That we’re actually getting a new Of Mice & Men album at all is a minor miracle. After the release of their 2014 album Restoring Force, an album whose departure from metalcore to a nu metal-inspired sound saw their most divisive release to date, the best part of the last twelve months should’ve seen the band round off its cycle in the best possible way. Instead, the Florida quintet were essentially out of action due to frontman Austin Carlile’s near constant bouts of surgery to combat his Marfan syndrome. So the fact that Cold World sees Of Mice & Men returning at all is certainly a good thing – after all, they are one of only a handful of Warped Tour alumni to really find favour in metal’s wider world.
And with Cold World, that makes increasingly more sense because when it comes to long term fans, it’s unlikely to be this Of Mice & Men that they’d want back. Cold World jettisons the final shreds of metalcore that were present on Restoring Force in favour of full-on nu metal, clearly the influence that a world tour opening for Linkin Park has. But as easy as it would be to just ‘do Hybrid Theory‘, Of Mice & Men’s knowledge of the genre clearly stretches further than that. So while Real and Contagious are both painted with copious levels of Bennington, Shinoda and co.’s influence, Game Of War‘s miasmic sinisterness draws on Tool, and Down The Road actually makes the flavourless radio-rock of Trapt sound somewhat decent.
But that’s where Cold World‘s main fault comes into play. Throughout the duration of this album, Of Mice & Men deftly show their understanding of the source material, but seem incredibly reticent to put their own spin on it. David Bendeth’s production certainly doesn’t help, smooth and monochromatic to up the metallic ante, but on the whole, it offers very little personality. The combination of the two makes for an album that has both eyes firmly set on the biggest of venues while still remaining somewhat heavy, but even then any former heft has been majorly turned down in favour of size and bombast, leaving cuts like Transfigured seriously lacking in substance.
By now, the majority of old-school Of Mice & Men fans will have probably decided whether Cold World is for them or not, and it feels as though the band are aware of that. It’s no secret that Of Mice & Men aren’t the coolest band around anymore and that they’ve moved away from the circle of modern metal’s big players, but by doing so, they’ve given themselves more leg room to explore as they wish. As such, Cold World is possibly the album most representative of Of Mice & Men as a band, and the fact that they actually play it out well despite a lack of originality shows an advantageous comfort in sound. Real and Down The Road feel completely natural as simple arena-rock stormers, while The Lie goes in the direction of venom-flecked rap-metal, and Relentless even takes cues from street level ’90s hardcore. The only track that really has trouble fitting into its new skin is Pain, whose snapped blasts of guitars feel clunky rather than any sort of clinically metallic watermark.
The end result of actually liking Cold World isn’t one that comes immediately though. Upon first listen, it feels like a huge step back, one that prioritises a desire for hooks and an affinity for the past over any vastly creative endeavours. But with subsequent spins, Cold World still seems like a step back, but a much smaller one, one evident of band dipping their toes in a new direction. There’s no point in hiding the fact that Cold World is a transitional album, but Of Mice & Men deliver it with the sort of confidence and gusto that still makes it enjoyable. And though this may be the final straw for Of Mice & Men’s early adopters, the rewards that Cold World will reap in the long run with be exponentially greater.
For fans of: Linkin Park, Bring Me The Horizon, Cane Hill
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Cold World’ by Of Mice & Men is released on 9th September on Rise Records.