Artist: Of Mice & Men
Album: Restoring Force
Genre: Hard Rock
In the years since The Flood, metalcore outfit Of Mice & Men have been evolving. From member changes, to influence and musical direction, the band has been taking steps towards being something more than just another ‘heavy band’ with a strong following of dedicated Hot Topic shoppers for some time. This transition may have seemed subtle, but if you trace the band’s sound from their early demos to now its alarmingly evident that they have their eyes set on much higher level of rock glory, and they just might reach it with their newest release.
Restoring Force is both heavier and softer than anything else in the Of Mice & Men catalog, and the band does a fantastic job of transitioning between the two throughout. “Public Service Announcement” opens with a fitting reminder of how the band perfectly toes the line between heavy and anthemic, while “Feels Like Forever” follows with a sound decidedly geared towards fans of FM rock radio. This is not a complaint by any means, in fact it’s quite the opposite. At a time when the majority of ‘scene’ bands are desperately trying to find ways to be heavier or more technical, Of Mice & Men are flipping the script altogether and exploring new realms of rock while staying true to the heavy elements that serve as the cornerstones of the band’s foundation. “Bones Exposed” showcases this by perfectly pairing the sonic influences of “Public” and “Feels,” with just a dash of The Flood sprinkled on top.
Of Mice & Men are certainly not the first band to take their metal-leaning sound and add a hearty dose of alternative flair to the mix, but what sets Restoring Force apart is the consistent, quality sound that results from this sonic concoction. There are just as many tracks with pit-inducing potential as their are songs poised for large amounts of radio play. Some fall in the middle, such as the fantastic mid-album banger “Glass Hearts” or the promotional single “You’re Not Alone,” and it’s on those tracks Of Mice & Men truly take their sound to the next level. It’s decidedly in-line with everything the band has done prior, but its mixed with a vast array of outside influences that have allowed them to touch upon a place in the world of hard rock that few have explored. When the album ends you hunger for more, and I can think of no greater compliment one can pay a band.
There has been a resurgence of music reminiscent of the ‘nu-metal’ era that divided rock fans in the early-2000s. Of Mice & Men do take several cues from bands that rose to prominence during this time on Restoring Force (Slipknot comes to mind), but it’s never to an extent that makes the music feels dated. If anything, the influence from this era gives OMM an added edge that helps further separate the group from fellow hard rock contemporaries, especially when you consider the fact it’s positioned between songs with a much more radio-ready, alternative influence. Diversity is key.
The promotional run for Restoring Force featured a lot of talk about Of Mice & Men finding a ‘balance’ in their sound with this release. While I am not entirely sold on that being the case, I will say it is the most engaging record in their discography, and it features a number of fantastic surprises that will only serve to further the group’s career in 2014. If true, Of Mice & Men will be one of the few bands from the recent heavy era in alternative music to find life outside the Warped Tour scene, and in my opinion no one could be more deserving. Through lineup changes and the seemingly endless controversy that surrounds frontman Austin Carlile Of Mice & Men have forged ahead with a drive to succeed that is unmatched by their peers. They’ve channeled their struggles into songs that are as memorable as they are abrasive, and as it stands now they are the heavy band to beat in the new year.
Restoring Force raises the bar for heavy bands in alternative music and marks the beginning of a new chapter for Of Mice & Men. It’s without a doubt the best album of their career, not to mention the first great hard rock release of 2014, and I am hopeful it won’t be their last.
Written by: James Shotwell Follow @utgjames