Defy is Of Mice & Men’s fifth studio album and first without former lead singer Austin Carlile. Carlile was certainly a fan favourite and his departure may have turned off many fans. He left the band at the end of 2016 due to medical issues, and whilst many fans and critics were speculating that this would be the end for the band, it was announced last year that bassist and ‘cleans’ singer Aaron Pauley had stepped up to take on the additional role of lead singer.
It can be difficult for fans to adapt to a change in line up, especially when the departing member is the lead singer and ‘face of the band’. But when Unbreakable, the first single with Pauley at the helm, was released it was really encouraging to see that the fans were standing behind the band and responding positively to the new song. And for good reason too.
A lot of the hype and discussion around Defy inevitably centres on the new setup of the band. As a new fan and no affiliation to Carlile, I listened to Defy with an open mind, no comparisons to old material, and view Defy almost as a debut album. I hoped that going in with this mindset would give me a neutral and unbiased opinion, but either way I genuinely believe that Defy is a great album and will be well-received by many fans, both old and new.
There are two main reasons why I enjoyed this album. The first is the sound. The shift towards a mid-noughties hard rock sound might not please all the fans, but it’s important for bands to be confident and clear with the direction they want to go in, especially if they are changing sound, and Of Mice & Men have been both clear and confident in their delivery with Defy. There are a number of consistent themes throughout the album: huge riffs, anthemic choruses, heavy breakdowns. And although there can be a fine line between consistency and repetition, there is enough variety in the songwriting to keep the listener interested.
A special mention needs to go to Aaron Pauley’s vocals. Both the clean vocals and screams are incredible throughout and are the second reason why I really enjoyed this album. Pauley had big shoes to fill following the departure of screamer Carlile, and even though some have commented that Pauley’s screaming on Defy doesn’t have enough range and that they’re not as good as Carlile’s, for me his midrange screams chime with the album’s sound really well and his ability to switch between clean singing and screaming is impressive.
There a number of tracks on Defy which stand out for me. The first two singles from the album, Unbreakable and title track Defy, are both big tracks which give Pauley a chance to shine and have unbelievably catchy choruses. On the heavier side of things, Forever YDG’n is an excellent track and deserves to be higher up the tracklist than 11th. I also think this track would go down a treat live. Other notable tracks include Back To Me, which is a bit more radio friendly and another of the pre-album singles; and Instincts, the second track from the album which, similar to Forever YDG’n, is a heavier track with a beat that would give anyone the urge to mosh.
I have a few issues with the album too. The biggest issue for me is the cover of Pink Floyd’s Money halfway through the album, which to me feels out of place and unnecessary. I also have an issue with the lyrics, which I find to be lazy and unoriginal, and the lack of energy in the production. Overall though this is a fun album which will get heads banging and has the potential to attract a lot of new fans.
Defy won’t go down as a classic among the greats, but at this stage in the band’s career it doesn’t need to be. This album has not only shown that the Of Mice & Men don’t need Austin Carlile to survive, but it has certainly shown that they mean business. The band have come across as a strong unit who know which direction they want to go in musically, and prove with this album that they won’t be a band that relies on past success to progress in the future.
Top Tracks: Forevevr YDG’n, Sunflower
Release date: January 19th, 2018
- Back To Me
- How Will You Live
- On The Inside
- Forever YDG’n
- If We Were Ghosts