Veteran metalcore band Of Mice & Men has quite the schedule planned for 2021. The band, which released its most recent album in 2019 in the form of EARTHANDSKY, will release three EPs and a new album all in this year. The band will kick off its busy schedule of new records Feb. 26 with the first of those new EPs, Timeless. The three-song record is a strong start to the band’s schedule. That is proven in part through the record’s musical content, which will be discussed shortly. The lyrical themes that accompany the record’s musical arrangements add their own touch to the EP’s presentation and will be discussed a little later. The EP’s sequencing rounds out its most important elements. It will also be discussed later. When it is considered along with the record’s musical and lyrical content, the whole makes the EP a strong start to a very busy year for Of Mice & Men.
OF Mice & Men’s forthcoming EP Timeless is a strong start for the band’s apparently very busy 2021 schedule. The first of what will apparently be four new releases this year, the three-song record proves its success in part through its musical arrangements. According to guitarist Alan Ashby, much of the music that the band has planned for release this year “began on the keyboard as opposed to the guitar.” If in fact that is the case, then it does not show. That is because the songs featured in this EP are very much guitar-centric works. They are just as heavy as anything that the band has ever crafted. At the same time, the arrangements also produce some variety for listeners to appreciate. Case in point is the variance in the arrangements for the EP’s singles ‘Timeless’ and ‘Obsolete’ even through their similarities. Each song’s arrangement is distinctly metalcore at its base. There is no denying that. Even with that in mind, the two arrangements do present some subtle differences. ‘Obsolete,’ the EP’s lead single, exhibits more of a melodic metalcore approach while the EP’s title track – its second single – is a much sharper, more edgy composition. That more melodic approach to ‘Obsolete’ lends that song’s arrangement to comparison to works from the likes of Killswitch Engage while ‘Timeless’ noted more defined sound likens it more to works from the likes of As I Lay Dying. ‘Anchor,’ which closes out the EP, is the most unique of the record’s arrangements. That is because it is so much unlike the arrangements featured in ‘Obsolete’ and ‘Timeless.’ Rather, it is the EP’s most marketable and radio ready arrangement, blending elements of Sevendust and Tool for its whole. Its guitars, bass, and drums work with the keyboard line here to give the song a distinct melodic hard rock approach and sound that makes it a perfect fir for any active rock radio station’s current play list. Front man Aaron Pauley’s vocals add to the impact, even showing influence from Tool front man Maynard James Keenan in the song’s more contemplative moments. That against the more fiery moments in the song and Pauley’s delivery therein makes the song overall that much more enjoyable. All things considered here, the musical arrangements that are featured in Timeless collectively for a solid foundation for the record. That is because of the variance that they exhibit from one to the next. For all that Timeless’ musical content does for its presentation, that content is just a portion of what makes the record stand out. Its lyrical content builds on the foundation formed by its music.
The lyrical content that is featured in Timeless follows a central theme of existentialism. Pauley himself has already pointed that out without doing so as he talked about the lyrical themes in ‘Obsolete’ and ‘Timeless.’ He noted of ‘Obsolete’ that the song’s lyrical content ruminates on our own obsolescence and our place in the world as time passes. In talking about the song’s theme he said, “It’s a song about questioning how future-proof one is in the grand scheme of things, and acknowledging that maybe we aren’t at all. I think we all wonder, to a certain extent, whether or not we’ll fit into the future, or how we would, or what that would look like,” he said. “Obsolescence is very prevalent in our lives. We see how quickly old phones become virtually useless, how quickly fads and trends come and go. It’s all too easy to ponder about when you’ll become a covered wagon, or a flip phone, or Myspace.”
Pauley’s comments about the lyrical theme of ‘Obsolete’ are solidified in noting the song’s lyrical content directly. Pauley sings in the song’s lead verse, “For a thousand days I watched the vultures circle overhead/And I counted the ways the world would be blessed when I finally reached my end/And I felt the weight of the world pushing me into the soil below/And I felt the desert sun above, while I tried to drink water from a stone.” While this verse is rather brooding, things do turn better, as is evidenced in the song’s chorus, in which the song’s subject states, “But I’m not ready to die alone/So can you wake me from my sleep/And show me now that this is just a dream?/’Cause I’m a whisper, once a scream/And I’m afraid of what’s in store for me/Becoming obsolete.” He contemplation continues in the song’s second verse, which states, “Another frozen frame/Another glitch inside my consciousness/So I pick my poison and just choke it down until I start to spin/And while the world just slowly turns, I fade like fog into the sea/While the mighty galleon burns around me, I slowly start to sink.” The subject finishes the rumination here as states, “Maybe I’m not ready to be set free/Maybe these shackles are what I need/If you find the answers, come rescue me/But I can’t hold my breath” before telling others once more to “Wake me from my sleep/And show me now that this is just a dream/’Cause I’m a whisper, once a scream/And I’m afraid of what’s in store for me/Becoming obsolete.” Considering the overly brooding nature of all of this lyrical content, it would have been easy for the band to have gone a more goth route here, but it instead opted to go in another direction. That direction is more along the lines of showing someone who is torn in his thoughts, finding them racing in every direction. Keeping all of that in mind, the song’s lyrical content does its own share to show what makes Timeless’ lyrical content as important as its musical arrangements. It is just one of the ways in which the record’s lyrical content shows its importance. That of the EP’s title track does its own share to show that importance.
