You’d have been forgiven for thinking Of Mice & Men‘s days were numbered when, back in December 2016, frontman Austin Carlile announced his departure on account of crippling health concerns. Just over a year later they’re back with the appropriately titled full length ‘Defy‘, which sees bassist Aaron Pauley taking over vocal duties.
Much of the record was created whilst on the road and the band clearly had the live environment in mind throughout the process. From the boisterous title track that opens proceedings to the gang chants of ‘How Will You Live‘, the whole thing has been meticulously crafted to appeal to a room full of adoring fans. The thick groove of ‘Instincts‘ sounds particularly primed for the big venues that this quartet have made their home.
Whilst there can be no doubt that Of Mice & Men will miss Carlile as their charismatic figurehead, any doubts that Pauley could hold his own vocally are scuppered by the album’s debut single ‘Unbreakable‘. This track sees him alternating between razor blade screams and soaring melodies with apparent ease. Far from reinventing the wheel, the band at least demonstrate exactly why they’re among the best at what they do.
Pauley showcases his vulnerable side on the emotive closer ‘If We Were Ghosts‘, a goodbye letter to their beloved idol and friend Chester Bennington. “I just have to wait ’til I get to the other side, cause I never, never got to say goodbye” echoes hauntingly from the chorus as the record comes to a tear-jerking close. This track displays defiance of a quieter sort, that of an outfit refusing to regress into just another metalcore band.
On their fifth studio effort Of Mice & Men defy anyone who says their time is up, they also defy anyone who claims they need to evolve their sound, instead they stand firm to crush any and all imitators. The departure of Carlile isn’t going to win them any new fans, but a record like Defy certainly won’t lose them any either.