Review: Of Mice & Men – Restoring Force

of-mice-men-2014

Of Mice & Men’s Restoring Force is the most accessible metalcore album you’ll hear this year. How that sentence reads to you should tell you everything you need to know about whether you’ll enjoy the record or not.

Of Mice & Men have been a household name on the post-hardcore scene since their inception, thanks in large part to the notoriety of frontman Austin Carlisle and the near-constant drama and lineup changes that have plagued the band during their five years of existence.

Not to take anything away from the band’s music – they do the sing-scream-breakdown metalcore thing as well or better than most bands. Scene hit-maker Joey Sturgis manned the helm for the band’s first two records, and it shows. Along with standout clean vocals from former-member Shayley Bourget and a steady progression in screams on the part of Carlisle, the band’s music has been pretty okay, but not noteworthy or groundbreaking enough to push them ahead of the over-saturated pack.

Enter David Bendeth. The award-winning producer has a collection of platinum records under his belt with an eclectic list of artists, but is best known in the punk scene as the man who launched Paramore into the stratosphere with Riot! and added the poppy polish necessary to help bands such as Mayday Parade (Anywhere But Here), All Time Low (Nothing is Personal) and A Day to Remember (What Separates Me From You) on their quest to cross over.

When Of Mice & Men headed into the studio with Bendeth, one thing was crystal clear: The band is ready to do more than play the main stage at Warped Tour.

One listen to Restoring Force certainly verifies that the band got what they paid for. The drums are loud, the guitar riffs are crisp and the choruses are anthemic. The album borders on an arena-rock/nu metal hybrid at times and, save for Carlisle’s now suddenly controlled screams, Restoring Force sounds radio ready.

The addition of Aaron Pauley has also lent itself quite well to the band’s new direction. The previously unknown bassist struts his soaring vocals, taking the lead on three of the album’s 11 tracks, nearly stealing the show completely. If it seems odd that Of Mice & Men’s newest member is introduced by carrying the weight of the band’s crossover potential, pay no mind. This is how hits are made.

Not to be outdone, Carlisle shows off a few new tricks as well. He channels the melodic yelling style of Oli Sykes on “Break Free” and shows signs of fight on opener “Public Service Announcement”. What made Carlisle such a noteworthy vocalist in the past was his passionate, guttural screaming style, which lends itself well to the heavy side of post-emo hardcore, but has little place on a polished rock record such as Restoring Force. Instead, he finds himself playing it safe on most of the album, never quite reaching the point of desperation that pushes him over the top.

Herein lies the great dilemma of Restoring Force. The album is quite pleasing to the ears and, clocking in at just over a half hour, is a fun and easy listen. But is this the best album that Of Mice & Men can deliver?

Consider that scene counterparts Bring Me the Horizon entered the studio with Bendeth in 2012 before unleashing last year’s Sempiternal, an album that pushed the boundaries of metalcore and transformed the band from predictable to original and forward-thinking. Somehow, Of Mice & Men exited the studio with the exact opposite kind of record.

There’s nothing groundbreaking or inventive here. Restoring Force is a loud, polished rock record that sounds accessible and may very well propel the band to new commercial heights. It’s certainly within the band’s right to make this kind of move and even desire said outcome. However, we as the listener have the right to feel that the band is selling themselves short, even if you don’t want to call it selling out.

Restoring Force is all about taking a stand for what you believe in, regardless of the naysayers. Ironically, fans of the band are put in a position to take a stand on what they believe about artistic integrity. Have Of Mice & Men taken the easy way out and the low road to high charting success, or are they simply playing to their strengths by creating a damn fun rock record?

Ultimately, that’s up to listeners to decide for themselves.

 ?/5

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

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  1. […] on January 28 on Rise Records. If you haven’t had a chance to check out the new album, take a look at our recent review. You can buy Restoring Force on […]

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