Of Mice & Men is back and back at it again. The band released its latest album this past week, and will hit the road in support of the album, Defy, next week. The band’s fifth full-length studio recording, it is a work that lives up to audiences’ expectation. What’s more, it is a work that is certain to earn the band even more audiences considering its overall radio ready sound. This is proven right from the album’s outset in its title track. It will be discussed shortly. ‘Back To Me,’ which comes early in the album’s run, also supports the previously noted statement of Defy‘s reach, and is hardly the last of the album’s most notable tracks. The driving yet contemplative ‘How Will You Live’ is yet another song that serves to show how and why Defy lives up to expectations. Of course the other nine songs that make up the rest of the album could be used to support that statement, too. This critic merely chose to focus on the three noted here as examples. All things considered, this the fifth offering from Of Mice & Men proves to be a strong new effort from the band and easily one of its best efforts to date.
Of Mice And Men’s fifth full-length studio recording is easily one of the band’s best records to date. Obviously there are those out there who are going to disagree with such sentiment. Odds are though, those people are upset about the album because of its clear marketability in the mainstream rock realm. From start to finish, this album holds its own with not only its metalcore counterparts, but with its hard rock counterparts in general. The album’s opener/title track is just one of the songs that supports that statement. This is proven in part through the song’s solid, forward-driving musical arrangement, which grabs listeners right from the song’s outset and never lets go. It is especially infectious as it winds its way through its chorus, certain to stick in listeners’ minds. One could honestly almost compare this song’s arrangements to the best works of Drowning Pool, Five Finger Death Punch and other similar acts, again pointing to its mainstream accessibility. Of course the song’s musical arrangement is only a part of what makes it stand out as an example of what makes Defy such a strong new effort. Its equally straight forward lyrical theme does just as much to make it stand out.
Bassist/front man Aaron Pauley sings here a…well…defiant, fist-pumping anthem that seems to take on obstacles both mental and real. This is inferred as he sings in the song’s lead verse, “Life cycles and planned obsolescence/A perfect trap disguised as assistance/It takes the pain away/Control the sentience of the masses/Relief replaced with silent disaster/But I won’t fade away/No, I won’t fade away.” It is one of those lyrical statements that, while not rare, is still certain to energize listeners. The song’s second verse proves this even more as Pauley sings, “A numbing cure for the common existence/Replace security for subsistence/It takes the pain away/Victimize, enable, beguile/A body count without a reprisal/But I won’t fade away/No I won’t fade away.” From there he sings in the song’s chorus in straight forward fashion, “I defy this hopelessness/I defy this callousness/I defy/Irreverent, I will rise/I see through your disguise and all your lies/I defy.” SImply put, it is a song centered on self-confidence and the drive to overcome, regardless of the situation. Of course, that is just this critic’s take on the lyrics, so it should not be taken as gospel. Rather, it should be taken as just one interpretation. It would seem close to the song’s message, though. Either way, the theme of confidence and personal strength is certain to resonate with listeners across the board. When it is joined with the song’s infectious, radio ready musical arrangement, the two elements clearly show why the song stands out as one part of a wholly solid album. It is just one of the songs that serves to show what makes Defy a strong new effort from the band, too. ‘Back To Me’ is another song that proves Defy‘s overall strength.
