When it comes to modern post-hardcore bands, particularly ones who heavily embrace the ways of the breakdown, Of Mice & Men are up there with the best. This development is actually somewhat surprising however; from an average debut to the departure and subsequent return of vocalist Austin Carlile, OM&M's brief history has been rocky to say the least. Despite all of this, each trial the band faced made them stronger, and when their second album The Flood
was released in 2011 it was evident that OM&M had improved greatly. Taking the best parts of their self-titled and and discarding everything that held them back, The Flood
is the band's strongest set of tunes to date.
When Of Mice & Men
was released in 2010, Austin was still very much trying to top his former bandmates and in turn the group'a first album was very much the Austin Carlile show. The Flood
is more of a full band effort and greatly benefits from that. This time around every member gets their chance in the limelight, making The Flood
an all around more solid, cohesive effort. While breakdowns still play a role in OM&M's sound, they are not nearly as prevalent - Phil Manansala and Shayley Bourget have become certified riffmeisters. In tracks like album opener "O.G. Loko" and "Ben Threw" it's hard not to bob your head up and down to their frantic guitarwork. "Ohioisonfire" in particular is a great track on the six-string front, using a combination of hardcore riffs with some well-placed breakdowns that would really get a pit going.
Speaking of breakdowns, yes, OM&M still uses them but in fewer quantity and with more finesse. Where the ending breakdown in "O.G. Loko" is more direct, "Product of A Murderer" and its breakdown proves to be a bit more playful, featuring a call and response section that is not only catchy in itself, but is the perfect intro to the song's climax with Shayley exploding into one of his best performances on the album. As one of the best things about their debut, Shayley is used much more on The Flood
. Although the scarcity in which he appeared was huge in how effective he was before, the larger presence he has on this release still works in OM&M's favor; his voice may be reminiscencent of most clean vocals in the genre but thanks to his awesome range and tone, they are a clear stand-out. Everytime he appears is a highlight, and in songs like "Purified" and "Let Live" his melodies are more than infectious.
Shayley isn't the only star on the mic here though; Austin's vocals are the sharpest they've ever been, no longer an irritant but a huge asset. Like him or not, there is just no other vocalist that possesses a screech quite like Austin, and his signature technique is an element that clearly distinguishes OM&M from other groups of their ilk. From top to bottom, The Flood
is the work of a band with something to prove - Carlile has had the ambition from the get-go and it seems like the rest of the band has finally caught up. If you liked the band before, you'll surely love them now - if you weren't such big fan, their huge strides here are worth to giving them a second chance. They may not deviate far from post-hardcore's template, but they certainly are its best example with The Flood
rightfully placing them above most of their contemporaries. Congrats Austin Carlile, you've finally reached the top.