After releasing their self-titled debut to buzz from both fans and critics alike, Of Mice & Men, now with Austin Carlile back at the vocal helm, certainly had their fair share of trials as a band. Yet, after switching vocalists (twice) and nearly derailing in the process, Carlile and company have returned for their second full-length in as many years with The Flood. And while the essence of this band is still very much intact, both sonically and substance-wise, The Flood hits hard, but precipitates quickly – leaving us a little dry in the wake of a sophomore slump.
“O.G. Loko” picks up where the band last left us, slinging a slimy guitar riff against a choke hold of thundering palm mutes and double bass. In a moment characteristic of the band, Of Mice & Men churn the riff over and over until it is beat into your head – whether you want it to be or not. The clean chorus, led by the wispy vocals of Shayley Bourget and punching guitars, is a welcome break in the action though, as the songwriting seemingly falls flat between choruses one and two to cause a pause in momentum. But in customary Of Mice & Men fashion, the track climaxes with a tasty chugfest to end on a high note. While much of the formula to this band has not changed, as this track and others will prove, we can hear a baby step in progression from the chug-and-roll nature of the band’s self-titled debut.
That isn’t to say this is a complete rehash of album one. “Ben Threw” runs the gamut of sounds, starting as a slight cue to Bring Me the Horizon before morphing into a crunchy alt-rock number that is a step outside of their shell to say the least. “Let Live” starts as a bouncy number with soaring vocals from Bourget and a wall of guitars not palm-muting to create something a little less abrasive. They ride the wave for the choruses while the verses hinge on tempo-pushing melodic spurts and drums. Drummer Valentino Arteaga sounds much more present on this record, which brings back memories of his days manning the kit for Lower Definition rather than just simply keeping up with the guitars. The melodic charge felt in “Repeating Apologies” is a welcome addition during much of the track, while “Ohioisonfire” will feed your need for unrelenting staccatos of guitars, only letting up to inject some melody through vocals and a chunky guitar in the chorus. While in terms of songwriting it might not live up to other tracks on this album, it showcases the strength of this band when they can truly fire on all cylinders. The screams from Carlile are strong as ever, as his growl leads the ballistic charge to the end of this track.
Where this album lacks is consistent songwriting. “Still YDG’N” is the first real mis-step on the record, as the momentum built up by the crunching guitars in the first few dozen seconds ends up being lost in a maze of misdirection. “My Understandings” is the biggest curveball of the bunch, toning down to clean guitars and vocals at first for a ballad-like track that feels like a distant relative trying to get ahold of you through every means necessary but actually calling you. Given the slight to dirtier melodies and stronger songwriting on this album, the track is an honest attempt at slowing things down, but simply just can’t stand on its own two feet. “Purified” might be the biggest offender of them all though. Giving us a vibe of an upbeat, yet gritty number at first, the track just slinks back into uninspired, melody-lacking chugging when Bourget gives the reins back to Carlile. And while the edge towards grittier tones is appreciated, by the time you make it to the album finale “I’m a Monster”, you’ll be no doubt burned out on the tonal and melodic approach used on much of the record that its ending is more of a letdown. It is this frustration that holds The Flood back from being the standout in the genre that it probably be.
For where this genre stands right now, it would be easy to put The Flood at the top of a seemingly scrap heap of bands. But in its own respect, this album has its moments of enjoyment and sincerity in passion. While not perfect, Of Mice & Men hold their own on album two without losing any of the moshpit-inducing ferocity that made their debut a guilty pleasure for many – all while taking a step or two forward as songwriters in the process.
2. Ben Threw
3. Let Live
4. Still YDG'N
5. My Understandings
8. Product of a Murderer
9. Repeating Apologies
10. The Great Hendowski
11. I'm a Monster
Of Mice & Men is a metalcore/post-hardcore band from Costa Mesa, California, United States formed in 2009 by Austin Carlile and Jaxin Hall. Their current line-up consists of Austin Carlile (ex. Attack Attack!), Shayley Bourget (ex. Covette), Phil Manansala, Valentino Arteaga (ex. Lower Definition) and Alan Ashby.... read more