The lyrical content featured in ‘Timeless’ is just as existential in its nature as that of ‘Obsolete,’ as explained by Pauley.
“‘Timeless’ is a song about becoming increasingly aware of impermanence, written through somewhat of a somber, yet romantic, lens,” said Pauley. “At the beginning of the pandemic, I was watching a lot of black and white movies. One of my favorite movies is Casablanca. I wonder if any original copies exist. You know, although that movie is universally regarded as being timeless, the actual celluloid is so fragile. But I think we find a special kind of vibrance in life when we’re aware of our own impermanence.”
His comments here are made even clearer in the song’s lyrical content, which starts off stating, “Is this what it’s like to shed your skin/To be reborn?/Adrift in a sea of noise/Unable to remember what came before/The fragments replay/But they’re out of place/My voice/Distant/Like a stand-in/Just out of frame.” The song’s second verse adds to the picture as it states, “Is this what it’s like to feel serene and unaware?/Like silhouettes on celluloid/We’re timeless but oh so impermanent/Becoming blurs in the negatives/But I swear to God we’re timeless.” Simply put, what is being communicated here is a message that we realize the fragility and importance of life as we get older and look back. So yes, it is more existentialist rumination, but it is a positive statement nonetheless. It is a statement that is certain to resonate with listeners in its own right. It is just one more way in which the EP’s lyrical content proves so important to the record. The lyrical content featured in the EP’s closer, ‘Anchor’ does its own share to show that importance, too.
‘Anchor’ is the only single not yet released from Timeless, so no discussion is available from Pauley on this song, nor are readily accessible lyrics. However, from what one can interpret without those lyrics, the song’s theme seems to center on its own existential topic. At one point, the song’s subject notes something “pulling me down.” At another point, there is mention of “Shifting the blame/Without another place to hide” before the song’s subject asks, “What lies ahead?/Is it another misguided, sad attempt/I’m searching for anything/But I haven’t seen the sun in days.” Again, not having lyrics to reference, much of the song’s lyrical content is difficult to translate. However, from what one can translate, the lyrical content here would seem to be its own existential piece, which allegedly focuses on the subject’s attempt to find his place in the world and where he is headed. That is just this critic’s interpretation and should not be taken as the only interpretation. That aside, it still seems that the lyrical theme here is its own existentialist discussion, so it still follows that overarching lyrical theme, just in its own unique fashion, too. Keeping this in mind along with the other ways in which the EP’s lyrical content follows that theme, no doubt is left as to the lyrical content featured in Timeless. It does plenty in itself to make the EP engaging and entertaining, but still is not the last of the EP’s most important elements. The record’s sequencing puts the final touch to its presentation.
Timeless’ sequencing is just as important to examine as that of any larger record, even being an EP. The EP’s sequencing is important in part because it ensures that even at only three songs deep, its musical arrangements change up just enough from one to the next, giving listeners quite the accent in that final number. Additionally, the sequencing ensures that while all three songs follow the same central lyrical theme, the ways in which they follow that theme change from one to the next, making for even more appeal. Last but most certainly not least of note is the way in which the sequencing balances the EP’s energy. ‘Obsolete’ and ‘Timeless’ are each very high energy compositions, in regards to their musical arrangements. Considering all of the energy that is exuded by those songs, the more deliberate, controlled approach to ‘Anchor’ gives listeners a welcome change of pace and stylistic approach. Even with the change in style, the song still boasts its own strong energy, closing out the EP just as strongly as it opened. When this is considered with the role of the EP’s sequencing in regards to its lyrical and musical content’s order, the importance of the EP’s sequencing becomes clearer. When its importance is considered with that of the record’s overall content, all three elements join to make Timeless a presentation that is a good start to Of Mice & Men’s apparently very busy 2021 schedule. They additionally make the record just one more of this year’s top new EPs. Timeless is scheduled for release Feb. 26 through SharpTone Records.
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