September 23, 2019 Of Mice & Men – EARTHANDSKY (Album Review)
Headbanging atop your grave while rallying the victims of bullying to rise up, Of Mice & Men are set to return to pummel your senses with EARTHANDSKY. Rise Records deliver the Metal might on Friday, September 27th, 2019.
Of Mice & Men proudly wave the flag of infectious Metal growls alongside delicious melody, something we like to call Metalcore. Formed in 2009 in Orange County, California, the band (OM&M to their die-hards) wasted no time in delivering their 2010 eponymous debut then continued to build a name for themselves with 2011’s The Flood and 2014’s Restoring Force. Despite playing musical chairs with band-members, OM&M has persevered for the past decade, sharing stages with everyone from Metallica, Linkin Park, and Slipknot to Queens of the Stone Age.
Only a year after the release of 2018’s killer Defy, Of Mice & Men are preparing to present their second collection since the amicable departure of Vocalist Austin Carlile in 2016 and Bassist Aaron Pauley’s ensuing move to the frontman slot. For EARTHANDSKY, the quartet—Vocalist/Bassist Pauley, Guitarists Phil Manansala and Alan Ashby, and Drummer Valentino Arteaga—allow themselves to embrace all the finest elements of their performance. Produced by Josh Wilbur (Lamb of God, Trivium), the 11-song disc allows the band to explore new territory while remaining brutally heavy and yet still wonderfully catchy.
EARTHANDSKY opens to a delicately undulating siren’s call that leads into the explosion of “Gravedancer,” a funereal stomp full of Djenty bass lines, gritty howls, and a delicate Middle Eastern influence (is that a sitar?). It’s heavy, frustrated, and the perfect way to start an album chock-full of Metal might. Next, Prog Metal vibes meander into the blistering “As We Suffocate,” which is bolstered by truly infectious choruses that showcase Pauley’s crisp, clean vocals.
Thrashing, speeding, coalescing into a devilish core, “Taste of Regret” spits a sonic hurricane on its vicious verses before biting its lyrical tongue on its catchy, alluring choruses. All this before blast beats and ghastly howls open the attack of the brutal “Mushroom Cloud,” a tormented moment trapped inside Pauley’s thoughts as he fights to escape the atomic insanity of his own mind.
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, Pauley soars to new vocal heights on the catchy choruses of “Pieces” before driving guitars chug into the epic infectiousness of “Deceiver/Deceived,” a reminder that very little in this world is black and white, and don’t believe everything you hear. This paves the way for a proclamation of resilience, the titular “Earth & Sky,” a perfect balance of all the best elements found throughout the album. In fact, this allows the single/video to stand as a solid representation of what fans will find inside the entire collection—frustrated viciousness alongside triumphant melodies.
Walling themselves in, “The Mountain” slams into fat bass as it explores hills and valleys of heaviness and empathy, burning bridges to ignite the path into the radio-friendly approach of “Meltdown,” which questions our integrity and our ability to build rather than destroy. Next, a wall of layered sound, “Linger” slams sonically while delving into an emotional lament before we reach the grand finale, “How to Survive.” Here, Of Mice & Men go out guns blazing with an anthem for those who have been unjustly targeted for abuse and bullying. A stand-out on the collection, the track perfectly delivers a sucker punch of sound to the gut in the form of a rallying cry for those who have suffered needlessly but refuse to break under the cruel strain.
In 2019, Of Mice & Men continue to harness everything that is great about their band while showing the defiant and resilient attitude that was so prevalent across their 2018 release. On EARTHANDSKY, the dichotomies present in the album’s title are represented throughout its tracks: some incendiary while others growing lofty with melody. Killer guitar solos, brutal blast beats, and all the elements that make Of Mice & Men such a vital force remain to highlight the quartet’s exceptional musicianship and repeated efforts to incorporate new sound profiles into their approach. While other bands in their genre seem to grow progressively lighter as they evolve, Of Mice & Men always keep it heavy. Horns raised, Cryptic Rock give EARTHANDSKY 5 of 5 stars.