For Fans Of
I listen to music because it makes me feel something; it evokes an emotion in me. Whether it be something soft to relax and calm me, or something chug-laden and heavy to control my rage, listening to music isn’t just purely for enjoyment. It’s a coping mechanism of sorts. It helps me to think clearly. It helps me feel something that I wasn’t feeling previously. We can all identify with this, and we have all experienced this, so I’m sure we all understand how important that feeling is when listening to a record, any record. “Yeah, we get it. That’s obvious. But what’s your point, Corey? What does that have to do with Of Mice & Men’s fourth record titled ‘Cold World‘?” Well, my point is that ‘Cold World‘ lacks the above. It lacks any sense of genuine emotion, of any genuine passion. I’ve listened to the entirety of this 13-track (and two pointless interlude-filled) album multiple times now and have felt nothing. Seriously, nothing!
“Nothing? This band, Of Mice & Men, with a front man like that Austin Carlile, who all have been through so much? How could this be? His struggle with the same heart conditions that prematurely ended his mother’s life has been well documented, how could this record be so meaningless and plain?” I asked myself the same questions! But I’ll attempt to answer them.
For starters, I’d like to mention how horrendously bland the mix and impact of the record is. Introductory track ‘Game of War’ begins with a bass line that sounds like a poor quality message notification tone you’d score on an iPhone 3, while the lead single ‘Pain’ seems to have been recorded with a cardboard box. David Bendeth produced it, though, just as he produced the cringe-worthy self-titled We Came as Romans album, so this comes as no surprise. He has built himself quite the reputation for turning crisp-sounding metalcore bands into a poor excuse for radio/hard rock, but I digress.
Actually, no, I don’t digress! The fact is, whether we like to admit it or not, some bands just cannot pull off a departure from their original sound. Experimentation and progression are always encouraged, and rightfully so, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that every band can deliver. Of Mice & Men were once identified as ‘Rise-core’, a generic metalcore band with catchy choruses and breakdowns aplenty. There was a negative stigma attached to that tagline but the reality is, OM&M did it well. Very well, indeed. Their choruses were sing-a-long inducing, and their breakdowns got heads and the crowd as a whole moving. Their formula wasn’t original, but it was well executed. But now what? ‘Real’ is a clear attempt at a Linkin Park anthemic style, and it just falls flat. The instrumentals feel so uninspired, and bassist/clean vocalist Aaron Pauley seems to be going through the motions, which is disappointing considering his sheer potential and previously displayed skill. (Seriously, check out his old band, Jamie’s Elsewhere for some quality post-hardcore).
Carlile introduces himself as a singer on ‘Real‘, rather than just a one-dimensional “harsh” vocalist. For this I applaud him and he’s surprisingly decent but again, it just feels so…uninspired. Remember what I said about the lack of emotion and passion on the record? Well, ‘Relentless’ is a mere throwback to that of nu-metal giants like Korn and Slipknot and again, this attempts fails. Are you starting to see a pattern here? Carlile’s awkward, harsh talking/yelling combo and the bouncy riffs here just don’t quite hit the mark, either. I’m sure we can all appreciate a decent nostalgia trip, but I’d rather just keep revisiting the classics instead in this case.
Also, what’s up with the addition of all these electronics? It’s as if the band just thought, “Hey we should totally have some electronic parts to show that we’re experimenting. We’ll stick some here, and here, and also create an entire interlude titled ‘-‘ or ‘minus’. Oh yeah, that’d be sick!”. That honestly seems to be the logic employed here. The introductions of both ‘Like a Ghost’ and ‘Contagious’ are electronic, and they don’t compliment the instrumentals or the respective songs at all. As for ‘-‘, why was my time wasted? Admittedly, it’d work well in a live setting, as an extended intro to ‘Pain’ to help pump the crowd up, but I’m listening to a record; not seeing it performed live. It is not the same experience. The flow of the record isn’t exactly optimal as it is, so this only complicates matters further.
For what it’s worth, I’ll throw in some positives. For one, a couple of the songs toward the end of the record actually take more of a post-hardcore route. One such example is ‘Away’, and while nothing to necessarily write home about, it is actually a very pleasant song to listen to. It even features a nice guitar solo and some great drum work courtesy of drummer Valentino Arteaga that really compliments the song. This was quite unexpected, considering the previous tracks. Another is that the vocals present in opener ‘Game of War’ could genuinely fit into the soundtrack from The Hobbit. That’s something that every single one of us should appreciate. Oh my, I am really scraping the barrel here, aren’t I?
‘Cold World’ is solid at its absolute best, but who wants something that is only solid? There’s isn’t a peak or a climax at any point; it’s all bland from start to end. This is a consistent theme throughout the record. Once upon a time, we could expect an “Of Mice” track to get stuck in our head for days, or one that could actually raise our heart rate. This just isn’t the case anymore. Most tracks present on ‘Cold World’ are quite indistinguishable from one another, and lacks that defining factor the band can create. Nothing stands out, nothing is a highlight. All we’re left with is a mere shoulder shrug. It’s not horrible, but it’s nothing special either.