‘Back To Me’ stands out, as with Defy‘s title track, in part because of its musical arrangement. Whereas ‘Defy’ was a full-throttle, guitar-driven opus, ‘Back To Me’ shows its own identity separate from that of ‘Defy.’ The song’s verses conjure thoughts of LInkin Park (yes, Linkin Park) with its keyboard lines, yet its chorus sections bear more likeness to perhaps Blessthefall, LIke Moths To Flames and other similar acts. The song’s bridge adds even more interest with its full-on djent breakdown. Even as short as it is, it is still a nice fit in the bigger picture of the song. It is just one part of what makes the song stand out. Its lyrical, when coupled with its strong musical arrangement, gives the song even more depth. Pauley revealed recently in an interview that the song is a positive work, noting that it is about getting life back to normal after going through a difficult situation. That seems to fit considering the song’s lyrical content. Pauley sings in the song’s lead verse, “No turning back now/I’m moving ahead toward the way out/Don’t you hate how/We get left behind in the fallout/Take a breath and take heart/Instead of pulling apart/When you find yourself back at the start/Every part of me/Catches on fire underneath/When I ignite, you’ll see/Maybe I can light the way/I can light the way back to me.” It’s pretty straight forward in its explanation, and a clearly positive message, just as Pauley explained. When that positive message is coupled with the song’s equally upbeat arrangement, the whole of those elements shows in full why this song is its own standout work. It also serves in the bigger picture to show even more why Defy is a solid new offering from OMAM. It still is not the last of the album’s entries that serves this purpose, either. ‘How Will You Live’ also serves this purpose.
‘How Will You Live’ stands out from its counterpart on this record in part through its musical arrangement. A close listen to this song’s arrangement leads to comparisons to songs from the likes of 36 Crazyfists, The veer Union, Sevendust and others. It might sound, on the surface, like a stretch. The reality, though, is the realization that it’s not such a stretch. What’s more, it’s a rather solid arrangement that is infectious in its own right. The fact that it holds its own musically against the album’s other songs while also continuing to show the album’s musical diversity serves to strengthen the album even more, as it continues to show the band’s reach once more here. Of course, its musical arrangement is only one of its key elements. Its lyrical theme, while somewhat similar in its personal message, also stands out from the album’s other lyrical themes. Pauley sings here, “It’s time for a fight/Now they’re drawing their lines/And you know it’s not right/When you’re stuck picking sides/It’s the invisible enemy/If I can’t see it/Then how can I believe it/Tell me how will you live/If you hide what eats you alive/When no one sees you/Tell me how will you live.” This verse and chorus together seem to hint a Pauley discussing someone dealing with an inner struggle, being forced to make a decision that he or she does not want to have to make and knowing he or she shouldn’t have to make said decision. The song’s subject here is seemingly saying to that person, “how will you live if you hold these feelings inside? Get those feelings out!” The subject even goes on more in the second verse saying, “When fear and pain suffocate/Tell me how will you live/Will you disclose or will you break/Tell me, how will you live?” Once more, this seems to be the song’s subject urging someone to get out what he or she is holding inside by asking, “How will you live when these feelings overcome you?” It’s a strong seeming statement, and hopefully an interpretation that is somewhere in the ballpark of what Pauley was trying to say here. Hopefully it’s somewhere close to being right because it is such a powerful statement from which so many people could benefit when considering its wording. When it is set against the seeming urgency in the song’s musical arrangement, the power in that statement is increased even more, showing how much time and thought were put in here just as much as in other parts of the album. Keeping this in mind, it is obvious not just what makes this song stand out but also even more why this album in whole is such a solid new effort from OMAM. When it is set alongside the other songs noted here and those not directly noted, the whole of the album proves to be a record that is certain to be a big step forward in the life of OMAM no matter what its detractors say.
Of Mice & Men’s latest full-length studio recording Defy is a strong new effort from the Orange County, California-based rock act. It is an album that shows both musically and lyrically a certain growth from the band, especially considering the change in vocalists. The album’s musical arrangement are more commercially viable than those of the arrangements in the band’s previous albums. Its lyrical themes are powerful statements that are just as certain to stick with audiences just as much as its musical arrangements. That hopefully has been explained clearly and thoroughly here. Keeping all of this in mind, Defy is a record that is certain to defy the words of its detractors and become the next big step forward in the band’s life. It is available now in stores and online.
The band will hit the road next week in support of Defy beginning Jan. 31 in Berkeley, CA. The band will also perform live Feb. 20 at The Underground in Charlotte, North Carolina as part of its tour. Tickets for that and the tour’s other dates are available online along with all of the band’s latest news and more at:
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