Hard rock band Of Mice & Men is apparently a band that does not rest easily on its own laurels. A little more than a year and a half has passed since the Orange County ,CA-based band released its fifth full-length studio recording Defy. Instead of waiting the standard three years or so between albums, the band’s members – Aaron Pauley (bass/vocals), Valentino Arteaga (drums), Philip Manansala (guitar) and Alan Ashby (guitar) – decided instead to strike while the iron was still hot and release album number six this year in the form of EARTHANDSKY. Released Sept. 27 through Rise Records, the 11-song 43 minute album shows the band’s decision to not wait was a wide choice. That is proven through its musical and lyrical content alike, as is evidenced in part through the album’s opener, ‘Gravedancer.’ It will be discussed shortly. ‘Taste of Regret,’ which comes early in the album’s run, is another of the album’s featured works that serves to support the noted statement. It will be discussed a little later. The album’s title track, which comes just past the album’s midway point, can be cited in supporting the noted statement, too. When it is considered alongside ‘Taste of Regret,’ ‘Gravedancer’ and the rest of the album’s entries, the whole of the album proves itself in whole, a powerful return from OM&M that is well-deserving of its own praise.
Of Mice & Men’s sixth full-length studio recording EARTHANDSKY is a solid follow-up to its predecessor, 2018’s Defy. As a matter of fact, one could argue that it is a step up from that album in that it shows more comfort from front man Aaron Pauley — who took over vocal duties for the band from former front man Austin Carlile in 2017 – and his band mates ever since Carlile’s departure from the band due to his ongoing battle with Marfan syndrome. That comfort among the band has resulted in a record that presents any number of engaging and entertaining songs in this outing, not the least of which being the album’s opener, ‘Gravedancer.’ Gravedancer stands out in part because of its musical arrangement. The song’s arrangement opens with a brief Middle Eastern introduction before launching into a heavy, blistering, almost thrash-style composition that holds most of the song. There are also some decidedly doom rock style moments, including early on in the song, that add their own touch to the arrangement. The combination of those slower, heavy moments and the more prominent upbeat moments makes the song’s arrangement in whole, a work that will appeal to a wide range of listeners in its own right. The song’s musical arrangement is just part of what makes it so notable. Its lyrical content adds even more to that notoriety.
The lyrical content featured in ‘Gravedancer’ is important to note because it comes across almost as a warning of sorts. It comes across as a warning to the world of where things are headed. Pauley sings in the song’s lead verse, “Slowly sinking/Headed for disaster/Filling our lungs while we’re circling the drain/Over and over/Around and around we go/Standing at the precipice of calamity/Just one step from the edge/In the end it makes no difference/’Cause we’re all hypnotized by the siren’s call/Then the song begins to play/As we dance around the grave.” He continues in the song’s second verse, “Slowly sinking/headed for disaster/A sacrifice of self destruction/Around and around again/To celebrate the end/Then the song begins to play/As we dance around the grave/Knowing we will never change/We keep on dancing ‘round the grave.” That cry of ‘We’re all hypnotized by the siren’s call’ is a brief statement, but so strong. It is as if Pauley is saying, we’re letting ourselves be controlled by another force, which we as humans, are in fact doing. The note of us “dancing around the grave” is a dark statement that strengthens the song’s overall statement even more. For those who might not know their mythological history, sirens led sailors to their deaths. We as a people are being led to our own demise because of the proverbial sirens that control society. Pauley and company have presented an unmistakable message here, and one that will always be relatable. When it is coupled with the song’s equally engaging and entertaining musical arrangement, the whole of the song becomes a clear example of why EARTHANDSKY is such a strong new effort from Of Mice & Men. It is just one of the ways in which the album proves itself such a strong return for the band. ‘Taste of Regret,’ which comes early in the album’s run, is another example of the album’s strength.
Much as is the case with ‘Gravedancer,’ ‘Taste of Regret’ stands out in part because of its own musical arrangement. This song’s musical arrangement is another powerful thrash-style composition that once again incorporates the band’s familiar metalcore sound for another enjoyable, original work. That metalcore sound includes the song’s more melodic moments, which create even more balance for the song, and in turn more engagement and entertainment. As much as the song’s musical arrangement does for its overall presentation, it is just one part of what makes the song appealing. The song’s insightful lyrical content adds its own share of interest and engagement to its whole.
