Despite constantly dealing with lineup instability and personnel changes, Of Mice & Men is a talented band that continues to crank out quality post-hardcore music. From frontman Austin Carlisle’s departure and eventual return to clean vocalist Shayley Bourget’s sudden exit (due to alcoholism and depression), and from switching instruments to the rumors that former Jamie’s Elsewhere vocalist Aaron Pauley will take over clean vocals, Of Mice & Men’s lineup has been in a constant state of flux. However, these personnel changes have not prevented the band from producing brutal and stirring music every time they enter the studio. After releasing their terrific and promising debut, Carlisle left the group, only to return just in time for Of Mice & Men’s followup, The Flood. Luckily, the band delivers on the potential shown in Of Mice & Men, offering an aggressive and all-around superior post-hardcore experience from start to finish. Carlisle’s guttural shrieks accompany breathtaking breakdowns to bring plenty of mosh-pit-worthy material, while Bourget’s clean vocals balance things out with appeasing, pitch-perfect choruses. The Flood doesn’t quite put Of Mice & Men at the helm of the genre, but it certainly establishes them as one of its driving forces.
“Let Live” follows back-to-back tracks dominated by screams as a chance for Bourget to showcase his clean vocals in lighter, catchy choruses. Carlisle’s wonderfully barbaric growls and screams fill the verses accentuated by Phil Manansala’s lightening-quick guitar strumming and Valentino Arteaga’s rapid-fire drumming. But despite possessing one of the album’s greatest breakdowns, “Let Live” takes the honor of being the best song on The Flood because of the clarity and poise Bourget brings with his echoing clean vocals.
“Still YDG’N” follows the lighter “Let Live” with one of the band’s most ferocious songs. Bourget gets his chance to shine on the chorus, but Carlisle and an epic combination of pounding drums and Alan Ashby’s rhythm guitar steal the show on this head-banging track. Although “Let Live” is a phenomenal representation of the band’s balance, this mosh-inducing song will likely resonate with the post-hardcore crowd more for its brutal breakdowns and memorable finish. Still YDG’N, indeed.
There isn’t much variety to be had on The Flood, but “My Understandings” proves Of Mice & Men can be more than a simple post-hardcore act when they want to be. The quiet strum of guitars provides a reflective background for Bourget, who commands this ballad with an array of silky smooth purrs and extended wails as the song builds momentum. It doesn’t last long, but “My Understandings” displays a little versatility and rarely seen drama as Bourget professes “But I can see it has to be you, love / That I’ve been dreaming of / And if we climb this high I swear we’ll never die.”
The ability to continue creating quality material while enduring numerous lineup switches speaks to Of Mice & Men’s talent and resiliency, especially considering that The Flood is a definite improvement on Of Mice & Men. The departure of Bourget is likely to leave fans in doubt for the future, but the addition of Pauley, the incredibly melodious former frontman of Jamie’s Elsewhere, should put those fears to rest. Although Carlisle has a history of forming talented bands only to leave in the middle of their prime, it’s highly unlikely the same fate would befall Of Mice & Men after producing such an impressive followup. Fans of Asking Alexandria, We Came As Romans, The Devil Wears Prada, Attack Attack!, Memphis May Fire, Woe, Is Me, Sleeping With Siren, Blessthefall and I See Stars will be right at home with Of Mice & Men, and should keep a weathered eye on this band’s bright horizon.
Final Score: 7.9/10
Rank: 1st (two total albums)
- O.G. Loko
- Ben Threw
- Let Live
- Still YDG’N
- My Understandings
- Product Of A Murderer
- Repeating Apologies
- The Great Hedowski
- I’m A Monster
- When You Can’t Sleep At Night