Of Mice and Men have once again returned to the shores of the UK, as part of their ‘Defy’ world tour. Marking their first outing in the UK since the departure of vocalist Austin Carlisle due to unfortunate health issues, tonight marked an opportunity for the band to embark on re-capturing what made them stand out from the pack with the introduction of Aaron Pauley now playing both bass and performing lead vocals.
As the academy began to fill, we took our places and set about to take in the night’s entertainment…
First up, hailing from New York and playing in the UK for the first time was hardcore mob Sylar. The set began well, with a beat and vocals that would please any hardcore dancers in the room – mixing two step beats with pitched vocals in the vein of Minor Threat. However, that’s about as far as things go. Sylar are victims of what is often referred to as the ‘hardcore curse’, that of being unable to break out of the scene. Each song, whilst good in its structure, sounded the same. A heavy opening, followed by rapped vocals into a slow paced, chuggy breakdown. The clean vocals accompanying often times did not mix with the overall flow of the music either, leaving one to wonder if Sylar had once dreamed of being either a Limp Bizkit tribute band, or bigger than Emmure. In support of this view, unfortunate vocals such as ‘All these motherf*ckers wanna be just like me’ repeated again and again show a lack of originality – it’s good to show influence in your work as it shows respect for the scene that you grew up in but at the same time, an aspect of laziness does too.
With NYHC bands such as Backtrack coming before Sylar and getting the formula right, Sylar have much work to do if they ever want to stand out of the crowd, rather than taking used up plays from the NYHC playbook.
It would seem that Wage War had their work cut out to bring the room around. To the relief of the audience, the work was not to be plentiful. An instantly different feeling filled the academy, vocalist Briton Bond holding the mic close to his chest and looking out over the room, leading the band into the ever powerful ‘Alive’. The song is accompanied by the outstanding work of lead guitarist Seth Blake (who also happens to be a bloody tank of a man), earning himself the title of director shredmaster for the night – bridging from a salivating solo straight back into the metalcore outfits incredible pace. ‘The River’ has hints of old school Parkway Drive, paying homage to the leaders of the metalcore revolution. Throughout, the mix of Briton Bond and Chris Gaylord’s clean and unclean vocals gel perfectly with the rest of the band, peaking at the opportune time and knowing when to allow space for others to breathe, and showcase their worth.
A performance such as theirs shows that Wage War are seasoned veterans on the circuit, holding the crowd in the palm of their hands, Briton making certain that each member of the audience is connected with. ‘Day One’ has a slow, hollowed out build, leaving it all before crashing down into a brutal breakdown – the first crowd surfers of the night being shown the exit by security. ‘Gravity’ is the highlight of the set, both atmospheric and destructive in its structure. Wage War have excelled in expectation, and could have easily headlined tonight’s show. Fantastic stuff.
And now for your main event of the evening, Of Mice and Men. And honestly, it’s one of bitter disappointment. With the absence of Austin Carlisle as frontman and vocalist, the now quartet are seemingly on the edge of losing their way and becoming just another generic metal band. Gone are the days of piercing high clean vocals that could cut to the very core of a human, mixed with the beauty of technical post-hardcore accompany to the tune of such songs as Second And Sebring or They Don’t Call It The South For Nothing.
Instead what we’re now left with is a mush of blast beats, continual ‘look at me I’m so metal’ horns every five seconds and completely out of place low growls where instead should be highs matched with the clean breaks of old. The only highlight of the set comes from Of Mice and Men playing the YDG trilogy in its entirety, which is honestly the only way in which I knew I was still watching them and not another band taken from the metal shelf. A showcase of what still could be with just a bit more creativity.
For tonight, this display was not one that was put on by Of Mice and Men. It was a show put on by a quartet who has yet to find their feet without Austin, and one that leaves them teetering on the wrong side of progress. A forgettable set that never truly took off at any point, from a band that once held so much promise. Now, with nothing much in the way of hope for a change in direction.
Joshua White – Vulturehound Magazine 2018.