LP Review; Of Mice & Men: “Defy”

“Defy” starts with a lower tone in the instrumental section that quickly shifts to a smooth melodic line led by the guitar section. This melodic line provides the audience with articulate phrasing that utilizes stoppage in forward motion to help solidify the ends of different sections. That motive grows as the percussion section enters to establish the first groove of the album. Once the vocals enter, it is heard that the band is maximizing their talents by providing both clean and screamed vocals to their audience. The track is filled with both vocal types in a juxtaposing matter, which helps to provide a solid, symmetrical work from the first selection of the album. The band utilizes the same tactics throughout the second verse and the second run of the chorus. As the band begins to near the end of the track, they pull their groove back to a half-time feel as they drop in instrumentation to allow the rawer vocal type to shine. As these vocals take the time to swell, the band transitions into their first major breakdown of the album. This helps to drive to the end of the selection in an energetic manner. This is a strong first track for the album, for the band is portraying their “newer” sound to the audience. Additionally, since this is the title track for the album, it was expected that this would be a track listeners wouldn’t forget, and they provided the audience with just that.

 “Instincts” starts with a wind-type timbre that quickly evolves into a rapid percussive; rhythmic motive that feeds energy to the equally brisk string melody. As that rapid tempo becomes instilled with the audience, the vocalist introduces the vocals through a long, harsh scream that has a natural rise and fall that blends well with the ensemble’s darker sound. Throughout the first verse, the vocals remain, primarily, on the aggressive side of the spectrum, which works well for the selection, for the band keeps flashing back towards the quick motivic material from the beginning. As the band moves towards the chorus, they shift gears by introducing the softer vocals. This gives their audience more variety within the track, and it provides some musical relief, which will help to keep their audience engaged. Throughout the second verse, the band toys with instrumentation as they mess around with the groove to provide their audience with small variations of the first melodic theme that was introduced during this piece. In the middle of the work, the band slows their tempo to simplify their music. They do so to put the focus on the back and forth vocals that switch/overlap the clean and harsher vocal types. This section leads directly into a major instrumental feature that places direct focus on an elaborate guitar solo, which helps drive the listeners to the end of the piece by leading them back to one last run of the chorus. This is a foreseen favorite of the album, for it embodies the harsher style that the band has to offer while providing overly intricate melodic material.

 “Back to Me” starts with a small evolution of electronic semi-tones that move in a circular motion. This motion accelerates until the song comes to a stop before the lead vocals of the track break the silence through the first verse. The vocals that are introduced are smooth and melodically pleasing to the audience. The band accompanies this technique well through minimal instrumentation; however, the instrumental materials that are present compliment the melodic contour, which provides a nice relationship from words to music for the listeners. As the band presses through the second verse, it is heard that more instrumental elements join in sparingly, but the general focus still lies on the lead vocals. Towards the end of the piece, the band shifts to an instrumental interlude that starts out with a more progressive and heavy motive before settling back into a gentle groove. Once this interlude concludes, the band transitions back to their original chorus to finish the selection.

“Sunflower” starts with chordal tones in the strings with a steady rim-based pulse established through the percussion section. As the band shifts to prepare for the vocals to enter, they begin to vary on that beginning motive to help grab the audience’s attention. Throughout the first verse, the band provides alternating vocals to the audience; thus, giving them a nice balance of heavy to gentle vocal types. They play heavily with this contrast, for when the band is utilizing their heavier vocal type, their instrumentation is heightened and weighted; however, when the band is using their softer vocals, the instrumentation drops to allow them to shine. Moving towards the end of the work, the band switches to an elaborate breakdown that is driven on the weighted hits within the instrumental section. This breakdown wavers heavily in the half-time feel, but it quickly shifts back to the original motive from the work to transitions smoothly back to the reinstating of the chorus to end the work.

