Review Summary: Despite losing a key member, Of Mice & Men show they have matured as a band by releasing a record that can successfully dip into the mainstream end of the music pool.
As if it was not publicized enough, everyone was awaiting Of Mice & Men's latest outing to see how the band would sound without their greatest asset, former bassist and vocalist Shayley Bourget. The vocals he presented not only provided a perfect contrast to frontman Austin Carlisle's harsh vocals, but they were also the highlight of 2011's The Flood, and quite frankly, the band. Nevertheless, everyone knew Of Mice & Men would move forward. Restoring Force's album cover made me question it's validity from the get-go, until I learned the deeper meaning behind it. The Cochlea (inner ear) is shaped like a seashell and is the place where a human's equilibrium is maintained. This album's purpose was to restore the same balance back to the band. With the addition of Aaron Pauley now on bass and clean vocal duties, OMM set out to make this record that Austin said would be "more structured and rock-oriented" in his interview with Alternative Press. Though even a HINT at the word mainstream may be enough to haunt a metal fan in their sleep, the results of Restoring Force were pleasantly surprising.
From the very beginning, it is very evident that Carlisle's vocals sound a little different. Many have compared his performance on here to Oli Sykes of Bring Me The Horizon fame (or infamy depending on which side of the fence you stand on). "Public Service Announcement" seems to be doing the album title justice, as there is plenty of force behind the song as a whole, especially the angsty vocalwork of Austin Carlisle. "Feels Like Forever" offers a trend that is present throughout most of the album, as it is a bit of a lighter transition from its predecessor and is more radio friendly. This second track gives us the first taste of new bassist Aaron Pauley's vocals, and he does not disappoint. He proves that he is VERY capable and fits the more radio-rock oriented song perfectly, as the chorus is very catchy and becomes a memorable one at that. The same can be said about the albums first single "Bones Exposed". The pace picks back up to a furious one instrumentally, combines with a soaring chorus, and is finished off with the cherry on top, a guitar solo, to make it evident why this was chosen as the lead-off single. If Austin truly wants to make this record one for the radio, the band needs to heavily advertise "Would You Still Be There". Pauley's (often misinterpreted) cleans begin what is the perfect example of a band creating a more mainstream sound without compromising anything. However, many will disagree with this due to Carlisle taking a backseat to the cleans, and for other unnecessary reasons. People need to take this song, and frankly this album at face value. This is not a band known for technicality, so don't be looking for it. Instead look for them to make tracks that are enjoyable and that build on past strengths.
"Another You" is a good example of building on these past strengths. Their last album circled mainly around the melodic tones of Shayley's cleans, and this song takes that same melodic approach. With humming vocals and a soft muted riff, it was a total surprise opening that eventually collides with Austin's harsh vocals , leading to a nice chorus. Pauley's vocals get back on track here, as they seemed to waver a bit to me on the previous track, "Glass Hearts". Another memorable track is "You Make Me Sick", which is filled with animosity and brings us back to the heaviness of the beginning PSA. Crunchier riffs, a steady double bass drum, and Carlisle's angst-filled vocals all present this well, but the addition of him sort of straining to sing the chorus really took away from the song. For me, this was the last noteworthy track on the album. While the message in "You're Not Alone" is one of sincere value, it is one that is much overused and therefore becomes easily forgotten. "Identity Disorder" was not a bad track, but it sounds to similar to any of the other songs that feature Aaron Pauley's vocals predominantly. Before even listening to Restoring Force, the last track on the album was the one that peaked my curiosity the most. Their last album, The Flood, ended on the almost insurmountable pinnacle known as When You Can't Sleep At Night. Though they try to accomplish something similar with the slowed down closer "Space Enough To Grow", it pales in comparison to the aforementioned one. It really was an average ending, which is disappointing since the album as a whole was more than that.
As the last note rang and the dust settled, Of Mice & Men accomplished what few metal bands can. They effectively were able to add mainstream elements into their sound without compromising themselves as a band. Restoring Force does everything we expected it to. It showcases both the melodic AND heavy sides, and is able to transition between the two nicely throughout. The title, Restoring Force, is an allusion to the previous album, The Flood. Austin Carlisle explained that after a disaster (flood), balance needs to be restored, and this album serves as a return to equilibrium for the band. As mentioned before, those of you looking for something different or constantly evolving need to go find another genre because Of Mice & Men stick true to their label as a metalcore band. Was the album outstanding? No, but it shows how the band can mature collectively and also survive any pitfalls, like losing a valuable member, that may stand in their way.