Of Mice & Men are a band who’ve always seemed to polarise opinions, so the announcement of a nu-mental infused studio album confused and pleased both fans and sceptics, with there probably being a similar number of both. Restoring Force marks the American bands third and most comfortable venture, and although it doesn’t always find the balance it implies it’s a commendable effort that sees them cover new ground despite not always stamping their footprint on it.
I spent a fairly respectable chunk of my childhood borderline obsessed with bands like Linkin Park, Limp Bizkit, Korn and (early) Slipknot so a nu-metal revival sits very well with myself, but Restoring Force doesn’t. I’m not the best when it comes to genre, especially in terms of differentiating between them but, for me, comparing Restoring Force to the heavyweights leaves it way off the mark. It isn’t really a nu-metal album, and for the majority of its forty minute length Restoring Force is simply standard generic metalcore, which sadly leaves it a little boring and uninspired. It’s difficult to fault the bands ambition, and the album does seem like a step up from their past work but Of Mice & Men don’t quite reach the heights they aspire to. Sure, its guitars chug along in a way reminiscent of Deftones but any clear traces of the nu-metal genre are few and far between. In fact, it takes four tracks for Restoring Force to really rise to the occasion and it does so with the huge-sounding ‘Would You Still Be There’. The fourth track is the best Restoring Force has to offer and it also has the biggest emphasis on Aaron Pauley with unclean vocalist Austin Carlile barely making an appearance. The track shows a bit more variety and experimentation via its instrumentals, even throwing in a brief guitar solo and it seems to explode with an energy the preceding tracks lacked, meaning Of Mice & Men have rarely sounded better. Sadly, Pauley’s excellent clean vocals aren’t utilised nearly enough on his bands third album, but it’s not quite a missed opportunity. Carlile still does a great job, but his roars and screams don’t seem quite as powerful as they once did, although his style has been refined to match the bands more polished approach. Fifth track ‘Glass Hearts’ suggests otherwise, beginning with a Rob Flynn styled ‘Beautiful Mourning’-esque ‘Fuck!‘ and on this track Carlile really delivers vocally with his guttural screams sounding deliciously aggressive. The lyrics are personal (‘These scars on my body they don’t even bleed / I only do this for you to see’) albeit a little weak, and this is one of the main areas in which Restoring Force lacks. Tracks like ‘You’re Not Alone’ are rife with genre clichés and maybe Of Mice & Men should be doing better three albums in.
Eighth track ‘You Make Me Sick’ is another highlight, surging along on the back of the albums meatiest riff, which is paired with venomous vocals and lyrics to match. It’s an aggressive sound Of Mice & Men aim for often on Restoring Force and they get it spot on here, making for one of their most memorable tracks to date. Carlile’s lengthy scream in the dying minute is reminiscent of ‘This One’s For You’ and is also twice as powerful, and tracks like these benefit from the absence of Aaron Pauley, sounding spitefully heavy and coming off all the better because of it. Following track ‘Identity Disorder’ is another of the albums best and it’s a shame it’s followed by Restoring Force’s worst track in the form of the painful ‘You’re Not Alone’. Untraditional closer ‘Space Enough To Grow’ takes a much more subtle approach by slowing things down and progressing slowly, Architects style, beginning and ending delicately open and unrestrained. It’s a great and different way to end an album that occasionally suffers from sounding too similar.
Instrumentally, Restoring Force is solid enough, although the same chugging riffs and seemingly constant crash of the cymbals becomes tedious incredibly quickly. The mellower intro to ‘Another You’ and a few electronic elements help keep things fresh, but there’s not enough to really set Of Mice & Men apart from the crowd, despite the nu-metal influences several of the tracks carry. Opening track ‘Pubic Service Announcement’ sounds choppy and repetitive, whereas the aforementioned ‘Would You Still Be There’ is a contrasting and emphatic display that shows just how much Of Mice & Men have to offer, and probably should more often.
A change in direction and sound worked for Bring Me The Horizon last year and chances are Restoring Force will work for the American outfit, with it’s aspirations almost matching Sempiternal‘s. With the bands already sizeable fan base (and the new fans it’s likely to bring in) Restoring Force will at least be a commercial success, but it’s not quite the record it should be, hence my rating. Of Mice & Men’s third album is far from a game-changer but it’s also far from terrible, and a similar distance from triumphant.
Rating – 6/10
Listen to: Would You Still Be There / You Make Me Sick / Identity Disorder
US stream is available through iTunes Radio