 “Unbreakable” starts with the slowly growing semi-tone that builds underneath a rapid string motive that is accompanied by a steady percussion melodic figure. Throughout the first verse, it is heard that the band is focusing on the heavier vocal type to add variety to the overall album. As they utilize this vocal type, the band remains heavily in an homorhythmic realm; meaning, the band often pairs their instrumental part with their vocal part exactly; thus, creating a unified sound moving from word to word. This is strong for the band because it gives their audience something they aren’t necessarily used to, and it provides innovative color tones to the album as a whole. As the band shifts to the chorus, they fall back into their characteristic sound through which they switch back to the softer vocal type to make for a memorable chorus. Throughout the track, the band provides small moments of musical relief through the stoppage of forward melodic motion, which provides ornate moments to the audience. Tactics like this help this track to stick out among the pack and keep listeners engaged and wanting more. Towards the middle of the piece, the instrumentation drops entirely to allow a grumbled lyrical line to build. As the vocalist builds tension through his melodic line a moment of perfect silence is inserted before the band drops into another larger-scale breakdown. This breakdown eventually transitions back to the original chorus; however, when the band drops into the chorus, they present the familiar material in a few differing ways, so that they aren’t overdoing an overly memorable section.

 “Vertigo” starts with heavy hits in the instrumental section form the first downbeat of the work. However, following each heavy pulse, the band provides a step-wise string motive that falls back in dynamics to add dimension to the track. The vocals enter in soon after, and here the band moves back to their smoother vocal type, which works well with the instrumentation, for at this point the instrumentation lies at a mild dynamic as they glide through simple melodic lines. The chorus from the work isn’t overly exciting in terms of instrumental material or vocal contour, but the lyrics paired with the tone of the vocalist’s vocal timbre provides the audience with an overly pleasing sound, which will stick in their minds easily. As the band begins to transition towards the end of the work, the instrumental section begins to use heavier techniques within their playing while keeping the same groove present. This helps to keep the selection pushing forward without killing the mood that the band has set.

 “Money” starts with the symbolic gesture of clinking coins (money) as an elaborate string motive is set. As that guitar motive resonates with the audience, the percussion section sets the groove of the piece by creating the steady pulse and proving small subdivisions of that beat from time to time. The vocals used throughout the first verse and the chorus are smooth in nature, which helps the audience understand the text as well as be able to listen and experience the ornate instrumental material. Throughout portions of the work, the band includes homorhythmic figures to help unify the piece before transitioning into an overly embellished guitar solo that provides a new timbre to the album. As the solo concludes, the band allows the odd semi-tones to settle before they crash back in with a roaring round of the chorus, which will drive the audience to the end of the selection.

 

“How Will You Live” starts with a heavy, unified hit in the instrumental section that shifts to a heightened groove that will act as the foundation for the work. As the band shifts to the first verse of the work, they provide opposing vocal types to provide dimension and variety to the selection. Through both the verse and the chorus, the band plays with instrumentation through rhythmic variety to allow for differences in timbre under the same blanket statement of a groove. As the band shifts to the second verse of the work, it is heard that they toy with the isolation of vocals sparingly by proving swift moments of silence, which heightens both the vocals and the instrumental material. Near the middle of the work, the vocalist utilizes their aggressive vocals to scream the title for the track in isolation that leads directly into one of the biggest breakdowns presented on the album. The band rides this vibe for a while before presenting duple hits in the instrumental ensemble before moving back to the chorus to end the work.

“On the Inside” starts with a rich chord in the lower instrumentation as a repetitive melodic idea repeats in a shimmer manner overtop it; meanwhile, the lead vocals glide over everything presented, musically speaking. As the lead vocalist takes the audience through the first verse, the percussion section injects here and there before entering consistently to create the slight groove for the work. As the instrumentation heightens throughout certain sections of the selection, the vocal types switch back and forth between both the gentle and the edgier style. As the band moves through the second run of the chorus, the vocalist verbalizes the title to the song followed by a large grand pause. This sets with the audience for a few sections before the band slams into another heightened breakdown that meshes well with the instrumentation of this track. The breakdown starts with the instrumental ensemble by itself; however, it slowly adds in the aggressive vocal type to expand the aggression of the piece.  This breakdown runs until it fades to nothing. Instead of ending the work there, the band crashes back into one last statement of the memorable chorus after the brief pause to end the selection.

