I never really had much to say about OF MICE & MEN in the past. It’s not that I dislike their music or anything, I just never really found time to sit down with their stuff for any long periods of time. But I am gonna say this: Aaron Pauley is a perfect fit on all vocals, both harsh and clean. The singer and bassist fits like a glove, and quite frankly the band has never sounded better to these ears. This change in the group’s dynamic is what prompted me to really sit down with new album Defy (out now, Rise Records) after hearing several singles.
The record opens with title track “Defy” which kicks things off in fine, melodic fashion. Next up is “Instincts” which is one of the heaviest, ballsiest, and bestest tracks on the disc. This a tune I can not only get behind, but would make for an excellent addition to that magical gym playlist I always refer to (but never actually GO to the gym!). The whole band just pounds the shit out of their instruments and the groove is ferocious. “Back to Me” has a big hook, and making this one a single was a smart move. It’s very catchy.
There’s a push and pull feel with “Sunflower” that goes from light to dark, dark to light, and when Pauley lets loose on the growls it gives the song an extra something. First single “Unbreakable” was the track that made me think, “Hmmm…time to take a closer look at these guys!” And as soon as I heard it, no disrespect to the previous vocalist, it just felt like Pauley was much better suited for these songs and the band’s overall sound. That’s not to say this is a perfect record, mind you. I wasn’t hot on “Vertigo” and the cover of PINK FLOYD’S “Money” is godawful.
But things rebound nicely with songs like ultra-heavy third single “Warzone” and the anthemic “On the Inside.” I’m still not exactly clear on the meaning of “Forever YDG’n.” Still, it’s a pretty cool tune, and closer “If We Were Ghosts” ends the record on more of a subdued note. All told this is a very good album from a band that has managed to reinvent and reinvigorate itself in 2018. And aside from one or two missteps, Defy should please the OF MICE & MEN fans, both old and new.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Instincts”, “Unbreakable”, “Warzone”, “Back to Me”, “Defy”