Album Review – Defy by Of Mice & Men (Rise Records)

Popular American metalcore outfit, Of Mice & Men, have released their 5th studio album called Defy through Rise Records. Defy is the follow up to 2016’s Cold World and is the first release to feature Aaron Pauley as the lead vocalist following the departure of Austin Carlisle.
Austin left the band in 2016 for health reasons which started a difficult period for the band in trying to fill the void left by the departure of an enigmatic front man. Rather then look externally for a tried and tested lead singer and character, the band instead chose to promote from within. Aaron Pauley, the bassist, stepped up and Defy is the first release with the newly constructed formation. Without knowing their mind-set, I assume the album is titled Defy to signal the difficulties they faced and their re-emergence. Their defiance in the face of adversity.
Of Mice & Men are otherwise unchanged so we have Valentino Arteaga on drums and Phil Manansala on lead guitar. Alan Ashby is on rhythm guitar and also adds backing vocals while, of course, Aaron Pauley is on the bass and lead vocals.

 Defy has 12 tracks on it in total and is around 46 minutes long. It opens with title track Defy which is a nice bouncy start with a crunchy metalcore riff and groove laden bass line. Pauley instantly impresses with heavy vocals, short switches to clean and then back to heavy. There is a catchy chorus, heavy breakdown – a tried and tested formula but one that will please fans. Songs like the single Unbreakable (read our thoughts on that here) and Warzone (read our thoughts on that single here) are similar in style and structure and should be real live show crowd pleasers being packed full of energy and tenacity.

My personal two favourite tracks on the album are track 2 and 11. Instincts and Forever YDG’n. Both songs are brilliant. Heavy, crunching riffs with lashings of groove. Catchy choruses and punishing breakdowns mix with melodic leads to really warm the blood up. The drums from Arteaga are phenomenal on these songs. Actually on most of the album but the timing, the blasts, everything just sounds elevated on these two tracks in particular.

Outside of these heavier tracks, there are a lot of emotional, steady songs with predominantly clean singing, save for the odd breakdown, on Defy. There is nothing wrong with clean songs, don’t get me wrong but there are 5 or 6 of them here and I don’t find all of them to be that standout. Songs like Sunflower and How Will You Live are nice tracks with a strong melodic riff in each. They certainly show off Pauley’s considerable talent. This talent is showcased further when How Will You Live switches up to a heavier style out of the blue near it’s end.

I personally don’t really get much from album closer, If We Were Ghosts despite it’s well written, well sung lyrics. It just sounds a little generic to me. Same for Vertigo and On the Inside. Both perfectly decent songs that are well played and well written while being a little unimaginative and lacking identity. Back to Me, I straight up don’t like. Perhaps it coming straight after Instincts hurt it? Again, I can appreciate it is well played, but it sounds like generic radio rock to me. Unique for Of Mice & Men maybe, but it could have been a Fall Out Boy track.

I also really don’t like the weirdly placed cover of Pink Floyd’s Money. As a bonus track, maybe I could accept it but at the half way point? There are enough strong tracks on here for the album to not need a cover as part of the main album. Add to that it sounds a little off and doesn’t fit the tone of the rest of the album, I think Defy would have been better without it.

Enough with the negatives. Defy is certainly not a bad album. It is actually a pretty good one and for the band, an important one. For the fans of Of Mice & Men, I am sure they are going to be over the moon to not only have their band back releasing music but to have them releasing high quality music. Of Mice & Men aimed to show the world that they will defy the odds and persevere and I think they have done that. It isn’t all to my taste, though I can appreciate the musicianship, even in the tracks I don’t like.

Defy is a well played, well written and, aside from Money, well thought out as an album to announce your rebirth. The drums are brilliant and the vocals are top notch. There bass is solid and there are some decent riffs and melodies from the guitar though a solo or two wouldn’t go a miss. Solid comeback.

Grab your copy of Defy now on all the usual streaming services or from Rise Records here. You can also grab it from the Amazon links below. Find out more about Of Mice & Men over on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Be sure to give them a like or follow while you are there.

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Defy by Of Mice & Men (Rise Records)
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