 “Warzone” starts with a forward feelings groove that is built from the bottom up; meaning, the band establishes the percussion section mixed with various electronics before adding the elaborate strings to create an ornate groove. The vocals that enter in soon after the groove is established and is both harsh and heavy, which helps to amplify the groove that the instrumental section has set in place. Throughout the work, the band includes unison hits here and there to bring a sense of unity to the track. From there, the band is able to split and embellish the melodic material in differing ways to create an enhanced hardcore sound. As the band moves towards the center of the selection, they provide a moment of musical relief to their audience by giving them a few lyrical lines sung with gentle vocals. This helps to provide balance throughout the track as well as keep the audience on their toes. After this brief interlude, the instrumentation drops to feature low, heavy breathing. This technique shifts to the repetition of the phrase “this is a warzone” before the instrumental section comes crashing in with the traditional heavy motives from earlier in the track. The band takes this restated heavy material, and they elaborate upon it to push the song to its finish.

 “Forever YDG’n” starts with a fast-growing semi-tone that passes its aggression off to the instrumental ensemble, who rides and establishes the groove for the work through weighted, pulse driving melodic figures. Within the first verse, the band utilizes aggressive vocals mixed with snippets of spoken-word technique. This is strong for the artist because it provides the audience with a new tone color, and it adds new textural aspects to the track. After the band’s memorable chorus, they move back to a heighted verse that uses aggressive vocals that have a rawer edge to them. This helps to keep the vocal line leaning forward as the rest of the ensemble can continue to elaborate on their melodic ideas. As the work begins to near the end, the bands instrumentation and dynamics drop to allow the vocals to rest in isolation before providing a characteristic grand pause to the audience. After this pause, the vocalist leads the band into a huge breakdown with an intense scream. Throughout the instrumental breakdown the band toys with rhythmic figures and older techniques to help create a unique musical experience for the listeners. This breakdown will serve as the driving factor to end the piece. This is a foreseen favorite from the album, for it is has a nice balance of heavy to smooth vocals for the audience, and it pulls reference from older techniques from older albums that will connect their fans back to some of their older releases.

 “If We Were Ghosts” starts with a gentle groove set by the step-wise string motive with block chords building underneath it. As that motive resonates with the audience, the vocalist enters joined by the percussion section to begin to push the momentum of the track forward. As the band approaches the chorus, they include fluctuations of the instrumentation to add variety to the lesser exciting track, in terms of instrumentation. As the band moves from the second verse back to the chorus, it is heard that they will toy with tempo and rhythm; however, the mood of the track will remain in a more somber light, which gives the audience a lighter vibe to hang on to. Near the middle of the selection, the vocalist spans his range to give the audience a beautiful melodic line that glides over the glimmering instrumental material. This small interlude transitions back to the original chorus of the work. This is an interesting choice for an ending track. The band, other than this selection, has given their audience intense tracks back to back to back, and then they finally give their audience a softer work, but it’s the end. The inclusion of this track to the album was smart, but it may not have been the strongest album closer because it isn’t as energetic as the other tracks presented throughout the album.

 Final Thoughts: Overall, I would give this album a 4.5 out of 5 stars. I landed on such a score for several reasons. There was a lot of apprehension with this album, for fans weren’t sure which direction the band was going to take since the two previous releases for the band haven’t fallen on the heavier side of the spectrum. With that being said, throughout this album, the band takes their fans back to their older sound in a refined manner: providing heavy yet innovative music from track to track. Additionally, the band played off small nuances that helped them grow as artists, which worked well for this release because it helps fans connect with the album on a more personally and referable level. Furthermore, if you are looking for an exciting hardcore album that will take you back in thought but feel fresh and new: this is the one for you! Nice work!

*”Defy” was released on January 19, 2018 through Rise Records.

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