Review Summary: Of Mice & Men throw together a debut that tries a little too hard.
It was inevitable Californian metalcore band Of Mice and Men would become a household name, not because of its namesake Novella written by Steinbeck but primarily because of infamous lead singer Austin Carlile, formerly front man of Attack Attack! The band’s cringeworthy antics in music video “Stick Stickly” had gotten Attack Attack! much unwanted attention. Prior to the so called “crab-core” phenomenon Carlile exited the band and stated “personal reasons” as his reason for leaving, the music video was then produced with a new singer impersonating Carlile's vocals while the guitarists proceeded to perform those hilarious their crab impressions which catapulted them to fame. Almost immediately following his departure from Attack Attack! Carlile announced he was to front new band Of Mice and Men.
Instead of recreating the same syrupy keyboard laden metalcore sound his former band became loved (and despised) for, Of Mice and Men were taken in a different direction drawing influence from modern southern rock. The album’s problem however is the severance from Carlile’s past endeavours is not quite as clear cut as what it seems as the band all too frequently fall back into the almost pre programmed use of single note chug alongs. All too often in todays era of melodic metalcore is this used as a cover up for a lack of songwriting ideas. They persist with an incessant use of single note breakdowns and they exist in their multiples within each song, this has been shown in a number of Sumerian bands’ record’s that it doesn’t necessarily make an album immediately colourless but when used in this way there is very little entertainment to be had. Any level of experimentation with rhythm is absent apart from a few choppy sections sparsely spread throughout, (one of the few examples during the breakdown in the second half of “They Don’t Call It The South For Nothing”) and a few tasteful fills from drummer Valentino Arteaga, all sounds remarkably similar.
The southern influence comes across as a little contrived. Many of the riffs sound as if they are cut from a He Is Legend B side album, often sounding a little stale. All in all, Of Mice and Men’s sound comes across as cookie cutter, everything the same size, shape and equally as tasteless. It seems Carlile is no stranger to genericism, Of Mice and Men are comparable to his previous outfit Attack Attack! despite the obvious differences in their style. The pseudo trance synth that coated Attack Attack!’s "Someday Came Suddenly" release was as every bit generic as the neo southern rock style adopted by his latest venture. Their song structure seems dependent on a wailing southern riff to be used whenever the band is not chugging palm mutes to their hearts content.
There is however a department in which the album succeeds, the clean vocals of Shayley Bourget are a ray of light and many of the clean sections make up the highlights of the album. His sung melodies do admittedly fit appropriately with the poppy southern leads and there are particularly strong chorus’ in songs such as “The Ballad of Tommy Layton & the Rawding Millionairre”.Carlile also does an excellent job on the lead vocals, his prowess has never been called into question before and he is more than competent throughout interchanging between his most common raspy screams and the more occasional less impressive growls.
Overall, Of Mice and Men’s debut flaunts promise but is ultimately hit and miss in any terms of lasting value. There are certainly a few fun moments but it is unlikely any more than the recommended songs will remain on my iPod very long.
The Ballad of Tommy Layton & the Rawding Millionairre
They Don’t Call It The South For Nothing