Review Summary: You don't know what I've Ben Threw.
Of Mice and Men's self-titled debut album suffered from a lack of cohesiveness within the band, as well as a reliance on breakdowns and one-note, repetitive screams from Austin. It also had a repetitive song structure - namely the scream/sing/scream/sing/breakdown combination. But this was, in part, due to the limited time OMAM had to get the band together, practice, and write an entire album. So despite the band's low usage of Shayley (who is one of the top clean vocalists in the genre) OMAM's self-titled album was decent, but with plenty more room to grow.
It's safe to say Of Mice & Men improved themselves with "The Flood". More studio time, and the return of Austin Carlile, really helped them out. They're passed the "genericore" stage, albeit just barely. Austin's screaming, though derided by non-fans, is probably the most noticeable aspect of the band. His talent for screaming (clearly!) is definitely a huge plus for the band, but it may also be the dividing line between fans and non-fans of the band. It is loud, it's heavy, and it's also quite emotional - as one would expect from a vocalist who's had heart and health issues the last few years.
Lyrically, they've really grown, as you may have noticed by the lyrical gem I posted from "Product Of a Murderer". Speaking of that song, it's one of the heaviest on the album, but it's also got more of Shayley (who is a HUGE reason why "The Flood" is so good). Shayley is the wild card of the band, and proves that OMAM isn't just "The Austin Carlile Project". He shows tremendous range on songs like "Let Live", "Ben Threw", and the wonderful-but-too-short "My Understandings". "My Understandings" is a surprise, as it's all clean vocals, and one of the more emotional songs on the album.
"The Great Hendowski", and a few other songs on the album actually have audible bass, which is a surprise on a Joey Sturgis-produced album."I'm a Monster" is probably the heaviest moment on the album. It has to be - Austin Carlile is CLEARLY pissed about something. He's "sick of your kind" and he'll "eat your heart out". Why? Well, because he's a monster. Not a whole lot of lyrical depth here,
The album is not perfect, though. It's still pretty breakdown-centric, and a few of the songs still stick to the same verse-chorus-verse-breakdown structure from their self-titled album. (O.G. Loko, Ben Threw, Ohioisonfire) but then again, O.G. Loko is the same song with a rather impressive last 20 seconds, which shows Austin utilizing all of his vocal abilties, including a chilling whisper at the end of it. Basically, it's not a whole lot different than their self-titled album, except for more Shayley.
It's clear that Of Mice and Men are talented musicians. They know how to write a vocal hook, they don't use breakdowns (quite as much) and when they do, they're sometimes placed effectively (see: the middle and end of The Great Hendowski) and Shayley's a bigger part of the band now. And lyrically, they've definitely improved.
This straddles the line between 3 and 3.5 for me. The guitar parts are still pretty repetitive, but Austin seems to have improved his vocal delivery, and Shayley Bourget is a talented clean vocalist. Not much new here, but what is here, is done very well.