Of Mice & Men

Of Mice & Men

Written by: BL on 23/03/2010 14:04:21

Being named after John Steinbeck's famous novel is an interesting idea - especially with all the connections to living the 'American Dream'. You might also be forgiven if you wondered if these guys from California even read the book (though at least it seems the founding members did). That aside, one of the founding members is Austin Carlile - and for those who don't know, he was the screamer on "Someday Came Suddenly" by Attack Attack!. Makes it hard to get rid the implications of things like neon, electronics, vocoders and crabcore, but needless to say this band is, for the most part, quite different (not entirely) soundwise. The band also features, interestingly, ex-Lower Definition drummer Valentino Arteaga.

Austin still remains one of the strongest high pitched screamers I have heard. His voice is quite sharp and ferocious especially when he stretches his attacking scream. However when he is the only person screaming in a band, it becomes obvious after a while that his scream is quite limited in range. If he could bring in more variety in his screaming then he'd be set. Looking at the other vocalist in the band though, guitarist Shayley Bourget, he seems a wholely different ordeal than the clean vocalists in a lot of other scenecore bands (especially in say, Attack Attack!). While autotune has been applied moderately and his voice doesn't have the most original sound, he still has a far more realistic performance I've heard in a Joey Sturgis production, probably like ever. The strained notes he hits on "Second & Sebring" really blew me away when I first laid my ears on them, and having checked out his previous band Covette - the autotune adjustments aren't hiding anything criminal.

Musically, it really is a bit of a mixed ordeal. For those familiar with the kind of scenester post-hardcore I am on about, this stuff is real easy to get into or really easy to hate depending on your stance. During verses there's not that much going on guitar wise, mostly southern style riffing you get from A Static Lullaby mixed with some horror chords. Lead guitars are limited to mostly choruses and the odd passage here and there, and are mostly just passable and generic with the exception of on "Westbound & Down"'s chorus. There's also some piano on "Second & Sebring" and on "Seven Thousand Miles For What?" which actually manage to sprinkle on a touch of sparkle. The biggest beef I have though, as you might expect, is with the breakdowns. For a ten song album, there's in the region of 20 to 30 breakdowns which is pretty ridiculous. Not that they sound different to the kind of chugging you get from Attack Attack!, Asking Alexandria and other Joey Sturgis produced post-hardcore either. While the groove on "They Don't Call It The South For Nothing" is quite good initially, the song ends up sounding like one massive breakdown if you let your mind slip.

So basically it's still the age old problem that there's not a shred of originality to be found nor is there, other than the clean vocals, much else to really write home about. I can certainly find around half the album pretty good song wise though, especially if you can, like me, tolerate the stuff. That and "Second & Sebring" I listen to all the time mostly for Shayley's soaring vocal performance that carry the song (and some others). But this idea in itself is a problem for this band right now, the best parts of the album are the clean vocal sections mostly. And while they can always do more of those in the future (and I'd probably still be able to enjoy it), I would much rather see some expansion in all other areas (and have less breakdowns for a start) considering no one in this band is a slouch from a technical point of view, and being fair - they do what they do well enough. And though it seems that "the well laid plans of mice and men often falter", I'd say that there's enough promise here for me to keep just a little bit of hope for bigger and better things.

Download: Second & Sebring, Westbound & Down, Farewell To Shady Glade
For the fans of: A Static Lullaby, Attack Attack!/We Came As Romans if they lacked the electronics and the vocoders/excessive autotune, Blessthefall
Listen: Myspace

Release date 09.03.2010
Rise Records

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