Review || Of Mice & Men - "EARTHANDSKY"

Of Mice & Men released their latest album, "EARTHANDSKY", on September 27th via Rise Records. I've been following the band for many years now and am an avid fan of their first couple of albums, so objectivity is not my strongest suit when it comes to their discography. As soon as the new album was announced, I got mixed feelings, as I am very well aware of their capabilities, but also a keen believer that singles are not always best representing the music direction of an album. I am going to be completely honest; I approached "EARTHANDSKY" completely biased on what to expect.

First of all, I didn't anticipate for the album to be multifaceted. It is true that the album has a quite generic character; it's polished enough, sports some very catchy clean vocals that will stick with the listener, but beneath the surface the structural ideas are layered and well-rounded. The key element of "EARTHANDSKY" is simplicity. At its core, it's a modern metal album occasionally borrowing elements from the band's -core past (pun almost intended) and seems to resort to some Nü references whenever a purpose needs to be served. Furthermore, it adopts a fierce in-your-face attitude, which translates into melodic-meets-neck-breaking riffs, pummeling drumwork and soaring growls; then this essentially gives way to the almost stereotypical currently in the genre use of catchy clean singing fit into big choruses. The sound is confident; there's hardly any experimentation or excess. In the big picture, everything falls into place (plus there's an eastern melodic pattern that circles back o n a couple tracks, which I really like).

Second, we need to give a lot of credit to Aaron Pauley who, upon assuming the role of the all-around frontman, has become a force to be reckoned with. It's undeniable that his performance, both in the studio and live, has reached a new peak where he can command the crowd while being full expressive, aptly alternating between contrasting vocal styles -and of course proudly demonstrating his incredible range on his upper register.

Overall, "EARTHANDSKY" is a very interesting record. It is very modern, more consistent and well-thought. It filled the gaps that "Defy" left me with and therefore won me over. I don't think we're explicitly talking about a rebranding of Of Mice & Men here, but more of a conscious decision to take steady steps forward and embrace the cha(llen)ges as they come, all while keeping a great balance in satisfying both older and more recent fans.
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