EDITORIAL: Of Mice & Men Come Full Circle

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It seems that with every minute, rock and roll group Of Mice & Men are becoming more and more relevant to the music scene. The question is, however, in what way? Any Warped Tour fanatic of early 2010-2012 can vouch for the band’s incredible growth as they reigned over the metalcore scene, one tour at a time. Yet now, with the release of their newest record Restoring Force, along with their reissue Full Circle, they have easily left this platform behind them, diving into a style that’s poised to launch them into mainstream music–or it’s a style they’ve wanted to produce all along.

For ages in the music industry, bands that have altered their musical style more than minimally have been accused of being “sell outs” at one point or another. The second that “You’re Not Alone” dropped as the first single off Restoring Force over a year ago, many metalcore fans felt betrayed by the band’s try at an anthemic hard rock song. And now, as Of Mice & Men are continuing to progress in this more fitting and conveniently more radio friendly sound with each new single they release, the term is starting to be thrown around more often.

However, the band released their game-changer Restoring Force with a specific mission in mind. Frontman Austin Carlile said himself in a March 2014 issue of Substream magazine, “We don’t want to be ‘that Of Mice & Men band that sounds like this and that, who sound like a Warped Tour metalcore scene band.’ I don’t want to be that, I just want to be Of Mice & Men, a hard rock act.” Although that label could have been placed on them as their music careers began, they shrewdly used it to their advantage, until they got to the point of popularity in the music scene to branch off and achieve their goals of rock and roll. Restoring Force had its old school Of Mice & Men moments, like the raging emotions of “Public Service Announcement” or the melodic tunes and breakdowns of “Bones Exposed,” but what really turned heads were the nu-metal-inspired songs like “You Make Me Sick” or the groovy “Feels Like Forever.”

Although some of those turned heads were screaming “Sell outs!,” the talk mostly came from the metalcore enthusiasts. I’m sure these bold opinions come from a few different music fans, but from my personal experience, the complainers were the ones who only listen to what they are exposed to in the scene. Just because it isn’t what you are used to or prefer, doesn’t mean it isn’t good music or a better path for the band. I can’t speak for all the overall music lovers out there, but exposure to different styles and genres gives you a better understanding of a musician’s mission – as well as the quality of their musical experiments. That point, on top of my great interest and research on Of Mice & Men, makes me feel that the band has different motives as they make their way to the top.

The three new tracks of Restoring Force: Full Circle indicate a brand new path for Of Mice & Men, and quite suddenly, considering their bold experimentation away from metalcore only began a year ago. “Never Giving Up” is a full-blown nu-metal head-banger and the popular single “Broken Generation” and bouncy “Something To Hide” use modern rock riffs and melodies that have already taken over the radio. In only three new songs and an acoustic rendition of “Feels Like Forever,” the band can’t be any more clear of the hard rock road they want to be on, and it seems like it’s been their mission since day one. Fans who feel betrayed by Of Mice & Men’s journey into modern rock shouldn’t have been so shocked – the band was never much of a metalcore band to begin with. Did they play that style of music in their first two albums? Yes. However, I’ve always picked up on the way the band has talked about their progression, even in early 2012.

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You don’t have to know much about lead singer Austin Carlile to be aware of his adoration of bands like Slipknot, Linkin Park, Limp Bizkit, and Korn, but why are they finally starting to model their inspirations’ work now? On the inside, Of Mice & Men have always wanted to write their nu-metal album, and they finally begin that process with Restoring Force. It’s a more popular sound, but it’s what has been their influence since day one – now they just get to express it on their own terms. This shift has even become more widely enforced when the group opened for Linkin Park in Europe- and partially the USA on their arena tours – giving fans of the genre a chance to open their arms to Of Mice & Men and their musical growth. The change of pace wasn’t made strictly in order to be heard on the radio or broadcasted to another audience, they just wanted to be truly satisfied with the music they were making (and, of course, they will take the benefits that come along with it).

Carlile has said it again and again that Restoring Force feels like the band’s first album, because in their minds it is. On Facebook the frontman even explained his excitement for the change he is making vocally: “It’s nice to incorporate my voice and melody, and ‘singing’ like I’ve always done as I grow as a musician and person into the music we make, and I get to ‘sing’ or ‘scream’ each and every night. I love making music, so whatever emotion or tone, or sing or scream or yell or bark, or squeal – whatever comes fits the part, there it goes.” After the exclusivity of Carlile’s unclean vocals, for years as Of Mice & Men put their name on the hardcore map, and he’s now able to do a mix of the vocal arrangements he’s come to know and love. Once the band got to the point in their career where it was safe to express their freedom and musical change, they took it the first chance they got.

This is how I see their development as a fan and music journalist, and I commend them for their freedom and strategic plan to skyrocket their presence in rock music. In no way, shape, or form is the band’s intention of musical diversity geared towards mindless popularity, but driven by dreams they’ve had since high school. Of course, the motives of the music business present some confounding variables to the argument, but as long as their hearts are in the music they make, nothing else really matters. Time will tell how Of Mice & Men continue along their new musical path, and I for one can’t wait to see how their influences set them free of what they’ve been trying to expand upon for so long. The hard rock that is so important in their lives is beginning to circle back into their own growingly popular sound, making the title of their invigorating reissue certainly applicable.

Editorial written by Emma Guido
*feature photo credit: Adam Elmakias

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