Review Summary: Despite lifting much of its sound from last year's Sempiternal, Restoring Force is a competent and varied radio rock/hardcore album worth at least a couple spins.
Of Mice & Men is best known as the spawn of Austin Carlile, ex-Attack Attack! vocalist and current Oli Sykes impersonator, and Rise Records. He brought the hardcore elements of his previous band over to the new project, stripped them of all of traces of cheesy synths, found someone with actual talent to sing the choruses, and managed to release a serviceable crowd-pleasing pop-hardcore album. There was some turbulence in the lineup after that, including a period where Austin left the band and was replaced with current Glass Cloud vocalist Jerry Rouche (his only recording with the band was a cover of ***ing "Blame It" of all things), but eventually he returned to the band with guitarist Alan Ashby and put out "The Flood", which essentially continued the direction they had pursued with the first album, albeit with much more atmosphere and variety. They were at an artistic high, until the departure of aforementioned clean vocalist Shayley Bourget.
It's unsurprising that a band that was essentially the creation of a record label would change sounds at the drop of a hat, but given the consistency between the first two albums, it was a bit of a jolt when the bonus disc of new songs accompanying the rerelease of The Flood sounded exactly like a worse version of BMTH's latest album at the time, "Really Pretentiously Long Title I'm Too Lazy To Remember". The world kind of lost interest in the band for a while, even amidst the interesting announcement of Jamie's Elsewhere vocalist Aaron Pauley as the band's new clean singer, as what Shayley was doing with his new project sounded far more interesting and had much more press than what OM&M was inevitably working on. Fast forward to now, almost three years after their last album, and we finally have the result of the new formula. It's a small miracle, but Restoring Force manages to be a catchy radio rock album that's much better when it's using the songwriting talents of Aaron and guitarist Alan Ashby and not relying on tired screaming from Austin.
The album hits its high points early, with the classic OM&M sounding opener "Public Service Announcement" and the two most single ready songs here, "Feels Like Forever" and "Would You Still Be There", which sound more like Three Days Grace than anything from the band's back catalog. The change, scary as it may sound, results in some great and hard hitting choruses and riffs, the likes of which radio rock hasn't seen for a long time. "Bones Exposed" and "Glass Hearts" strongly evoke modern era Bring Me The Horizon, with similar production further highlighting the comparison. The verses are standard hardcore fare, but the choruses are expertly sung by Aaron (although you can detect more than a hint of pitch correction). And "Another You" is perhaps the most radio friendly track on the album. The back half of the album suffers heavily in memorability, but it's certainly fun while it's playing, and the closing track "Space Enough To Grow" is ethereal and well placed as a closer.
Perhaps the biggest flaw in Restoring Force is lasting appeal. It's fun enough to be captivating while it's playing, and it's catchy enough to stay in your head for a few days. But this one doesn't do enough different to deserve to stay on your musical radar for very long at all. The heavy elements aren't well done enough to do much more than make you wish you were listening to similar bands that pull it off much better. The radio rock parts are great, to the point where some of these songs might get well deserved major airplay on big stations if Rise plays its cards right (larger question - is traditional radio even relevant anymore?), and they're well placed as the focus of the album, but there's not quite enough of it to balance out the blander, forced hardcore side. Still though, it's an admirable thing to take steps towards a new sound with a market as guaranteed as this band has, and Restoring Force proves that Of Mice & Men can be good at radio rock if they try.