Pauley sings in the song’s lead verse, “You’re wretched/Spewing venom/In every single lie that you tell/Feigning all emotion/When facing the consequences/Of your own personal hell/And there’s no angel left to blame/When the devil on your shoulder/Who made you bolder/Is the one laughing in your face/What goes around comes around someday/And every time I think about the words you’ve said/I’m reminded just to bite my tongue instead/Until every last lyric’s left covered in red/Because the taste of blood is better than the taste of regret.” He continues in the song’s second verse, “So while you’re spitting into the hurricane/Trying to get rid of the bitterness/The acid from your tongue/Begins to erode again/While you sit and reminisce/So deep inside your own abyss/There is no feeling of misery/Like living in history/When you’ve been so poisonous/Karma comes back to sink its fangs right in your neck.” This is a straight-forward, no nonsense indictment of one of those people who has tried to make others’ lives miserable, but got theirs in the end. It is a statement from someone to that noted individual, letting them know that despicable figure will not bring others down. When it couples with the fire in the song’s arrangement, it gains even more power, as does the arrangement, with the two complimenting one another expertly and making the song stand out even more as one more example of why EARTHANDSKY is another positive offering from Of Mice & Men. While it is another clear example of what makes EARTHANDSKY stand out, it is not the last of the album’s most notable songs. The album’s title track is deserving of its own attention, too.
‘Earth And Sky’ stands out in part because its musical arrangement is such a start contrast to that of the album’s other arrangements. The song opens with something akin to a power metal work, with its airy chord-filled opening riffs. From there, it moves into the band’s more familiar metalcore sound once again. Those moments couple with the song’s more melodic moments – which easily lend themselves to comparisons to works from The Veer Union — to make the arrangement in whole, a work that bears its own identity separate from that of the album’s other arrangements. While the song’s arrangement presents its own unique point of interest for its presentation, that element is just one point of interest in this case. The song’s lyrical content adds presents its own engagement and entertainment.
Pauley sings in the song’s lead verse, “I felt you dragging me into a shallow grave/The dirt became a place to rest/But it betrays/You’ll never stop me/Your reign has ended/You’ll never hold down that which has ascended/I won’t run/I won’t turn away/I won’t let you get the best of me/I won’t fall in your gravity/open your eyes/You’re the earth and I’m the sky.” He continues in the song’s second verse, “You are the single stone amongst infinity/I am the wind that blows/I am the voice inside the rain/Can you feel the cold wind blowing/unrelenting, everlasting/Do you feel it in your bones/Do you feel it in your soul/I won’t run/I won’t turn away/I won’t let you get the best of me/I won’t fall in your gravity/Open your eyes.” This is another relatively straight forward message. This is a proud, defiant stance against one who might try to make another’s life miserable; a message that even as much as said person might try, that person will not succeed in making him/her miserable and ruining another’s life. Once again, the energy in the song’s arrangement comes into play in examining the lyrics alongside this lyrical message. It helps to drive home the frustration of dealing with that negative influence and the defiance by the person standing up to that negative person. The whole of it all makes the song that much more powerful. When it is considered along with the other songs examined here and the rest of the album’s entries, they make the album in whole one more of this year’s top new hard rock and metal albums.
Of Mice & Men’s sixth full-length studio recording, EARTHANDSKY is a positive new offering from the veteran metalcore outfit. That is due to the album’s collective musical and lyrical content. The album’s musical side continues to show growth from the band while the lyrical content is just as certain to keep listeners engaged and entertained with its sometimes relatable and other times thought provoking material. The songs examined here are just the slightest way in which the noted statements are supported. The rest of the album’s songs can just as easily be cited to support the statements. Keeping all of this in mind, the record in whole provides plenty for audiences to appreciate. In turn, they make the album in whole easily one more of this year’s top new hard rock and metal albums. It is available now. More information on EARTHANDSKY is available online now along with all of the band’s news at:
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