Review Summary: Could have been much, MUCH, worse.
As many will attest, the introduction of Austin Carlile to the modern music world as the front man for post-hardcore/"synthcore" band Attack Attack! may not have been one of the most successful ventures in the world. Worldwide, the band found major criticism for its break-down centric sound, incorporation of dance beats into their heavier brand of music, and the ridiculous way the group decided to headbang, which was fittingly titled as "crabcore". Fortunately for Carlile, he decided to jump ship only a week after Attack Attack!'s first full length Someday Came Suddenly
was released, leaving the brunt of detractors insults honed in on replacement vocalist, Nick Barham. Formed in late 2008, Austin's newest band Of Mice & Men released a few scattered songs over the year of 2009, but it wasn't until 2010 the band released their self titled debut album Of Mice & Men
. While the album does feature it's fair share of shining moments, unfortunately it shares more than a few common mistakes with Carlile's former band, enough so that band effectively squandered a great deal of potential only to release a mediocre first album.
There is not one original thought to be found on Of Mice & Men
. It seems that every breakdown, every squeal, every minor to major detail of the band was forged in the minds of bands past. Of Mice & Men is a product of the times, a fact made clear over and over again during the course of the album. Probably the most major fault of this album (and so many more like it that have been released recently) is the gross overuse of the "breakdown". Originally used by the some of the best bands in metalcore genre, such as Converge and Botch the breakdown has become a taboo term in the world of metal, shunned for it's often generic and boring nature such as seen on Of Mice & Men
. It's the band never even tries to diversify the sound of their breakdowns, often using the formulaic combination of single note chugs intertwining with the quite annoying dissonant chords. While perhaps if the occurrence a breakdown was sparsely located throughout the album, it would not have been such a major negative point, but Of Mice & Men seems to believe in the age old saying "the more, the merrier", causing each song to be littered with these single note atrocities. The lesser of evils, however something that can still be highly annoying is the high pitched squawk of Carlile. The majority of the album sees him using this ear piercing screech, only to break the monotony with an even more annoying (and downright pathetic) attempt at gutturals.
Although the album sometimes seems almost overwhelmingly buried in the aforementioned breakdowns and bad vocals, Of Mice & Men
does at times contain some very enjoyable moments. Most notably are the clean vocals courtesy of rhythm guitarist Shayley Bourget. His voice may be far from having any sort of individuality, but the melodies and harmonies created by the band for his voice are definitely standout. Take for example the excellent performance on the track "Second & Seabring", where Bourget's soaring vocals carry the song on it's shoulders, giving it that extra and most needed edge. Mr. Bourget's even shows some great range, as evident on closing track "This One's For You" where he demonstrates his falsetto technique, which instead of being usual nasally and out of range cracked voice, is a well toned, enjoyable addition to the song. Even the guitars pick up the interest factor in some songs, such as "Seven Thousand Miles For What", where they adopt an almost pseudo southern He Is Legend type riffery. Don't be fooled though, for it is the performance of Shayley that saves this album from the brink of disaster.
It is quite clear that Of Mice & Men have quite a bit of growing up to do before then can establish the title of a great band. Hopefully over time they will lose more of the post-hardcore genre standard traits and begin to incorporate some of their own unique devices into their music. They already show some real promise, but the band really has a long road ahead of them before they truly come close to realizing its full potential. Of Mice & Men
won't be the best thing you've ever heard, but it does prove to be quite the satisfying listen if you're willing to give it the chance.