It’s extremely tempting to say that the best-laid schemes of Of Mice & Men have gone astray, but I fear that’s just it: they haven’t, as far as they’re concerned. I should preface this by admitting that I had hardly listened to the band’s earlier albums prior to writing this review, though fresh ears can often be advantageous.
Metalcore is a genre that I - along with many others - grew attached to during my mid-teens, and then slowly phased out of. Yes, partly because as I grew up I became less angsty, but more so because it’s an extremely homogeneous genre. There is little variation to the paradigm of blast beats and crunching riffs under screamed vocals followed by clean vocals and gentle guitar. As enjoyable as that is for a time, it becomes tiresome. As a result, most metalcore albums for me consist of one or two songs that I occasionally come back to, alongside a bunch of filler.
With this in mind, it’s unfortunate that Of Mice & Men come across almost instantly as a ‘metalcore’ band, with all that entails. My experience of Restoring Force mirrors my experience with the genre as a whole. It starts out with incredible power in its opening track, Public Service Announcement, but loses momentum with each song. While in isolation each track is enjoyable, the formula becomes stale when you listen to the album in its entirety.
Restoring Force does have its merits. The opening track is genuinely very good, and not just because you hear it before you’ve heard four similar songs. Later songs like Bones Exposed and Break Free do restore some of my faith. They still adhere to the same stale formula, but do it particularly well, with excellent transitions and that awesome, unrelenting energy found only in the best metal. But there’s only so far the album can go with it staying so firmly in its comfort zone.
Of Mice & Men don’t feel that their plans have gone astray, they think they’ve hit the nail on the head. In one sense, they have. They’ve made an album that is good, but really it’s hindered by the sheer fact that it is decidedly metalcore, and self-consciously so. Predicting when each song will drop into the ‘breakdown’ can be done with almost comical accuracy.
There is some extremely good metal in Restoring Force. The problem is that the album is nothing new. It’s simply a decent example of something that’s been done a million times before. Simply put, there’s no reason not to listen to this album, but neither is there any real reason to listen to it.
Fans of metalcore will enjoy this release, but I don’t see it turning many heads.