Of Mice & Men

The Flood

Written by: BL on 15/09/2011 08:01:36

It's safe to say that Of Mice & Men enjoyed a relatively decent period of over a year supporting the release of their self-titled album after early in 2010. Though it wasn't a time without drama or controversy unsurprisingly, given how one of the founding members and ex-Attack Attack! vocalist Austin Carlile was kicked out of the band some time shortly after release (supposedly due to infighting), before the bassist who was also reportedly involved left as well, so bizarrely and in amusing fashion Austin was reinstated back into the band. Therefore what way to show the band has been reunited to take on the world anew than with a new album, and here we are with the followup release in "The Flood". If you read my review of their self-titled album, you will know that despite my amiable outlook on the kind of music genre being played, I wasn't exactly blown away by their efforts overall. The good news is that "The Flood", like their last album, isn't wholely terrible and has a few things going for it.

The one notable thing that Of Mice & Men can still claim to separate themselves a little from other similar bands is that in Austin Carlile and now bassist Shayley Bourget (who used to be their rhythm guitar player), they still have two very prominent vocalists. Austin's screams sound like they always do, somewhat limited to the higher registers, but you can hear that he has gotten a lot better at his delivery, those razors-in-your-throat like shrieks do cut a fine mark when the instruments hit their most chaotic and heavy especially early on with "O.G. Loko" and "Ben Threw". As usual a clean singer is used to offset and contrast the screaming and Shayley in my opinion is still one of the best singers the scene has to offer at present. At his best he has an almost ethereal, silky smooth tone that not only has definition, range, but maturity and character in his varying phrasings that a lot of similar young vocalists lack and for moments on their last album, literally carried the songs at times. Tracks like "Product Of A Murderer" particularly show that there's more depth in his voice than before, hauntingly ambient before delivering a stunning closing segment for one of the highlights of the album. While something like "Purified" is perhaps one of his better and catchier choruses and that he rarely disappoints elsewhere, he isn't always perfect as with "Let Live" he seems unable to deliver a truly memorable hook after a great buildup. But small blemishes aside, another one to look out for is "When You Can't Sleep At Night" - an unusually exotic sounding, to the point where it seems oriental even, acoustic only song where Shayley sings remarkably delicate and unlike any other part he has on "The Flood".

With such technically polished vocals perhaps taking the plaudits, it's a shame then that (as probably predicted) the instrumental side is still mostly a repetitive rehash of everything popular within metalcore/post-hardcore without throwing hardly any unique spins in of their own. We get plenty of those same 'groovy' flavoured metallic riffs we heard on the debut and beyond (just listen to the intros to "O.G. Loko", "Ben Threw", "Still YDG'N", "Ohioisonfire" etc to get the idea), the simple ringing lead guitars that are just everywhere at the moment (lingering but never dominant), and unsurprisingly even more chundering breakdowns (derp). One shouldn't be always so hasty to condemn though, most of these aspects even if overused to hell and back, can still make decent songs if well utilised and executed (at least in my opinion). And in this respect Of Mice & Men's songwriting has shown some progress in that despite songs initially not leaving much of a strong impression and being a bit predictable (apart from a few), they do feel a bit more fluid and the transitions are better than on the self titled album. More importantly you eventually see that there's a bit more variety in tempo, moods and dynamics when you look at for example the more laid back "My Understandings" compared to the energetic "The Great Hendowski", or to the hellish closer "I'm A Monster". The breakdowns are still fairly bland and will probably feel excessive to some, but they don't stick out needlessly as much as they did on the self-titled - which is a small plus.

Progress isn't immediately obvious with "The Flood", and it really depends if you have the patience to see it all unfold. I was initially more dimissive than anything else because truth be told the first few run throughs did not feel particularly noteworthy and I was thinking it was just more of the same, and in reality it mostly is. But after a while Shayley's endearing singing performances and Austin's pretty menacing screams, plus a few nice individual songs convinced me that (much like it did on their first album), despite the drawbacks and it being a weaker overall package than other releases of this kind this year (e.g. Memphis May Fire and The Color Morale), "The Flood" is certainly more than playable if you like this kind of thing in small and quick doses, any more though and you will probably lose interest.

Download: O.G. Loko, Purified, Product Of A Murderer, When You Can't Sleep At Night (Bonus song)
For the fans of: Memphis May Fire, The Devil Wears Prada, Asking Alexandria, Attack Attack!
Listen: Myspace, Facebook

Release date 14.06.2011
Rise Records

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