Arteaga tears the record to shreds, with his effervescent beats and crashes, particularly on “Forever YDG’n.” It is regrettable, that Carlile is not on this record, but Of Mice & Men saw this obstacle and kicked it in its teeth.
Some of the songs they penned, are some of their heaviest yet. From songs like “Warzone,” “Instincts,” and “How Will You Live,” they bring raw emotion and drive to their songwriting. What really surprised me the most, was their cover of the iconic Pink Floyd song, “Money.” Known for its trippy harmonies and catchy singing, Pauley and boys gave it a heavy metal makeover, and turned up it to 11. Though a cover, I see them performing it live, and getting a positive reaction from fans,every time. Like on Cold World, they do tend to travel into the world of pop rock. Their song, “On the Inside,” is probably the most poppy track. I can appreciate them trying to look for new avenues in their music, but I do not believe they should divert too far from their metalcore roots. Also to note, Pauley adds a little rap flow to “Forever YDG’n.” They end the record with the ominous track “If We Were Ghosts.” While it is very poppy, it contains some well-put together harmonies, that would make even the heaviest metalhead blush. Risky, but it works in their favor.
What can I say about this record? Defy shows that Of Mice & Men defied the odds stack against them, and charge ahead of it at full speed. Personally, I see this album as a major improvement over Cold World. They should tread lightly with the pop sound, they are incorporating in their sound, but as long as they keep bringing heavy beats to the table, they can do no harm. I see Defy as the one of the first great metal records of 2018. To Of Mice & Men, I salute you. Horns up!!! 8.9/10
03. “Back to Me”
08. “How Will You Live”
09. “On the Inside”
11. “Forever YDG’n”
12. “If We Were Ghosts”
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