Sound — 7
Of Mice & Men was founded in 2009 by Jaxin Hall and Austin Carlile, former member of Attack Attack! and the band that started the whole crab-core debacle. While the band's original sound was pretty much paint-by-numbers metalcore, they've had some changes to their sound since then, incorporating aspects of nu-metal and hard rock. The release of "Restoring Force" is a conscious effort by the band to achieve a more mainstream or straight "rock" sound as well as have more structured songs. This is also the first album to introduce Aaron Pauley on clean vocals. "You're Not Alone" was released as the first single from the album in December 2013, being closely followed by the second single, "Bones Exposed." The album contains 11 tracks with a runtime just short of 40 minutes and is being released via Rise Records.
The album opens up with the track "Public Service Announcement" which pretty much sets the mood for the whole album, riff heavy playing with some seriously down-tuned guitars. You can definitely hear elements of nu-metal and metalcore both in the sound of this track. "Feels Like Forever" is next up, with a catchy little riff in the intro, they build up a whole song. The band is definitely getting better at using the empty spaces in their sound. "Bones Exposed" is one of the most aggressive songs on the album, and possibly my overall favorite. "Would You Still Be There" is definitely much more "hard rock" than the previous songs on the album, without really any more than a slight hint of metalcore. "Glass Hearts" starts out like a light little melody and builds into a much heavier song which oddly enough reminded me of Slipknot. "Another You" is another track on the album that starts fairly light and clean, and with a female guest vocalist. The song builds into a really strong track. "Break Free" has a strong nu-metal vibe going on with the guitars in the intro. "You Make Me Sick" is an aggressive song from the start, though it starts with a really cliché-like pick scrape that it took me a minute to get over and enjoy the song. "Identity Disorder" stood out to me as having one of the most interesting bass lines and lyrical themes from the album - this is another track that sounds much more like hard rock than either metalcore or nu-metal. "You're Not Alone" has some serious bite, and won me over in pure heaviness, but has possibly my least favorite vocals on the album. The album closes out with the track "Space Enough to Grow," which has a kind of ambient little thing going on in the opening. The song really sounds like the title implies and doesn't sound like anything else from the album. Only clean vocals are used for this entire track, and relatively clean guitar and bass and just light percussion. It is a good track to close the album out with.
Lyrics — 7
Founding member, Austin Carlile, provides unclean/screamed vocals while new member, Aaron Pauley, provides clean vocals on the album. One of the truly strong points of the album is the interplay with Austin and Aaron's vocals, which have enough contrast to make it interesting. As a sample of the lyrics, here are some lyrics from the second single, "Bones Exposed": "It's like loving a lion that cannot be tamed/ I snap at the thought or the sound of your name/ Pulling teeth from my stomach/ You've been eaten alive/ My blood fills your lungs/ My soul, your inside/ My feet they stand on ashes/ From the fires that you've made/ Burning bridges/ Just to save your face/ If I say I wouldn't be hostile/ Could you say you would do the same/ If we're all made just a little bit broken/ Tell me who is to blame?". This is pretty standard fare for Of Mice & Men lyrics. The vocal interplay by Austin and Aaron does make it a little more engaging to listen to, though.
Overall Impression — 7
The album was produced by David Bendeth, who has done an excellent job in the overall production and mixing on the album. My favorite tracks from the album would probably be "Bones Exposed" and "Another You." "You're Not Alone" is another good song from the album. I have to give credit to the band, for a project that was started by the cast off of Attack Attack! I'm really impressed with the new release. Their previous release, "The Flood," wasn't bad, but this is the release to me that has helped define Of Mice & Men as their own unique entity.