Of Mice & Men sway further from metalcore and straight into nu-metal territory in Cold World.
Of all the bands in the current rock scene there are few that have such a polarizing opinion within their own fan base as Of Mice & Men. With one side who has been listening since the band’s debut self-titled album in 2010 that demand the harder and more metal based metalcore, and the other side coming in more recently (with many of them being much younger) wanting a more melodic Austin Carlile experience with a nu-metal vibe.
It was in 2014’s Restoring Force where the split in their fan base started as well as a shift in style from the bands previous records. The days of brutal guitars and drumming along with a fierce vocal delivery was slowly being transitioned into singing and a less intense instrumental base. The songs became much more paced and in turn were featured more frequently on the air. Whether or not this was a ploy to gain a m ore mainstream audience by the band or label is up for debate, but now in 2016 we have the newest album titled Cold Word. After a tumultuous past few years for Carlile and company, the band has been able to push through and finally release a new album that they feel represents themselves.
In the world of metalcore you can normally expect to hear a combination of heavy metal and hardcore punk, however as years have gone by MANY bands have been included into the subgenre that blur the lines and redefine what metalcore really is (or was). A band like Of Mice & Men originally fit like a glove into this sub-genre, but now with their latest album Cold World it feels more like they are barely hanging on to the metalcore description and instead doing their own thing.
The album’s first single “Pain” released back in June of this year is a great example of them straying away from the metalcore style and jumping deeper into nu-metal territory. It is undeniably a good song to choose as a single from the new album as it is some of the best that Cold World has to offer. On first listen Pain does have some reminiscent qualities that the band has held for years. There is an intense delivery from Carlile with a strong drum emphasis. The guitar chords resemble that of a horror movie theme. Outside of those unique features, the song Pain sounds like a strong attempt at jumping head first into the nu-metal pool and it feels generic.
The lyrics are not anything to get behind and at some points in the song it truly feels like a teenager writing in his secret notebook about angry he is. Even with the bridge to change the speed at the two-minute mark, the track still doesn’t have much of a punch or give reason to hear it again. It’s a standard angst filled delivery and the track drags on for over three and a half minutes with little to show what the band is capable of.
With that description of the first single and combined what I said about Pain being a good choice as a highlight of the album, it should be a good indicator of what to expect in Cold World in terms of quality and overall enjoyment in the music. Songs like The Hunger and Away feel extremely melodramatic, there are two interludes, there is an awkward album closer with the song Transfigured, and the occasional track like Relentless which will make you question just how good of lyric writers the band actually has.
A song like Relentless is a good example of what you will find yourself coming across in Cold World and really wishing you hadn’t heard. The vocals are extremely loud over a rhythm that doesn’t require that much anger and intensity. It resembles that angry kid writing in his journal just shouting over a generic guitar sequence. It clashes poorly and makes you wish you heard something better from the band. While there are occasional moments where Carlile is singing that the music comes in clear or a particular guitar riff makes it easy to nod your head to, those moments are few over the course of this 44-minute album. And these few moments do not save a bland and status quo nu-metal style album from a band who is capable of better.
I have seen Of Mice & Men several times and combining that with their past works, it is clear that the band is capable of delivering a better album than generic riffs and choruses filled with over the top angry screaming that clashes with the rhythm, track after track. Cold World sounds forced, bland, and generic. While only a few songs are truly harsh to hear, most of Cold World doesn’t give much to enjoy. Overall, Of Mice & Men present an album that will only remind longtime fans of a better time. With more misses than hits this album is undeniably a disappointment for even the younger and newer audience the band has reached. Cold World will not earn repeated plays from diehards fans OR for metalcore lovers.